Do you ever look around you and think this world is completely out of control? These last two years especially have been filled with a global pandemic, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and an economy on the edge of collapse due to out of control inflation.
In this seemingly out of control world, I have some good news. Our God isn’t shocked by what’s going on. Even though things may look chaotic, He is still in control. He is our mighty God, God Most High!
Today’s post is the first of several covering names of God that begin with the word El, which is usually translated God, and is often used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. Today we are looking at one of the most frequently used names, El Elyon.
El comes from a root word meaning might, strength, and power. In Scripture it is usually used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. Elyon expresses the sovereignty and majesty of God, and His preeminence (having first place in everything), superiority and excellence, above all others in quality or rank.
El Elyon puts these two names together and identifies God as the sovereign ruler of the universe. This important name of God is used fifty-three times in the Old Testament, including twenty-two times in the book of Psalms.
The first use in Scripture of El Elyon is in Genesis 14:18-20, in the passage that speaks of Melchizedek, king of Salem, as priest of God Most High.
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:18-20 ESV
One of my favorite uses of this name of God is found in Psalm 57.
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm 57:1-2 ESV
When our circumstances feel overwhelming, it’s time to take refuge in God Most High. This prayer of David was written when he was in a cave, hiding from Saul who was trying to kill him. We may be walking through difficult and chaotic times, but they’re probably not as hard to deal with as what David was facing. David knew God Most High was his refuge and place of safety. Let’s remember, no matter what our circumstances, that our God is still in control and find a place of safety and rest in His presence.
“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!
“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.
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!
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.