The Lord Is My Shepherd

This week, we are looking at the character of this One to whom we are called to submit. And one way we know the Lord is as our Shepherd.

Psalm 23 begins with the Hebrew words “Yahweh rohi,” the Lord my Shepherd. Yahweh, in our English Bibles LORD (in all caps), is the unique and sacred name of the Everlasting and Eternal God – the almighty, omniscient and omnipotent Creator.

The New Testament focuses on God incarnate, God in human flesh, Who we know as Jesus Christ. He is identified in John 10:11 as the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” So both Father (Yahweh) and Son (Jesus Christ) are the Shepherd of those who have surrendered to their rule.

Psalm 23 was written by David, who during his youth had been a shepherd over his father’s flock. He took seriously his responsibility as the protector of the sheep.

In 1 Samuel 17, we read of some of young David’s experiences as a shepherd. In answer to King Saul’s concern that David was only a youth, not able to go against the Philistine giant Goliath who was taunting the army of Israel, David recalls some of the dangers he faced and overcame as he was tending sheep for his father, saying this Philistine would be like one of the lions or bears he battled as a shepherd.

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.” (1 Samuel 17:33-34 ESV)  

Sheep are definitely not the smartest animals God created! They constantly need to be under the watchful eye of a shepherd as they graze. In the hilly terrain of Palestine, sheep faced many dangers. For example, if one sheep jumped off a cliff, and there was no shepherd there to protect them, the whole flock would likely follow. Therefore having an alert and vigilant shepherd to watch over them was essential.

Let’s look at Psalm 23 verse by verse. In these six short verses, we are promised:

* RELATIONSHIP AND PROVISION:The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:1a‬) (The word translated “want” ‬refers to not lacking anything we need.)

* REST AND RESTORATION:He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a)

* GUIDANCE AND PURPOSE: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:3b‬)‬

* GOD’S PRESENCE AND COMFORT: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.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:4)‬

* BLESSING AND ABUNDANCE: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:5)

* GOD’S GOODNESS AND MERCY AND AN ETERNITY WITH HIM: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬)‭

Like sheep, we are helpless, defenseless, and even purposeless without God in our lives. We need a Shepherd who will protect, provide, and give purpose to our lives. And God wants to be that good Shepherd in our lives.

There’s just one problem. As sheep we are not always wanting what our Good Shepherd provides. W. Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, wrote, “It takes some of us a lifetime to learn that Christ, our Good Shepherd, knows exactly what He is doing with us. He understands us perfectly.

We want the care of the Good Shepherd while still reserving the right to do things our way. But that’s not the way it works. Surrender to the One who is our Good Shepherd is to key to being able to partake of all the benefits of being one of His sheep. On this Thankful Thursday, let’s make sure there are no areas of our lives we are refusing to surrender to the Lordship of Christ and then give thanks to God for all the blessings that are a part of the life of surrender.

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Facing the Challenges of Today’s Cancel Culture

I was getting ready to leave this morning when a phone call suddenly changed my plans. My medical appointment was cancelled and rescheduled because the doctor was not available today.

As I began to shift my plans for the day, a term I’ve heard frequently in recent months came to mind. Cancel culture. What exactly is cancel culture?

I was surprised to find a definition on my Merriam-Webster Dictionary app. It defines cancel culture as “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.” The entry adds “This practice of ‘canceling’ or mass shaming often occurs on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

As Christians and political conservatives, our beliefs and convictions based on Scripture are no longer considered acceptable. In a culture that values the right to abortion and LGBTQ rights, Biblical beliefs are considered offensive and harmful. As Christians, our convictions based on Scripture are being censored as distasteful and even dangerous by the social media platforms that many of us use regularly.

While we may not yet be directly experiencing cancel culture personally, now is the time to determine how we will respond when it is applied to all who hold onto Biblical beliefs and convictions. If the social media giants have their way, we will quickly see mass canceling of all those whose beliefs do not line up with what is politically correct.

Canceling of Christian and politically conservative leaders from the popular social media platforms is already well underway, and unless there is a major change in our culture soon no Christian who stands by their Scriptural convictions will be exempt.

Our pastor has been preaching a series on the book of 1 Peter, which he calls “Following After Christ In a Non-Christian World.” The sad truth is that we are living in a post-Christian culture that no longer professes the values of Christianity. A Christian worldview is now considered offensive by the most vocal people in our nation – and in many other nations as well. When we use Scripture as our standard of genuine truth, we will find ourselves shamed and ostracized.

Let’s look at what Scripture says about this issue.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter‬ ‭3:13-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  1. Be zealous for what is good. To be zealous for what is good is to have a focused desire, with passion and commitment to doing the will of God, which is always good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). This isn’t a guarantee we will be spared from suffering, but rather a promise that we will be not be harmed eternally if we are called to suffer for righteousness’ sake.
  2. We must choose to always honor Christ, by giving Him the respect and obedience that He deserves. He is holy, and He calls us to lives of holiness.
  3. We need to be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is in us. The Greek word for “make a defense” is “apologia.” This is where we get the English word “apologetics,” which refers to the defense of the Christian faith. In other words, we need to know what we believe and how to explain to others why we believe it.
  4. When we have the opportunity to explain to others what we believe and why we believe it, to give a reason for the hope that is within us, we are to do so with gentleness. Gentleness is better translated meekness, an English word that is often misunderstood as weakness. Biblical meekness is not weakness. Biblical meekness has been defined as the patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances,” from an inner desire to please God. It is strength under God’s control.
  5. We are also to share the reason for the hope within us, with a good conscience and without shrinking back in fear of rejection, always honoring the Lord and His Word.
  6. Finally, this passage speaks of being willing to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will. Our decision to do good regardless of the consequences, to discern and then make a commitment to do the will of God as revealed in His Word may result in suffering.
  7. There is one more truth that will determine how we live in this cancel culture. It comes from 1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV, “Let all that you do be done with love.” Dwight L. Moody said, “The world does not understand theology or dogma, but it understands love and sympathy.” Love alone has the power to break through the hardened heart with truth.

Are you currently facing the challenges of cancel culture? If so, determine to stand strong as you hold firmly to all that you believe.

Or, if you face this challenge in the future, are you making a commitment to truth as found in God’s Word. Are you ready to stand firm in your faith, to be brave and strong as you take advantage of opportunities to share truths from God’s Word?

Regardless of which situation you currently find yourself in, cancel culture is a challenge all Christians need to be prepared to face. Be alert. Hold firmly to the truths of Scripture, even in the midst of ridicule and shaming. And no matter what you face, remember that all you do is to be done in love.

God’s Script for Our Lives

“If we were to script our own lives, it’s doubtful we’d include times of struggle and heartache, times where nothing makes sense. I’m sure they felt the same. And yet for them, those times that felt most out-of-control were when God showed up the most and taught them who He was. He helped them understand that freedom has nothing to do with the state of our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our hearts.”

As I read an email from a recent Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study, these words from Stacy Lowe stood out to me. If I had been the one to script my own life, it would be completely different that the script God had planned for me. Yet as I look back over the last fifty years of walking with God, I can see that His script for my life has taught me who He is. It has helped me to understand that true freedom has nothing to do with my circumstances and everything to do with the state of my heart.

When I first came to Christ, I was teaching kindergarten, a job I really enjoyed. I had my life all planned out, but the first change of my plans was turning in a resignation notice to my school and leaving Maryland for Oklahoma City, where I went through a one-year Bible college. While there, I met my husband Mitch and we began ministering together at a nursing home. It wasn’t long before Mitch and I realized that the Lord was putting us together for more than this monthly time of ministry. At the end of our year at the Bible college, Mitch and I were married.

Recently, Mitch and I celebrated our forty-seventh anniversary, so it’s clear that the Lord really put us together. But the path He has had us walk definitely wasn’t the one we would have chosen. It’s included an auto accident that took the life of our young daughter Teresa and left me with twenty-seven fractures. The doctor who treated me told my husband that he didn’t expect me to be able to walk, but God gave me many years of walking without an assistive device. I now use a walker most of the time, with a wheelchair for any trips that involve more than ten minutes of walking. This wasn’t our plan, but God was with us each step of the way.

If I were to write the script of my own life, it would not have included the loss of our daughter Teresa or my own injuries from the accident that took her life. At that time, I felt my life was out of control. But in truth, it was a time when God was at work in my life and when I grew in my knowledge of His goodness and faithfulness.

The next event in my life that I definitely would not have included was the loss of our second child by miscarriage. After losing our firstborn Teresa only a couple years earlier, I felt numb when a trip to the hospital confirmed that Mitch and I were losing our second child, this one that we had no time with on this earth. No, this would not have been a part of my chosen script for my life.

Then, the most life-changing happening we’re ever experienced as a family began in 1984, when our son David was born. By this time we had another little girl, Amy, who was the joy of our lives. So we were excited about the birth of our son. But that joyful expectation didn’t last very long. When David was three months old, he was diagnosed with massive infantile spasms, a seizure disorder that basically stopped his mental development.

For thirty-four years, David was the center of our schedule since he was completely dependent upon others for every aspect of his care. We had a loving team of home care nurses and a very special assistant that did much to lighten our load as the parents of a medically fragile and mentally disabled son. In addition to seizures, David had a paralyzed diaphragm, fragile bones that resulted in many fractures, and a long list of other medical diagnoses.

The Lord took David to his heavenly home in November 2018. Though his home going was softened by a clear word from the Lord to me that He was taking David home, followed by an amazing peace that sustained us during our heart breaking loss of David, it was the most difficult thing we have faced in our forty-seven years of marriage. Yes, I accepted that David was now in heaven and we will see him again, yet my script for David’s life would have been very different than the script I would have written. Healing would have come in the first months of his life, as the elders of our church came to the hospital to pray for David’s healing, not thirty-four years later in heaven.

I don’t know the struggles and challenges your life as a Christian has included. They may seem insignificant in comparison to what our family has faced, but I’m sure there have been times of heart break and pain which definitely didn’t seem insignificant at the time. The script God has written for your life likely included events and circumstances you would not have included if you were writing the script for your life. Yet, as we walk the path God has planned for us, our hearts are shaped by His presence so that we are continually becoming a clearer reflection of the image of His Son.

As Stacy Lowe wrote in her email for a Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study, those times that felt most out-of-control were when God showed up the most and taught us who He was. As we walk the path of life God has laid before us, we learn that true freedom is a result of God’s work in and through our circumstances to mold our hearts to look more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As Stacy Lowe said, “Freedom has nothing to do with the state of our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our hearts.”

Freedom is the result of our heart surrender to God’s script for our lives, trusting that His plan for us is good because the One who wrote it is good. Even when we don’t understand our circumstances, we can always trust the One who rules over them, believing He will use them for our good and for His glory!

Realizing the Brevity of Life

During the month of July, I have been reading through the books of Psalms and Proverbs, and this morning’s reading included Psalm 90. I’ve been using the New Living Translation to get a fresh view of these Scriptures that I’ve read hundreds of times in the around fifty years that I’ve been a Christian.

Psalm 90 is the oldest of the Psalms. It was written by Moses, in the form of a prayer, and entitled From Everlasting to Everlasting. The first verses focus on the eternal nature of our God.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm‬ ‭90:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Moses starts with a reminder that no matter what circumstances we face, we have a safe dwelling place in the Lord. The New Living Translation calls it a home. In Him we have shelter and protection from danger or distress. The Creator of the earth and heavens calls us to come to Him and be secure.

The next verses are Moses prayer of lament over the brevity of life and the judgment of sins. This section ends with a reminder that our “secret sins” are not a secret to God.

“You spread out our sins before you— our secret sins—and you see them all. We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan.” Psalm 90:8-9 NLT

‭‭Then we come to the two verses that jumped out at me as I was reading them this morning.

“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away… Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm‬ ‭90:10, 12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Seventy years are given to us!” These are the words that seemed to jump off the page as I was reading this morning. And before I looked forward, the words “teach us to number our days” came to mind. I was surprised to see that this truth was only two verses ahead. Because of the brevity of life, and the fact that I turned seventy-two in February, the thought came that I am “living on borrowed time.” The time when I will “fly away” to be in the presence of the Lord could be any time.

Remembering how fragile our life on earth is a good reminder to appreciate the years and months and even the days I still have to complete the purposes of God for my life. I need to value every moment and live wisely and with purpose. Time is short, so I need to live with a sense of urgency, seeking God’s wisdom for each day’s tasks.

At age seventy-two, I’m well aware of the brevity of life. As I read these verses, 2 Corinthians 4:16 came to mind. It begins with a reminder not to lose heart when our outer self, our physical bodies, begin wasting away. In my own life, over the last year I’ve seen the cartilage in my knees waste away so that my knees are now basically bone on bone. How do we not lose heart in this situation? The key is remembering this life is not all there is.

Living with chronic illnesses such as arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and an endless list of other infirmities, as many of you who read my blog do, is living with watching your bodies slowly waste away. But the good news is that’s not where the Apostle Paul ended this verse. He added the encouragement that our inner self is being renewed day by day.

If you are a Christian, one who has been forgiven and who has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, your inner self is renewed as you spend time in God’s life-giving presence. Colossians 3:10 (ESV) says we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Through prayer and reading the Bible, God’s written Word, your inner self, the part of you that was made for eternity, is being renewed daily by the Holy Spirit.

No matter how many years you have left on this earth, they are a brief moment compared to eternity. Don’t despair when you see your outer self wasting away. Instead, turn your focus on renewing your inner self and on doing the things that will count for eternity.

Replenishing Our Weary Souls

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah‬ ‭31:25‬ ‭

When I read this verse Monday morning, it opened my eyes to where I’ve been walking since March. This COVID-19 pandemic that has turned our lives upside down seems like it will never end. Add the civil unrest and violence in our nation and the situation seems dire. Soul weariness has made it difficult for me to accomplish anything during the last couple weeks.

The Hebrew word for “weary” is used of one who is “wearied out from a long journey and at the same time suffering from thirst.” Has this “journey” caused you to be “wearied out”? Has it caused you to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) instead of the injustice and violence that seems to be thriving? Is your weary soul needing to be replenished? To be filled up and restored? Mine sure is!

So how do we replenish our dry souls as these circumstances drag on and on? Here are five ways that have helped me. (All verses in ESV unless noted)

    Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a) To be still means “to stop frantic activity, to let down, and to be still.” It is a stillness that leaves behind the pressures and even the jobs that still need to be done for a time of rest and restoration. To know is to perceive by observing and reflecting or by experience. As we become still and allow our minds to take a rest from the things of this world, remember how this Psalm begins. God is still “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) He is there for you if you’ll just take your needs to Him.
    Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31 NASB) The word “rest” in this verse refers to taking a break from your labor. Find a “secluded place” and rest for a while, relax and simply enjoy the presence of the Lord. For you that might be by taking a short walk and enjoying the birds singing and flowers growing. It may be a short trip to the beach. But resting doesn’t always mean a change in your physical location, as long as you’re leaving behind the daily stresses and spending time with the Lord. Find a restful place and allow the burdens of this season to be rolled off your shoulders and onto the shoulders of the Lord.
    “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm‬ ‭1:1-2‬)‬‬ As you rest, ask the Lord to speak to you through His written word. Listen. Is there a specific Scripture that comes to mind? Take time to meditate on that Scripture. Start with prayer and ask God to help you understand the verse or passage. How does it apply to what you are currently walking through? Is there anything God is showing you that you need to obey?
    For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew‬ ‭18:20‬) One of the biggest struggles I’ve had during this season is the requirement for social distancing. To prevent spread of the virus, we’ve been asked to wear masks whenever we are out and stay physically separated. But we can still gather together during this season in other ways. Reach out to someone else who may be struggling with weariness and loneliness with a text or phone call. “Talk” with a friend on Facebook Messenger. Send a card to someone who is struggling during this time. Remember, God isn’t limited by social distancing. When we reach out to others in His name, He is there among us.
    But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John‬ ‭4:23-24)‬ ‭‬The hour is now here, when true worshipers worship the Father in spirit and truth. What does this mean? This idea was a part of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. The message was that worship of God is not to be confined to a single geographical location. Many of us have not been in our local church for months, instead having to “worship” online. The Holy Spirit isn’t limited to one specific building for true worship to happen. True worship comes from the heart. It is doctrinally grounded and focused on the truth of all we know of our great God. It’s the Holy Spirit who stirs in our spirit a desire to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks to God for all He has given us in Jesus Christ. Corporate worship is a blessing, but until that is once again safe, let’s remember that we can worship the Lord in spirit and in truth right where we are.

Find time today to bring your weary soul to the Lord so He can replenish your inner man, fill you back up again. Be still and remember God is still in control. Take times in your days to simply rest, to leave behind all your responsibilities and focus on restoring your weary soul. Let God speak to you through His Word. Soak up the peace that comes in His presence. And take some time to worship God for Who He is and all He has done for you. Even though this time of COVID-19 and civil unrest probably won’t be behind us anytime soon, let’s remember to practice these steps of replenishing our weary souls.


https://youtu.be/mq59iE3MhXM

Look for Christ and You Will Find Him!

When the month of July rolled around, I turned the page on the Pathways calendar in my bedroom, but didn’t pay much attention to the message on this month’s page. This calendar has had encouraging quotes by Christian writers, so today I decided to check out this month’s message. Here is what I found.

“Look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else.” – C. S. Lewis

As I read these words, the cry of my heart was to look for Christ in all the difficulties we have walked through for the last few months. Where is Christ in the midst of all the uncertainties of this world-wide pandemic? Where is Christ during this time when our Christian freedoms are being threatened? Where is Christ in the financial difficulties that we face as a result of shutting down our economy? Where is Christ in the midst of the civil unrest in our nation? Where is Christ in this chaos that has become a part of our daily lives?

As I contemplated these questions, one answer came to mind. Christ is in His people. If you are a believer in Christ, the Spirit of Christ, also known as the Holy Spirit, lives within you.

You may feel alone in this situation. But if your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), the truth is you are never completely alone. Through His Spirit, we are strengthened and empowered to be His hands and feet to those around us. We are encircled by His love – yes, Paul told us in Ephesians that we KNOW the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

  • For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

The Spirit of Christ is also available to direct our path, to tell us where to go and where not to go.

  • And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” Acts 16:6-7 ESV

And if we find ourselves in a situation we can find no way out of, He is able to deliver us.

  • What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,” Philippians 1:18-19

And finally, if we feel lonely during this season on “social distancing” we can be confident that Jesus Christ doesn’t practice social distancing. He is always as close as our breath. And the writer of Hebrews promises that He will never leave or forsake us.

  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'”Hebrews‬ ‭13:5-6‬ ‭

So the next time you look for Christ, take a look at your brothers and sisters whom you’ve been meeting across a Zoom screen during this season when we haven’t been able to gather in person. And take a look in your mirror. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus during this difficult time, as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, works through us to touch others. How are you doing that in the place where Jesus currently has you? And how have others been Christ for you during this difficult season?

I want to close with a short prayer that I heard this morning, from Pastor Chris Shook of Church of the Woodlands in the Houston area. I’ve been watching her encouraging morning devotions, and her prayer this morning fits perfectly with this post.

“Lord, fill me up with You, so I can pour Your presence out on others.” Amen!

Hidden Treasures in the Darkness

As I was praying about today’s post, one phrase came to mind. “Look for the hidden treasures.” This actually comes from a verse in Isaiah 45. But before I get to that chapter, let’s look at a little background.

In Isaiah chapters 44 and 45, God is speaking of a future Gentile ruler, King Cyrus of Persia – around 150 years before Cyrus began to rule.

When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple.’” Isaiah‬ ‭44:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled around B.C. 559 when Cyrus became King of Persia and asked for volunteers from the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and restore the Temple. 2 Chronicles ends with these words:

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you!’” 2 Chronicles 36:23 NLT

This is the background for Isaiah 45:3, where Jehovah says to King Cyrus, “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

As we continue to go through this dark season of the pandemic, financial turmoil and unrest, I believe our season of darkness has hidden treasures ready for us to find. God is still in control, and He is working in the darkness to reveal “secret riches” for His people. Let’s look for God’s hidden treasures in this dark season. And let’s not forget the last part of Isaiah 45:3. God will show each of us His treasures in the darkness so that we may know that He is the Lord, the One who calls us by name.

Don’t Forget to Take Your Medicine!

King Solomon was known for his great wisdom, and one little tidbit of his wisdom is found in Proverbs 17. The first half of verse 22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

In a Better Homes and Gardens article entitled “Laugh Your Way to Good Health, ” writer Nick Gallo said, “ Humor is good medicine – and can actually help keep you in good health.” He quoted William F. Fry, M.D., who described laughter as “inner jogging” and good for a person’s cardiovascular system. Laughter is also a great “prescription” for stress and anxiety.

Dr. Fry concluded, “An enduring sense of humor, especially combined with other inner resources such as faith and optimism, appears to be a potent force for better health.”

Christians, above all others, should benefit from laughter because we have the greatest reason to be joyful. Our faith is firmly rooted in God, and our optimism is based on the assurance that our lives are under His wise control.

If laughter is so good for our health, I thought we’d make today a day for sharing some short videos that have triggered our sense of humor. Let’s “laugh our way to good health!”

Finding The Stability of Our Times

Are you feeling weary as we move into our fourth month of a life unlike anything we’ve experienced before? I sure am! The COVID-19 crisis still isn’t behind us. Some businesses have been able to open, others are delaying because of continued risk, and we hear every week of more businesses that will not be reopening over again.

On top of this, our nation is dealing with increased racial tension. Amid this is a push to defund police, and we hear of “autonomous zones” in major cities, where a section of the city is under the control of domestic terrorist groups. We can’t help but wonder what lies ahead? Life feels like a unending ride on a roller coaster, with highs and lows that never seem to end.

During times like this, we need to be alert to what is going on around us. But we also need to find something – or Someone – unshakable that we can depend on. We need something fixed and constant that we can depend upon. We need an immovable faith in the One the prophet Isaiah described as“… the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is his treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6)

This verse was written in a time of impending distress and judgment. Assyria was advancing from the north, conquering kingdom after kingdom, including the northern kingdom of Israel. Now, the armies were drawing near to Jerusalem, and the people of Judah (the southern kingdom) didn’t know where to turn. Isaiah was warning the people against making an alliance with Egypt and reminding them that the Lord was the key to their salvation. He was the only One Who would provide the stability they yearned for.

Are you feeling the need for stability in this tumultuous time? The “stability of (our) times” will only be found in the One Who is our source of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. This a time for putting our trust fully in the Lord, and allowing Him to direct our paths. Nothing we are facing is a surprise to Him!

“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” Isaiah 32:18 ESV

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

‭‭“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 55:22 NASB

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Shout Joyfully to the Lord

Corrie ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”

Being at rest during a time of turmoil requires a change of focus from our circumstances to the One who reigns over them. As I prayed about today’s post, I had a difficult time concentrating. Inner rest seemed far away because the outward circumstances were grabbing my attention.

When I’m feeling discouraged, reading from the book of Psalms often is helpful. I like to slow down and take the psalm phrase by phrase, meditating on its meaning. Psalm 100 is just five short verses, but those verses are filled with ways to turn our focus off of our circumstances and onto the Lord.

1 “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.”

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” This refers to any loud shout, but can also mean a shout of victory. Is anyone feeling like it’s time for a shout of victory over the recent unsettledness of our circumstances? Proverbs 21:31 says victory belongs to the Lord. And all the inhabitants of the earth are invited to enter into His victory.

Serving the Lord can be with drudgery or with gladness. It’s our choice. We can serve our God with gladness, and come into His presence with singing. Thanksgiving and praise draw us near to Him. Remembering His goodness to us in the past, His unchanging love for us, and His continual faithfulness not just to us but to all those who are His adopted sons and daughters – all of these bring us into a more intimate relationship with our God.

I encourage you to take some time today to read some Psalms aloud in praise to our faithful God. And lift your voice in thankfulness and praise. Turmoil becomes rest in the sweet presence of the Lord.

Shout Joyfully to the Lord!

Bringing Calm to Unrest

Last Thursday, I was encouraged when my husband Mitch and I were finally able to have lunch together at one of our favorite restaurants. After months of isolation due to COVID-19, things were finally starting to look up. Stores and restaurants were gradually opening back up, still with the need to maintain social distancing, but it felt like things had turned a corner. Our church was even planning in-person services on Sunday, and though we had decided to wait a few more weeks before going back, things were finally starting to look hopeful.

Then, as we left the restaurant to take a package to UPS, we turned on the radio and listened to the news. The heartbreaking story of the senseless death of George Floyd was the top story. We expected there to be some protests about this situation, but we really didn’t know what was ahead. What started as a peaceful protest of the injustice was quickly hijacked by violent external groups bent on destruction and mayhem.

Another truth is equally important in this situation. Ephesians 6 reminds us that our battle isn’t just with flesh and blood. Yes, there are people involved whose desire is to fan the embers of hatred into a raging fire. But behind them there are spiritual forces in control. Walking in this understanding and responding in love and prayer can bring healing to a horrible situation.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:12-13

Yes, the United States is in turmoil right now, but as Christians we can help to bring the presence of the Prince of Peace into the unrest. Let’s reach out to our black brothers and sisters and support them through this time. And let’s pray for all those affected by this travesty.

Remember, the Light of Christ can overcome the darkness, the Love of Christ can replace hatred. Though prayer, we can come against the spiritual forces that are behind this situation. And we can run to the Lord, our strong tower, and find in Him a place of safety.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10