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.
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!”
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
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.
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
I was reading an article this week, written by Jay Lowder, an evangelist who has spoken several times in our church. The subject of his article was overcoming fear so that we can walk in faith during this uncertain time. He wrote:
“The past few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a time of fear for many, even me. I’m a full-time evangelist whose work has come to a halt, and I have a daughter with an incurable disease that is highly susceptible to illness. Even as a person of faith, it’s hard not to have fear about these things which are completely out of my control.”
It’s easy to see that the circumstances we are living through are beyond our control. The good news is they are not beyond God’s control. We may not understand all of God’s purposes in this season, but we can choose to walk in faith in the God who wasn’t surprised by this pandemic.
In her book Praying God’s Word, Beth Moore wrote, “Faith is not believing in my own unshakable belief. Faith is believing an unshakable God when everything in me trembles and quakes.“
To walk in faith during seasons when everything in us is trembling and quaking requires something or someone unshakable that we can hold onto. Faith isn’t positive thinking. It is rooted in knowing and trusting the One who cannot be shaken. Faith is believing that God will do what He has promised to do and then acting on that belief.
Hannah Whitall Smith, a Quaker speaker and writer during the late 19th century, said of walking in faith,
“Sight is not faith, and hearing is not faith, neither is feeling faith; but believing when we neither see, hear, nor feel is faith; and everywhere the Bible tells us our salvation is to be by faith. Therefore we must believe before we feel, and often against our feelings, if we would honor faith... Faith, like sight is nothing apart from God. You might as well shut your eyes and look inside, and see whether you have sight as to look inside to discover whether you have faith.“
In her book, The God of All Comfort, Hannah Whitall Smith said the biggest obstacle to walking in faith is a life filled with supposes.
As we move forward in this season of uncertainty, let’s remember that the Lord Himself is our strong tower. Let’s make this cry of David our prayer when we feel our faith being shaken.
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” Psalm 61:1-3
“Those who trust in the Lord are as unshakeable, as unmovable as mighty Mount Zion!” Psalms 125:1 The Passion Translation
Instead of living in the supposes, let’s run to our place of safety and rest. Let’s run to the Lord, our dwelling place. When we do, we will be held up by His everlasting arms.
“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ” Deuteronomy 33:27a
“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” Mark 4:35-41 ESV
On Tuesday, a Facebook group I’m in began a new study entitled “Jesus Calms the Storm,” based on the above Scripture. It’s a familiar story to those of us who have been Christians for very long, and when passages from the Bible are well-known it’s easy to just skim over the verses. But this morning, I saw these verses in a different way – from the viewpoint of the ones who were there with Jesus, His disciples.
After a busy day of ministry, it was around sundown and they were physically weary. So when Jesus said, “Let us go across to the other side,” they were ready to follow. They weren’t anxious about the trip, it was just one of many they had taken across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was still with them and they were at peace.
This was a routine trip, a short eight miles across to the other side. Mark 5:1 tells us they were headed to the country of the Gerasenes, and there were other boats in sight. Among the disciples were several men who had fished these waters for many years, before they left their nets and responded to Jesus’ call to follow Him. They were skilled at handling the boat, so when Jesus said He wanted to lie down and rest awhile, they weren’t concerned.
Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be the routine trip the disciples were expecting. Storms were not unusual on this area. The Sea of Galilee is 680 feet below sea level, and is surrounded by hills. When the winds from the Mediterranean come across the hills, the air is cool and dry. When this air comes in contact with the warm, moist air around the sea, it causes large temperature changes and strong winds dropping to the sea. The disciples were familiar with this, but what they saw this evening was frightening even to these experienced fishermen.
Suddenly, they found themselves in a very dangerous situation, when the high winds and huge waves began breaking over the boat one after another. The boat was quickly filling with water, and the experienced fishermen aboard knew they were in a life-threatening situation.
So where was Jesus in the midst of this? He was in the stern of the boat, asleep on a cushion. But His nap didn’t last very long. The frightened disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus awoke from his sleep and rebuked the wind, speaking to it “Peace, be still.” And just that quick the storm was over and the water was calm.
Didn’t Jesus care about these men who were handpicked by Him and closest to Him? Weren’t they obeying Jesus who told them to “go over to the other side”? Why, then, were they going through such a turbulent time?
How sad the disciples must have felt when Jesus looked at them and said, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” After this experience, they were amazed and said, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
No one is exempt from the storms of life. Remember, the boat Jesus and the disciples were on wasn’t the only one around. Mark told us that other boats were around them, so the men on these boats who may have been unbeliever’s also faced the storm. The Gospel does not tell us anymore about them, but they faced the frightening situation without Jesus. When we go through storms, we have an advantage over those who do not know the Lord. We are never alone in the storm; the One Who has power over the wind and the sea is with us.
Peter, one of the disciples who went through this storm with Jesus, later wrote of us experiencing storms in life that cause us great grief. When they come, he encouraged us to rejoice, because trials test the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold. As we go through the storms, we can know we are being guarded by God’s power as we place our faith in Him.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV
Another thing we know is that the disciples had a promise that they were going across the Sea of Galilee to the other side. When we face a storm in our lives, one thing that I’ve found helpful is spending time in God’s Word, asking Him to give me a promise to hold onto.
In a recent article, Pastor Greg Laurie compared the Coronavirus pandemic we have been going through this year to one of the powerful storms on the Sea of Galilee.
“This terrible COVID-19 pandemic is like a massive storm. We are afraid and worried about our futures.
“Although we might feel forsaken, we are not. I am comforted by this beautiful story, as it reminds me that I can trust God in the storms of my life. Jesus watches us in our storms.”
The Mark account of Jesus calming the sea ends with the disciples asking each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.” As we trust Jesus during the storms we face, the storm may not stop immediately. God is sovereign, and His will will prevail. But we can be assured that we will come out of our storms with more understanding of the greatness of our God.
“Our feelings do not affect God’s facts.
They may blow up, like clouds, and cover the
eternal things that we do most truly believe.
We may not see the shining of the promises—
but they still shine! His strength is not for one
moment less because of our human weakness.”
– Amy Carmichael
As I sat down to have my quiet time this morning, my feelings were definitely not where I wanted them to be. These stressful circumstances all of us have been walking through for the last three months and the uncertainty concerning what lies ahead have me feeling numb on the inside. Weariness, along with the physical pain of a flare of sciatica, made staying in bed today much more appealing than getting dressed and spending time reading God’s Word and praying. But I knew from personal experience that would not have been a wise choice.
I’ve learned that how I start my day sets the direction for the whole day. I have a morning routine that usually begins with half-an-hour of gentle exercise. It only took me a couple minutes to realize this wasn’t going to be a part of today’s routine. So I got dressed, prepared and ate a quick breakfast, and drank a cup of coffee. Then I took some unhurried time in God’s Word and prayer.
God created us with emotions, they are a gift from God, one aspect of our being created in His image. Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life, experienced a wide range of emotions. He was angry at the Pharisees because of the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:1-6), yet had compassion on the crowds who came to hear Him speak (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:23). He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazurus (John 11:35). He experienced deep agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, even while choosing the will of the Father above His own (Mark 14:32-34). Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn of every creature.” In Jesus, we see what our Heavenly Father is like, including the emotions that are a part of His nature.
Emotions are a part of our regenerated nature and a vital part of connecting us to other people and to God Himself. But unfortunately, emotions are also wired into our fallen nature. Sin and Satan have access to them and will try to use them to manipulate us to act in ways that are not pleasing to God. That’s why we can’t allow our emotions to determine our choices, to rule our lives.
In her book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, Lysa TerKeurst wrote:
“Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift . . . called self-control.”
By their nature, human emotions are highly variable. They were never meant to determine how we walk. God has provided His Word and the Holy Spirit as reliable guides. The only way to overcome the ups and downs of our emotions is to fill our minds with God’s Word, our source of truth. And remember, God has also provided the Holy Spirit to guide us into His will for our lives. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13)
We can’t control the things that happen to us each day, but we can control how we think about them. Emotions are rooted in our thoughts, so the only way to bring them under control is to change how we’re thinking. Sometimes, we just need a change of perspective, a decision to look at our circumstances through the lens of God’s Word instead of through our disappointments and anxieties. Romans 12:2 calls this renewing our minds. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I’d like to close with a prayer I received in my email, a prayer from New Life Ministries that helped me get on track this morning when I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster ride. This simple prayer helped me to change my perspective and not allow my emotions to be in charge. If you’re struggling emotionally, I encourage you to make this your prayer.
“Heavenly Father, You are my strength and my refuge. As I journey through this day, I will encounter events that cause me emotional distress. Lord, when I am troubled, let me turn to You. Keep me steady, Lord, and in those difficult moments, renew a right spirit inside my heart. Amen”
As we enter our third month of living with the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have become very familiar with the precautions being made to slow the spread of this disease. Washing our hands repeatedly during the day, social distancing, stay at home orders, no large gatherings, closed businesses and schools, online church services and using gloves and masks anytime we are in public are all a part of keeping this contagious disease from spreading even faster than it has.
This morning, I had an email from Grace Fox, one of the ladies who writes for Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 app. Her Connecting the Dots blog is one of my favorites, and today the title caught my attention right away: How to Spread Contagious Joy.
Grace said this virus is just one of many negative things that have been contagious during this pandemic. She wrote,
“COVID-19 isn’t the only negative thing that’s contagious. Fear spreads easily, too. During this time of media saturation, we read or hear the news that scares us, and we tell others about it. Trouble is, the news might not be accurate, or we hear only part of it and assume the rest. Nevertheless, we pass it on to others believing it’s fact, and the fear grows.”
One thing I’m trying to learn in our current situation is to make sure I’m seeing what we’re going through with a healthy perspective, one that reflects the fact that God is still in control, that He has promised never to leave or forsake us, and that He’s good and always faithful to His children, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We may not know why God has allowed these circumstances, but we can know God has a purpose and it will be fulfilled. I’m not saying this is easy; it’s a struggle for me to not get so focused on the instability we are currently facing that I get overwhelmed. But with the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within each of us who have come to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, it’s possible.
Before I started writing this afternoon, I looked up the meaning of contagious in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I was surprised to find one of the actual definitions has to do with the power of our emotions and conduct. Yes, contagious refers to transmitting infectious disease to others. But a less familiar definition is exciting similar emotions or conduct in others. When we lean on God in the midst of our trials and choose to walk in joy and rest in the goodness of the Lord, our attitude is capable of being easily spread to others. In essence, we cause those who observe us to “catch” our attitude and behavior!
As we move into May, let’s make it our goal to rest in the Lord and choose joy in His presence. Let’s start this today, by focusing on how God has revealed His goodness and lovingkindness to us during this season. Remember, Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A joyful heart is good medicine…” Let’s draw close to the Lord, for King David wrote in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…” Remember God’s presence brings joy, and joy renews our strength to keep moving forward. “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)
Grace Fox ended her article with a challenge that I’d like to share with you.
“Choosing joy amidst the most difficult circumstances benefits us and blesses others. Our attitudes, words, and actions no longer breed fear. Now they speak encouragement and spark hope… Imagine how different the world might look if everyone spread contagious joy during this time. What’s one action you can take to start a ‘Contagious Joy’ movement in your home, neighborhood, and beyond?”
As human beings, we were created for connection. God made this truth clear from the Garden of Eden when He said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Many verses remind us that we are never completely alone if we have surrendered our lives to God. His promise to Moses is one of my favorites: “My presence will gowith you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:24). But this doesn’t eliminate our need for human connection.
One of the most frequently used phrases in the New Testament is “one another.” Here are just a few of the “one another’s” in the Epistles.
Romans 12:10 says we are to “love one another with brotherly affection.”
2 Corinthians 13:11 encourages us to “comfort one another.”
Galatians 6:2 says we are to “bear one another’s burdens.”
Ephesians 4:32 tells us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says we are to “encourage one another and build oneanother up.”
Hebrews 10:24 instructs us to “stir up one another to love and good works.”
Without meaningful connection to God and others, our quality of life will diminish. But with the recent changes in our daily lives as we’ve walked through months of social distancing, quarantine and isolation, loneliness has been an even bigger issue for more of us to deal with.
From a physical health standpoint, these are necessary health measures, especially for those of us who are vulnerable because of chronic illness or age. But from a mental health vantage point, they have resulted in increased anxiety and greater loneliness.
I think one of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with since gathering in large groups became unsafe has been the fact that it is currently unsafe to meet in the church building. Our church has gone out of the way to keep us connected, with Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services, plus a variety of other ways for us to “get together” while physically separated.
Our church is big – many thousand members – so connection is an issue our leaders take serious. We have over fifty adult small groups to choose from, which we call iConnect groups, to help us “find the little church inside the big church” as we connect with God and others. Even though we can’t meet in person during this pandemic, our iConnect group has been meeting weekly via ZOOM for fellowship and teaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us considerhow to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Social distancing has made it impossible to meet in person right now, but we are still able to find ways to stay connected.
What ways have you found during this COVID-19 pandemic to stay connected? Have you found ways to minister to the needs of “one another” as listed earlier? Remember, the church is made up of people, not buildings. How has this season affected your relationship with the Lord? Your church? Your family? Your friends? Consider these questions in prayer.