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Teaching Tuesday: Prone To Stumble

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.” Psalms‬ ‭37:23-24‬ ‭NASB‬‬

When trials pile up, one on top of the other, even the most dedicated Christian will often stumble. This is a part of growing spiritually, even as a young child just learning to walk occasionally trips and falls.

This morning, as I was reading today’s Scripture passage in Confident Trust: Believing God’s Plan Is Best, this month’s Bible reading plan by Rachel Wojo, God used the above verses to give me a clear picture of His love for His children. Our loving heavenly Father doesn’t always take us on the straight and level path, the one with no obstacles to overcome, because if He did that we would continually remain immature. He works in our lives through the difficult seasons of life to help us grow up spiritually. But He’s also well aware that the very weaknesses in our lives that He’s working to change may cause us to stumble and even fall along the way.

As I read these verses this morning, a picture came to my mind of a father and son, walking together down a rocky path. The son was running ahead of his father, not watching where he was walking, and stumbled over a rock on the path. Plop! The young boy was on the ground. But within seconds his father was at his side, picking up his son, wiping off the dirt and drying his tears.

This is the way of a loving father – of our loving Heavenly Father. Though he allows us the freedom to run ahead and often doesn’t remove the obstacles in our path that may cause us to stumble, He is watchful and quick to come to our side when we stumble and fall.

Psalm 37:23 says our steps are established by the Lord. The Hebrew word translated established means fixed, securely determined and directed. The root word connotes being firmly established, firmly anchored and held firm, as a roof which is “firmly established” on pillars.

Yes, God has a plan for our lives, and if we have chosen to commit our lives to the Lord, trust Him, and walk the path He has laid before us, this passage says He delights in our way. But this doesn’t mean we will never stumble and fall. But be encouraged that even if you stumble, the Lord is at your side. He loves you and will help you up, wipe you off and dry your tears, and then hold you by his hand as you continue down the path He has set before you.

New & Updated Blog

Wanted to let all of you who have been following my Hope and Light blog at readywriterbr.wordpress.com know that I now have if new website. If you would like to continue receiving blog posts by email, you will need to subscribe to my new site, http://www.hopeandlight.blog.

Thanks,

Barbara Robbins

Gratitude Is A Choice

“I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship! And I can’t worship without giving thanks. It just isn’t possible. When we choose the pathway of worship and giving thanks, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances, there is a fragrance, a radiance, that issues forth out of our lives to bless the Lord and others.” – Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, from Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy

One of the ladies in God-Living Girls anonymously sent me a copy last year of this excellent book by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth on walking in gratitude. As I walk through some major adjustments this year after the loss of our special-needs son David last November, I have picked up this book again to help me as I continue through this season of emotional numbness. I recognize it’s my choice how I will walk through this time of new direction in our lives, and I want this to be a year of blessing the Lord with my words and my life. As the words of a song we have been singing recently at our church say, “Yes I will lift You high in the lowest valley, Yes I will bless Your name. Oh, yes I will sing for joy when my heart is heavy. For all my days, oh yes I will.”

No matter what you are currently walking through, you have a choice to make concerning your attitude as you walk through it. Ann Voskamp said, “Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times – it’s ultimately the very will of God in the midst of whatever challenges we’re facing, we need to be people who give thanks.”

God wants to meet us where we are – whether in the deepest valley or the mountaintop experience. But God doesn’t force us to do His will. He gives us the freedom of choice to say “Yes” or “No” to what pleases Him. I am saying “Yes” to making this a season of worship and gratitude, and I hope you will join me in this decision… because no matter what you are currently walking through, God is still good. He is still loving. He is still faithful. And He still deserves an attitude of gratefulness and praise from His children.

If giving thanks is based on our circumstances, our lives will be up one day and down the next. This isn’t how God calls us to live. But when we worship God in the midst of the pain, we are expressing confidence that even this will be molded in God’s capable hands for our good and for His glory. When we express thanks to God while walking through a circumstance we don’t like, we are demonstrating faith and trust that God is in control and acknowledging His Lordship in our lives. When we choose to be intentionally observant about the things in our lives for which we should be grateful, we are choosing a life of pleasing God instead of a self-focused life.

I’m walking through a season when giving thanks to God every day must be an intentional choice, so I’m making time in my busy schedule to read one chapter a week in Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. I’ll probably be sharing some of the insights I receive from this book in future Thankful Thursday posts. I will also continue using the app Gratitude as a part of my daily quiet time, because being grateful must be an intentional choice in my life right now.

If you’re walking through a season where being grateful must be intentional, ask God to show you what He wants you to do to grow in this discipline of giving thanks in every situation. Remember, giving God thanks during the hard times is a declaration – to our emotions, to those watching our lives, and to the enemy of our souls who wants us to ignore this instruction from God’s Word – that we believe God is good, no matter what we are walking through.

Being Thankful Is a Choice

Matthew Henry, the eighteenth-century Puritan preacher and Bible scholar whose commentary is still widely used today, told a story of a time when he was attacked and his wallet taken. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded the following in his diary:

“Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

God calls us to give thanks in every situation we face, and in these words Matthew Henry was obeying this command. The “attitude of gratitude” is a clear command and expectation of God. Intentional gratitude causes use to see even the hardest of circumstances from a God-centered perspective.

There are several benefits of expressing gratefulness.

  • It pleases the Lord, who has instructed us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • It brings us closer to God. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”
  • It changes our perspective of what we are walking through.
  • It motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstance.
  • It is the path that leads to joy and peace.

Are you facing one or more turbulent, unsettled situations in your life? Take time today to practice intentional gratitude. Following Matthew Henry’s example, find at least three things you can choose to give thanks to God for in the midst of your circumstances.

“Walking and Leaping and Praising God”

For the last couple months, I’ve been using Rachel Wojo’s monthly Bible Reading Challenges to put together a weekly blog post, daily adding a brief reflection and graphic on that day’s passage. I still plan to continue doing this, but as I was reading today’s passage from the Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge, God opened my eyes to some encouraging truths and I felt compelled to go beyond my short entry for the weekly post and do a separate blog post.

Today’s Everything Beautiful passage is found in Acts 3:1-10 and tells of one of the miracles during the early years of the church. It took place at the gate of the temple that was called the Beautiful Gate, probably so named because of it’s ornate decorations, but commentators are divided about the actual location of the gate. It was apparently one of the gates or doors through which the Jewish men who came to worship entered, but it’s exact identity is of little importance. The emphasis in this passage is on what happened here.

It was the hour of prayer, and Peter and John were on their way into the temple when they saw a man who was lame from birth being carried to the entrance where he habitually spent his days asking alms of those who were entering the holy place.

Doubtless, Peter and John had seen him many times before, but this day was different. At the man’s request for alms, Peter stopped and spoke with him. The man was hoping for silver or gold to meet his material needs, and he probably had a sense of disappointment at Peter’s first words, “I have no silver and gold.” But Peter’s next words changed his life. “But what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

If you’ve been a Christian for many years, this is probably a familiar passage. But the Holy Spirit loves to give us new insights as we spend time daily in God’s Word. This morning, the words following the actual miracle stood out to me, “and (he) entered the temple with them (Peter and John).”

As I read these words, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that this was of great significance to this newly-healed lame man. So I did some research to confirm what I was sensing. If the lame man had never before been allowed to enter the temple, was this somehow a case of looking down on those who had less than perfect bodies? As a woman with a long list of chronic illnesses and disability as a result of an automobile accident and actively involved in ministry to others with chronic illness, this definitely had my attention.

Were the blind and lame restricted by God from entering the temple, forced to stay outside the temple gates because of their infirmities? Scripture does tell us (in Leviticus 21:16-23) that the blind and lame were excluded from serving as altar priests, presenting sacrifices and food offerings to God. But there are no specific verses that teach the physically disabled were to be banned from the tabernacle or temple. So we know this was not God’s plan.

Yet there are extra-biblical sources that seem to indicate this was common practice by the time of Jesus. The fact that the man was at the gate, which Peter and John were about to enter, and not inside the temple, seems to confirm this. If so, it came about either through Jewish tradition or the misreading of Scriptures such as Leviticus 21 and 2 Samuel 5:8, where David is quoted as saying on the day he was anointed as king, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the house.” But this could not refer to the temple, since it had not been built at that time, and in context doesn’t even appear to refer to the physically blind and lame.

We do know, according to Matthew 21:14 and other passages, that Jesus healed the lame and blind in the temple. This shows they were at least able to go into the court of the Gentiles, and it along with the many healings during His earthly ministry show us Jesus’ heart was to include those who were afflicted or disabled.

If the lame and otherwise afflicted were actually banned from the temple, as many believe, when the previously lame man who had been healed entered the temple with Peter and John he was probably as excited about this as he was about being able to walk. No wonder he was “walking and leaping and praising God!

Today, regardless of what was true at the time this miracle took place, we can be confident that chronic illness neither separates us from God’s presence not makes us unqualified for ministry. Jesus’ death and resurrection instituted a new way of life, a life described in Hebrews 10:19-20 as “the new and living way.”

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,”

We are no longer under the law. We now live by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Romans 6:14 clearly states that we are not under the law but under grace. Why is this true? Because one of the things Jesus came to do was to fulfill the law (see Matthew 5:17).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ESV)‬‬

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

And that’s such good news that we, like the once-lame man of Acts 3, should be “walking and leaping and praising God!”

Why, Lord?

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday, where we write spontaneously for five minutes on a one-word prompt.  The prompt this week is “why.”

Oh, how many times I’ve asked this question! Why, Lord, did you allow the accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter Teresa and left me in a wheelchair?

Why, Lord, was our son David born with so many health problems? Why did You allow him to have such bad seizures as an infant that they left him with profound mental retardation and multiply health problems?

And more recently, why, Lord, did you allow David to get pneumonia during Hurricane Harvey, when getting the medication he desperately needed took days? Why did he end up in the hospital for almost a month and come home with even greater health problems than before?

Over the years, I’ve learned that these questions seldom receive an answer – other than, “trust Me.” God has taught me to stop asking why and instead come to Him in surrender, asking Him what He wants me to learn from the current circumstances.

This week, I found myself watching the news out of Florida and again asking why. But this week, different answers came. Why, Lord, did You allow this to happen? My child, I have no place in the public schools of America. You are seeing the results of this.

When I see events such as the murder of seventeen people this week by a young man who had made his desire to become the biggest mass murderer in a school known to many, even the FBI, and was ignored, I see a nation in desperate need of repentance. I hear God’s cry loud and clear to pray for our nation. I hope you will join me in this commitment.

Exploring Rest: The Sabbath Principle

Last night I went to the bookcase in my bedroom and grabbed a book. A book I bought several years ago and never read. A book on the Sabbath Principle. A Bible study on REST.

I have no idea why I bought this Bible study by Priscilla Shirer when I did, then put it unopened on my bookshelf. This is definitely not what I typically do with a Bible study book. But as I focus on learning to REST IN THE LORD during 2018, Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath was exactly the book I was needing to pick up and actually begin studying. As I study it over the next four weeks, I will be sharing some of the truths God teaches me through this Bible study. Today I’m beginning at the beginning, when God first established the principle of REST.

REST is a concept clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures. A brief search on the word REST in the Bible makes clear that this is a subject that God cares about. It is a repeated theme in the Scriptures, beginning with the creation week. It is a vital part of how God calls His people to live.

The first mention of REST in the Bible is found in the second chapter of Genesis. God Himself rested.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis‬ ‭2:2-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Because God finished His work in six days, and then He blessed the seventh day and made it holy, a weekly day of REST was established by God for His people. As Priscilla Shirer says,

“The purpose of God’s Sabbath day was not to put up His proverbial feet, take a load off, and chill out after creating the universe in the previous days. He wasn’t tired. He was expressing satisfaction. Creation was complete, so He rested. And in doing so, He introduced the concept of rest to humanity.”

After He set them free from the slavery of Egypt and miraculously took the Hebrew people through the Rea Sea, we see God’s REST was to be reflected by them by a weekly day of REST on the seventh day (Saturday), which He called the Sabbath.

“Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.” Exodus‬ ‭16:29-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus‬ ‭20:11‬ ‭NIV‬

Honoring the Sabbath day was one of the laws established in the Ten Commandments.

“’Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus‬ ‭20:8-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Hebrew word for REST, shabbat, primarily means to sit down, to sit still. To rest is to cease from labor, to stop what we have been doing, to pause, to stop. God rested, and He called His people to rest.

Later in the Old Testament, God extended the use of the word REST (shabbat) to include the land.

“The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.” Leviticus‬ ‭25:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Rest has been a part of God’s plan since creation. Rest is still a part of God’s plan today, when it is more needed than ever in the hectic lifestyle that has become a part of our daily lives. Today, I encourage you to take some time to pause. To stop what you are doing. To cease from your labor. To let go of your burdens. To turn your eyes off of everything that still needs to be done. To rest.