Tag Archive | Life

Passing Through the Valley of Weeping

Psalm 84:5–7 (NKJV):
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca (Weeping),
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.”

Our family has been walking through “the Valley of Weeping” since the death of our special-needs son David in November. It has been a time of God’s grace and sustaining peace, but there have also been times of weeping as we’ve said goodbye to the young man who has been such a big part of our lives for the past thirty-four years.

So when I read this familiar psalm this morning as a part of my daily Bible reading, these verses jumped out at me. They were especially meaningful since this isn’t the first time God has used them as a rhema (spoken) word in my life.

When we were walking through a particularly difficult time early in David’s life, one of many where I had been repeatedly in the hospital with our son, our pastor at that time, Michael J. Cave, specifically shared it with me as a word from the Lord for our situation, after a sermon he preached on these verses. Since that time, the truths of these verses have been a clear reminder of God’s strength that is available to continue the “pilgrimage” of life on this earth and turn the difficult seasons into springs of life.

During our “pilgrimage” as believers in Jesus Christ, we will face seasons of weeping. But even in the weeping, our strength is found in God. And as we move forward in God’s strength, the valley experiences are turned into springs of life and blessing. Psalm 107:35 speaks of God turning the wilderness into pools of water and dry land into watersprings. The dry and weeping places in our lives are transformed as we move forward in God’s strength, keeping our eyes on the Lord and on our heavenly destination. When our pilgrimage is complete and we reach the eternal kingdom that is our final destination, our God promises to wipe away every tear, and “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”‭ (Revelation 21:4)

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Receiving God’s Truth When It’s Uncomfortable

Today I am grateful for…

Truth God speaks to me through His Word, even when it’s not the specific truth I’m wanting to hear. Receiving God’s truth – not my hand-picked, preferred truth, but what my loving heavenly Father wants to teach me through my circumstances – is a blessing even when it may cause some temporary discomfort.

Earlier this week, I was hurting emotionally. During the same week as our son David’s memorial service, I was diagnosed with an infestation of scabies, with over thirty-five itchy bites around my body, caused by microscopic “human itch mites” (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). I was feeling overwhelmed by yet another problem to deal with on top of working through the grief of losing our beloved son David.

In the midst of agitated emotions, I asked God to speak to me through His Word. He spoke and I almost missed His message because it wasn’t what I was wanting to hear.

  • I wanted a comforting word. God wanted to teach me that He is in charge, He’s sovereign and I need to yield to His decisions.
  • I wanted relief. He wanted spiritual growth.
  • I wanted encouragement. He wanted me to accept responsibility for responding to my circumstances in a way that honors Him.

Father, thank You for speaking the truth to our hearts that is tailor-made for where we are currently walking. When Your truth is uncomfortable, please give us the grace to embrace it and grow.

So how do we walk in an attitude of gratitude when we don’t like what God is doing in our lives? When we wish our circumstances were different? When in our emotions we are anything but thankful?

This requires us to look for God’s truths that apply to what we are walking through. Then it calls for us to A. C. T. (All verses in ESV)

A. ACKNOWLEDGE God is God and I am not

“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isaiah 46:9-10

C. CONCEDE that His purposes in my situation are for my good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28-29‬)

T. THANK HIM for His character attributes that apply to my circumstances.

For the last five months, as our family has walked through one trial after another as God does a deep work in our lives, one attribute of God has been central in my understanding of what God is doing in my life: the Hebrew word “checed” (חֶסֶד), for which there is no one English word that fully explains it’s meaning. This one Hebrew word includes the ideas of God’s strength, graciousness, loyalty, steadfastness, mercy, love and devotion to His people. The NIV usually translates it “unfailing love,” NASB “lovingkindness,” ESV “steadfast love.” This single Hebrew word is one of God’s most central characteristics, used 240 times throughout the Old Testament.

“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” (Psalms‬ ‭25:10)‬ ‭‬

Is God wanting to speak truths to you through His Word, possibly truths that aren’t really what you’re wanting to hear? Are you facing a situation that makes it difficult to give thanks to God? Embrace what the Lord is speaking to you. Then A.C.T. on what you are hearing.

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Gratefulness and Grace

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬ ‭ESV‬‬

During one of my times studying God’s Word this week, I made an interesting discovery. The Greek word translated “thanks” in this verse from 1 Corinthians 15 is “charis,” the same word that is translated “grace” throughout the New Testament. This was a reminder to me of how closely related grace and gratefulness are in the life of a Christian.

Grace has been defined as “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” (Blue Letter Bible)

In simpler words, God’s grace is the kindness He shows daily to the unworthy. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace. It is a free gift, given to us because God is benevolent. Giving good gifts is a part of His nature.

Grace is what saves us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9)‬

Grace‭ trains us how to live lives that are pleasing to God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,” (Titus‬ ‭2:11-12‬)‬‬

Grace gives us access to God in our times of need. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews‬ ‭4:16)‬ ‭‬‬

Grace gives us comfort and hope. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:16-17‬)

Grace gives us a future inheritance to anticipate, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:7‬)

As believers in Jesus Christ, giving thanks for the many blessings we receive through His grace should be a daily practice.

Recently, God has been doing a good work in my life, one that has sometimes been painful but one that has always been by His grace. As a result, I’m beginning to walk in victory in several areas of my life where victory is a new experience. And for that, I want to give Him thanks. Will you join me today in giving thanks for what He is doing in your life?

 

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus During the Holiday Season



Keeping our eyes on Jesus is a discipline many of us fail in daily. Yet Scripture teaches this is an important, even essential part of running with perseverance the  race God has marked out for us.

If  you live with the daily challenges of chronic illness, loss, physical or emotional pain, financial struggles or a variety of other issues that are a part of daily life on this earth corrupted by sin, keeping a godward focus becomes even more difficult during the holiday season with its added pressures.

Even though I’ve been doing daily posts this month on the meaning of twenty-five of the names of Jesus, I’ve had some days that it was very difficult just to keep going. Earlier this week, I had a day where brain fog made it really difficult for me to write. By the end of the day my post for the next morning was done, but little else. I was exhausted and on the verge of depression. I knew I needed to do something to stop this downward spiral before it got worse.

The first thing I tried was to relax by playing a couple games on my iPad. In my current frame of mind, that just made me feel worse. So I decided to go in my bedroom, get ready for bed, and read for a few minutes before going to sleep (something I do most nights). This also didn’t help.

Then I remembered what usually helps when I’m feeling discouraged or anxious about something, using worship music to turn on focus off the problems I’m dealing with and onto the One who loves me and is working in my circumstances for my good and for His glory. So I turned on my iPad and listened to some Christmas worship music. This helped me relax and prepare mentally for sleep. And when I woke up the next morning, it was with a completely different frame of mind, one that enabled me to have a much more positive day.

The holiday season with all its extra activities and pressures is naturally stressful. For those who are living with the daily limitations of chronic illness and the often associated financial pressure and emotional pain, it can feel overwhelming. Here is a YouTube link to some Christmas worship music that I’ve found helpful this Christmas season in turning my eyes off the problems of life and back on the One who is our refuge in the hard places of life.

Have you found something that helps you cope with the added pressures of the season and keep your focus on the One whose birthday we are celebrating? If so,  please share what has helped you in the comments below.

Jesus Christ is the Word

Have you even had your plan all mapped out, and suddenly God spoke to your heart and brought a change of direction. That’s what happened to me, as I was finishing a Christian novel I have been reading and a verse of Scripture jumped out at me from the closing pages. The quote that caught my attention said, “The true Light who enlightens every man was coming into the world.”

This probably caught my eye because in addition to writing these daily Advent devotions during December, I have been doing The Light Bible Reading Challenge by Rachel Wojo, reading verses every day about Jesus being The Light. But I didn’t remember ever seeing Jesus referred to as “the true Light that enlightens every man” so I decided to look up the verse. I learned that this unique wording was from the Berean Literal Bible translation of John 1:9, part of a well known passage that speaks of Jesus as the Word. And I realized that I had failed to include one very important name of Jesus in my plan: The Word.

John 1:1-5, the prologue of John’s gospel, establishes some important truths about Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These words that begin the Gospel of John give one of the clearest statements in Scripture of who Jesus is. They clearly say that Jesus (the Word) was present in the beginning, before the creation described in detail in Genesis 1. They say He was with God and He also was God, truly God and yet distinct from the Father. In other words, they identify Jesus as a part of the Godhead. They also identify Him as Creator. They tell us life is found in Him. And finally, they remind us that He is the light that overcomes darkness. This true Light who enlightens every man had now come into the world in human flesh.

When John 1:1 speaks of Jesus as The Word, the Greek word used is Logos. Logos specifically means an utterance or a statement, a spoken word.

The Gospel of John was written to prove that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. It’s original readers were new believers in Jesus Christ and non-Christians who were seeking to know God, both Jews and Greeks.

By using the word logos, John was pointing his Jewish readers back to the Old Testament where the “Word of God” is associated with God’s revelation. And for his Greek readers, he was using a familiar word they associated with being a bridge between the infinite and eternal God and the material universe.

I am very grateful that God has given us His written Word, the holy Scriptures that reveal to us God’s existence, nature and character and that are a guidebook on how to live the Christian life. But I am even more grateful that God has given us the Living Word, His Son Jesus Christ, who came into the world to not only be a bridge between fallen mankind and Almighty God, but to also be the true light that enlightens every man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

 

During the Christmas season, our focus is usually on the manger not the cross, but it’s important that we not lose sight of why Jesus came. Today’s name of Jesus reminds us of the fact that He died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. But He is no longer on the cross – or even in the tomb. He is alive!

Let’s take a look at the setting where Jesus spoke these words about Himself. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, we learn of the special relationship Jesus had with Mary and Martha. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and had stayed in their home in the village of Bethany. The passage in John 11 that includes this name of Jesus tells us Lazarus was also a friend of Jesus and His disciples.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’…  ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep’”  John‬ ‭11:3, 11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But in spite of receiving word from Mary and Martha about Lazarus’ illness, Jesus did not immediately go to him. Since Jesus always did what He knew to be the will of the Father, this was apparently by God’s leading. Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 11:14-15 explain at least one purpose behind the delay.

So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.‘”

‭Verse 17 tells us what happened during the purposeful delay.

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.”

When Martha hears Jesus has arrived, she greets Him with some solemn words (verses 21-22).

“’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’”

This is the setting in which these well known words were spoken.

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?‘”John‬ ‭11:23-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When Jesus spoke to Martha that day, He was telling her that a miracle was about to take place. Her beloved brother would be raised from the dead. But the meaning of these words goes beyond that. In essence, Jesus was saying, “The whole power to restore, impart and maintain life resides in Me.”

Today, I am grateful that Jesus died for my sins. But I’m also grateful that He is my Resurrected Lord. If you don’t know Him as your sin-bearer and Living Lord, don’t let Christmas pass without coming to Him for salvation. Confess you are a sinner, believe in His finished work on the cross, receive His forgiveness, and surrender your life to Him as Lord. Your eternity depends on this decision, and Christmas is the perfect time to make it.

Jesus: The Bread of Life

Today, we usually think of bread as an add-on to a meal, but in Jesus’ time bread was an essential of life. In fact, bread was the one thing necessary to sustain life.

When Jesus said “I am the bread of life,” I wonder how many of those listening to Him had been there the day before when Jesus had miraculously fed the 5,000 with only five barley loaves and two fish? The text seems to indicate that those who experienced this miracle are the same ones who are listening to Jesus’ words the next day. But Jesus saw beneath the surface, into their hearts, and He recognized they were seeking Him not because they wanted what He came to give but because they ate their fill of the loaves. Their eyes were on the miracle, not the miracle worker.

In John 6:27, Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” This spiritual food was what Jesus had in mind when He said, “I am the bread of life.” This is the bread that satisfies, that leads to life eternal.

Jesus, You are the true bread of life, the bread that sustains us no matter what we face in this life. Thank You for giving Your flesh as the bread that gives us life.