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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 23:4’

 

“Here’s what I’ve been looking for!” My husband propped his walking stick against a forest tree and pulled from the underbrush a straight, stout branch about my height. With his pocketknife he whittled off several small branches and gifted me my own walking stick. “Try this, “ he coaxed. “It really helps.”

I’d been groaning through the incline portions of our hike in the Appalachian foothills. Yes, exercise and walking were part of my routine at home, but we lived in the flatlands of Florida at the time. The upward slopes of this footpath were causing my leg muscles to complain loudly.

What a surprising difference that branch made!  Swinging it ahead helped propel me forward. I felt more stable in the uneven and slippery places with the walking stick to provide balance.  And leaning into it as I hefted myself up steep inclines did take some of the stress off my aching legs.

That experience brings to mind a familiar truth tucked in Psalm 23:

 

 

Your rod and your staff comfort me.”

 

Just as that walking stick gave me relief on the trail, the staff of God’s Word has offered much relief on the path of life.

For example:

As a young wife and mother, discouraged by the mindless repetition of housework, I came across this staff of scripture to propel me forward:

 

 

The realization dawned that taking care of my family was equivalent to serving him. And though it would be a lie to say from that day forward I happily swept, scrubbed, and sanitized, I did carry with me a new perspective.

 

When distraught over my faults and deficiencies, God handed me this walking stick of relief:

 

“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you

will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…

For it is God who is working in you,

enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.”

–Philippians 1:6; 2:13 HCSB

 

 

What a loving, attentive Father he is, day after day working out his plan and blessing upon our lives, slowly but surely transforming us into our best selves.

 

When distraught over election results, I leaned on the comforting truth of Daniel 2:20-21:

 

 

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and

power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and

raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to the discerning.”

 

What a relief to know he is sovereign over the universe, and everything is under his control.

 

When I was heartbroken after a young friend died as the result of a car accident, I desperately wanted to know why. Why didn’t God answer the prayers of countless people and bring her out of the coma?

Shelly was a talented pianist with a short-term missionary assignment pending. Why didn’t he save her?

God gave me the stabilizing staff of Romans 11:33-36, to help me walk through my questions and grief:

 

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?

Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

 

 

Those last two statements brought sudden clarity. Everything—even painful eventscome through God first before they touch us. And somehow it all has potential to bring him honor and praise. The answer to my question why isn’t necessary.

 

“Each of us may be sure that

if God sends us over rocky paths,

He will provide us with sturdy shoes.

He will never send us on a journey

without equipping us well.”

–Alexander MacLaren

 

And with those sturdy shoes of equipping, praise God he also provides walking sticks of stability, support, relief, and comfort in his Word–if we keep a watchful eye.

 

 

What walking sticks in scripture have offered you stability, support, relief, and comfort?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org;  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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On May 30, 1778, eighty-three year old Voltaire lay dying. His had been a writerly life, as he produced plays, poetry, essays, historical and scientific works, over 21,000 letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets.

Now he would never pick up his pen again.

Some of that writing criticized the Christian faith and the church. He had no use for them personally, asserting that a person could achieve moral character through reason. Wasn’t that what Christianity was all about anyway?

But Voltaire had also decided the way to dissolve the tight alliance between the self-serving state church and the totalitarian government of France was to discredit God and the Bible. Then the people would abandon Christianity and the church would become useless.

To that end he wrote in 1758:

 

 

Those twenty years passed. God was not in a pretty plight.

Voltaire made a new prediction around 1775: “Fifty years from now the world will hear no more of the Bible.”*

Of course, Voltaire was eighty years old by this time. He had no hope of being alive to see if his prediction came true.

Three years later on his deathbed, however, Voltaire was not concerned about his predictions. It would seem he was reconsidering if the Christians and their Bible may have been right after all about the importance of faith in Jesus.

Voltaire’s last words, as reported by his doctor, were these:

 

“I am abandoned by God and man! I shall go to hell!

O Christ, O Jesus Christ!”

 

Such a sad end for a brilliant man. We can only hope his last thoughts expressed the faith he fought against for so long.

But what about dying saints? Are they too tortured by doubt, fear, and aloneness?

Far from it.

“The very happiest persons I have ever met with have been departing believers,” said Charles Spurgeon. As a pastor to thousands over thirty-eight years of ministry, he must surely have visited many.

 

(Charles Spurgeon preaches to a crowd in 1858.)

 

In reality, the last remarks of saints most often offer hope, encouragement, and affirmation.

We can look forward to death, like Sir David Brewster (1781-1868)—a Scottish physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor of the kaleidoscope, and writer:

 

 

“I will see Jesus; I shall see Him as He is!

I have had the light for many years.

Oh how bright it is! I feel so safe and satisfied!”

 

Willielma Campbell (1741-1786), patroness of missionary work in Scotland and elsewhere, expressed complete contentment:

 

 

“If this is dying, it is the pleasantest thing imaginable.”

 

And John A. Lyth (1821-1886), a minister who served as a missionary in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), died with his heart bursting with joy:

 

“Can this be death? Why it is better than living!

Tell them I die happy in Jesus!”

 

Another missionary, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), created a delightful visual with his last words:

 

 

“I go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.

I feel so strong in Christ.”

 

And the famous evangelist, D. L. Moody, gave us a brief but bright glimpse of what awaits us beyond death.

Moody had been sleeping, although fitfully. When he awoke, Moody said, “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me!” His son thought his father had been dreaming. “No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, I must go.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *

 

O Father, thank you for this wonderful record of  joy-filled hope for the day when we, too, must go.

Even better, thank you for your great promises that you will be our refuge, even as we die. You will be our guide beyond death. And though we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have no need to fear for you are with us. Hallelujah!

(Proverbs 14:32b; Psalm 48:14 (GW); Psalm 23:4)

 

 

*Fifty years after Voltaire’s prediction, the Geneva Bible Society was printing Bibles in the house where Voltaire had lived. They even used Voltaire’s printing presses.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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