B.I.B.L.E.

So you like anagrams? Me, too! Here’s another one I have seen:

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. B.I.B.L.E.

For several years, I was a leader in the recovery program at my church. We asserted (and I still do) that 1) Everyone alive has Hurts, Hangups, and Habits, and 2) There are two types of people in the world – those who need recovery, and those who are in recovery. The small groups I led were made up primarily of women who had suffered some form of abuse in the lives; some had been in horrific situations. Why didn’t they just leave, you ask? Oh, it’s not that simple, and it’s a subject I have addressd in previous blogs, so it won’t be dealt with today. In our ‘Basic Instructions’, a very important thing I’ve learned is that any situation we find ourselves in, whether by our choices or someone else’s choices, we don’t have to go through it alone. Read all of Psalm 27. These are a few of the verses I like to share with my ‘girls’ – and also with any man who is struggling. Struggles and hurt are not gender specific!

“The LORD is my Light and my Salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the Stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. You have said, “Seek My Face.” My heart says to You, “Your Face, LORD, do I seek.” For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. I believe that I shall look upon the Goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” – Psalms 27:1‭, ‬3‭-‬3‭, ‬8‭, ‬10‭-‬10‭, ‬13‭-‬14 ESV

If you are paying attention, I have used these verses in other blogs. They are very appropriate scripture verses to use every day! In verse 10, the psalmists states that his “father and … mother have forsaken” him. I was blessed beyond measure that mine did not forsake me when I was caught up in the enemy’s traps, although they were hurt beyond imagination by my lifestyle. That, unfortunately, is not always the case. For a number of my girls, the abusive lives they were trapped in was, in fact, perpetrated by their very own parents. It’s frequently on the news as well, when parents, foster parents, relatives, and other authority figures are the sources of abuse. I can’t even imagine how an adult can be that way to a child, or another adult. It is straight from the depths of hell. But read on to verses 13-14!

“I believe that I shall look upon the Goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

We read these verses with incredible Hope. I, too, like the psalmist, believe that “I shall look upon the Goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! I see it every day. The Goodness of the LORD shines through the changed lives of the women (and men) who have sought the LORD in their lives, and allows others to see how Good He is, for:

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be Praised, and His Greatness is Unsearchable.” – Psalms 145:3 ESV

Do you have the Hope, the Peace, the LIGHT of the LORD in your life? He doesn’t care how ‘bad’, how broken you are. He wants us as we are. He is the Great Physician, the Creator and Craftsman. Ony the LORD can repair us and hold us together. Don’t mistake this to say that once you receive JESUS CHRIST as LORD of your life, everything will become peaches and cream. Au contraire, my friends, when we allow Him to Love us as He longs to, the enemy, that prince of everything dark and evil, known as Satan – our enemy will hit us with anything he can come up with to turn our face away from the LORD. It often works, too. When the abuse doesn’t lessen, when our finances get worse instead of better, when illness seems to loom over us and our loved ones, even death…. we can reach for heaven and the Peace of the Holy Spirit, or we can fall into ugliness and despair. It’s always a choice; one that I confess to messing up quite frequently.

“For from HIS Fullness we have all received, Grace upon Grace. …. For GOD so Loved the world, that He gave His Only SON, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For GOD did not send His SON into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the Only SON of GOD.” – John 1:16; 3:16‭-‬18 ESV

AMEN. How will you fare when standing in front of The Judge?

Courageous

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22 NIV

And just what, exactly, does courage have to do with a cheerful heart? I am asking myself that same question…. All I can do is follow the prompting in my heart and explore what it is that GOD is trying to say to me (I’m notorious for tuning HIM out so that I can hear ME better….)

The definition of courageous is “not detered by danger or pain; brave.” I am emphatically NOT courageous by definition! What I have found in my own life is that when I listen to my GOD, and follow through with what He is telling me, it requires some courage on my part. When I accomplish the objective, and even if it’s not accomplished but I know I gave my best effort, my heart is cheerful. If I don’t even try, my spirit is crushed and my attitude spirals. Danger is often subjective. Obviously I don’t mean physical dangers you can see: a chasm in the roadway, snakes …. and other wild animals lke bears – and skunks! …. someone breaking into your home. Less obvious dangers can be the person you can’t see on the other end of your computer (stalkers, people wanting to make you a victim), a gas leak, having a blowout. There are individual dangers, too, that no one else can perceive. Fears of the dark, heights, meeting new people, driving, having to ask for help, even the danger of physical pain can prevent us from stepping out courageously, to do GOD’s work.

“No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is Right, to love Mercy, and to walk Humbly with your GOD.” – Micah 6:8 NLT

There’s this thing that happens inside of us when we take that first, courageous, step past our fears and our perceived dangers. Our hearts open up and we become susceptible to GOD’s Mercy and His Blessings in our own lives. When we don’t take that step, our spirit begins to die, figuratively. It becomes crushed. A friend told me once that if I refused her help, I was stealing a blessing away from her – did I really want to do that? A crushed, dried up life doesn’t know courage or recognize blessings, and it misses out on GOD’s Mercies. Being courageous doesn’t mean bragging and boasting of our accomplishments. It means walking humbly in the shadow of the LORD, doing, to the best of our abilities, whatever He should ask of us. Remember what JESUS said:

“…. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” – Luke 12:48b NLT

Listen to Casting Crowns sing this scripture in their song “Courageous”!

Photo by Horsley Lab – Harvard

Contentment

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him Who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12‭-‬13 NIV

I struggled with this yesterday. I’m wasn’t feeling the contentment that I know comes from my LORD, and I admit to wallowing a bit in self-pity. A friend used to say to me “It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself for a minute, then get up and move on.” It took me a few minutes…..

As a representative of my LORD, feeling down and discouraged makes me feel like I’m failing Him. I think I should always be content, no matter what. Is that realistic? Any pastor or teacher, if they are being honest, will admit to struggles in this area. It’s simply human nature. The real question becomes, what do we do when it happens to us? Having a support system helps (I’m working on that!). Turning to GOD’s Word is a great way to find support, too. I’m not the first person to feel discouraged! Every great person in the Bible, starting with Adam, to Moses and the great kings David and Solomon, even Mary, mother of our LORD, and all of His disciples, dealt with discouragement and frustration in their lives! Why should we mere mortals be any different?

Listen to what JESUS tells His followers:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25‭, ‬34 NIV

Words to live by! He isn’t saying that we shouldn’t plan for our future, but that our planning shouldn’t consume our thoughts and our lives. Our lives should focus on Him, rather than on earthly things. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, and Pharaoh’s army pursued them, it looked hopeless for the unarmed and baggage-laden Israelites. Surely they would be slaughtered as they ran from the Egyptians in fear! But the LORD spoke, and the impossible happened: the sea opened up in front of the Israelites, providing a dry path across the seabed.

“When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.” – Exodus 15:19 NIV

“LORD, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.” “Come,” He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward JESUS. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “LORD, save me!” Immediately JESUS reached out His Hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:28‭-‬31 NIV

I hear JESUS saying this to me: “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”

Good question! Do you find yourself doubting? Take these words then, and hold them close to your heart (as I do!).

“Who shall separate us from the Love of CHRIST? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who Loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of GOD that is in CHRIST JESUS our LORD.” – Romans 8:35‭-‬39 NIV

Listen to “Wherever I Go” by Dan Bremnes.

Trust …. In GOD, or Man?

When I finally stopped my busyness this morning, and realized I was pushing GOD behind all these ‘pressing’ matters of daily life, I opened my ears and heard this song by Unspoken on the radio:

You brought me this far
So why would I question you now
You have provided so why would I start to doubt
I’ve never been stranded, abandoned or left here to fight alone
So I’m giving you control

Immediately following was this song, sung by Tenth Avenue North:

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

How many times do we do just these things that are addressed in these words, feeling stranded, abandoned, and alone; feeling hopeless, in pain and in tears? Every day? Right now? This minute? I confess to all of these feelings and more, sometimes. I have HOPE, though, because I know that my GOD is here and in control. He never left me to deal with all the junk in the world by myself, but instead, He has always been right beside me, even when I was blatantly ignoring Him! The song by Unspoken goes on to say this:

If peace is a river then let it sweep over me
If I’m under fire I know it’s refining me
When I hear you calling out I follow now wherever the road may go
I know you’re leading me home

And Tenth Avenue North ends their song with these words:

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

What a promise! When we stop running from GOD, and we call on Him to save us through our faith in the LORD JESUS CHRIST, He is right there. Remember what Paul said when writing to the church in Philippi?

“Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: REJOICE! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the Peace of GOD, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in CHRIST JESUS.” – Philippians 4:4‭, ‬6‭-‬7 NIV

What an incredible TRUTH is spoken here! Once we become a child of the Living GOD, Creator, Architect, Great Physician; the real Master of the Universe, we are set free from the worry and angst of this world. We receive His Perfect Love and His Peace; a Peace that is inconceivable and incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t received it. It doesn’t mean that suddenly everything will come up roses; rather, I believe that it means that we will come under heavy attach by the enemy, Satan. He doesn’t want us to find contentment in our circumstances, and he does everything possible to get us to blame God for the bad, the evil in the world, and especially for anything that has happened (is happening) to us.

Again I ask, are you feeling stranded, abandoned, and alone; are you feeling hopeless, in pain, and in tears? It isn’t easy to rejoice in horrendous situations, or when things are falling apart around us, but I promise you, when you lay whatever it is at the Feet of JESUS, He will give you Peace! In recovery ministries, we suggest writing (yes, picking up a pencil or a pen and a sheet of paper, and actually writing as a tangible, visual reminder!) a Gratitude list. Nothing to write down because life is just that bad right now? You say nobody loves me, I’m alone, no job, sick (sick and tired of being sick and tired yet???), and etc….

Here’s a little help. Number one on your list could be: Toilet paper.

Okay? Now, go from there. I had to start with some real basics when I began the journey, and toilet paper made it on my list! I can add that I am alive, reasonably healthy, have transportation, I can drive, and I have my animals. Does that help you get started? By myself, by ourselves, we are not enough. With JESUS, we are. Trusting in man, and trusting in myself only gets me into trouble. Trusting the LORD may not get out of my trouble, but He does carry me through it. I am not alone.

AMEN.

Apathy, Oh, Apathy

I am emphatically NOT a morning person. This is a fact which is rather ironic considering that I’ve spent the majority of my working life starting work by 6-6:30 am, including over 4 years of operating a Bed & Breakfast, getting up by 5:30 to start preparing. It’s a dichotomy, because I love the early morning as the world around me wakes up, especially when I’m holding a steaming hot cup of coffee. If I could somehow manage it, my ideal sleeping arrangement would consist of my bed on a screened porch, open to the sounds and smells of nature (i.e. the ocean and surf) with a coffeepot right next to the bed, ready to flip the switch. Could it be any better? Snuggled under the blankets with the indoor critters, and all with that beauty around you?

Eventually, I know, I have to get up and stop dreaming….. but I don’t want to! I want nothing more than to lie there, boneless and driftting, letting apathy carry me along. Why get up when it feels so nice to stay where I am? Reality creeps in, steps in, screams in, or sometimes stomps in, shattering the peace. I can jump up in anger and frustration, or I can take a deep breath and focus on this selection from the Psalms:

“I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalms 121:1‭-‬2 HCSB

My personal peace is rather fragile right now. I’m really struggling financially and haven’t found a job since I left my last job (involuntarily) over 2 years ago. I’m in a rather deep hole of debt, and there are things that need to happen quickly for me. I’d be lying if I said I’m not concerned, and I tend towards worry at times, but my GOD is so good at reminding me that HE is in complete control of the situation. The situation looks hopeless to me, so I have to look for my Hope in Him and remember, again, David’s words: “My help, my HOPE, comes from the LORD….”

Where do you find your hope? In your spouse? That’s dangerous. They can change their minds and leave in a heartbeat. In your children? They have to make their own way in the world, and even though they can stay close, they cannot be your everything. What about your job? It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our jobs and careers and feel like we are on top of the world, only to have someone higher up decide you are no longer relevant. Is the hope in financial security? Financial security in this day is an oxymoron. Perhaps your hope comes through religious rituals and the rote repetition of prayers and petitions to a priest or some vague ‘higher power’. All of that is man-made and doomed to failure because of man’s fallibility.

The only Hope we can depend on, no matter where or what or when, is the Hope we find in the SAVIOUR, our LORD JESUS CHRIST. Not in man, who will always fail us and disappoint us.

“My help – my HOPE – comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Everything Lost???

Paul is such an eloquent writer. He has the ability to lift us up and then put us firmly in our place, all while praising the LORD. He has a firm grasp on humility, too. Consider these verses:

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the LORD. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing CHRIST JESUS my LORD. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain CHRIST and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in CHRIST — the righteousness from GOD based on faith. I pursue as my goal the prize promised by GOD’S heavenly call in CHRIST JESUS.” – Philippians 3:1‭, ‬8‭-‬9‭, ‬14 HCSB

(*the term ‘brothers’, in this context, is usd to encompass the entire congregation at Philippi, including both the men and the women.)

In spite of many hardships and difficult circumstances, and even through imprisonment, Paul’s faith in the LORD was never shaken. He held tight to the promise of spending eternity with JESUS. Can we say the same? As hard as I try, I struggle to achieve that peace. In my losses, anger and bitterness were (are) much easier to focus on than forgiveness and joy. Looking out at all the ugliness that appears to be consuming our world, there isn’t much to see that shows the way of peace, so I know I’m not alone in my discomfort/pain. I think it’s that sinful human nature that pushes the negative to the front of our thoughts, because the last thing that Satan wants to see is content, peaceful Christians in the middle of his chaotic world.

The verses mesh right into today’s verse from the YouVersion Bible app (https://bible.com/bible)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” – Proverbs 1:7 HCSB

Without the reverence (the ‘fear’) we need to have for the LORD, even the fear of His Judgement, we can never find true peace in this world. What do you have? A healthy reverence, fear, peace with the LORD, or are you stuck in the bitterness and chaos of the world? It’s a choice we face constantly….

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

It is well with my soul. Have you ever listened, really listened, to the words of that hymn? If you can, read the story behind the words Horatio Spafford penned in 1873. In tragedy, he found that “Peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). These are the original lyrics, as noted on Wikipedia:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to knowa
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul! b

[a “know” (at the end of the third line) was changed to “say”.
b “A song in the night, oh my soul” (last line)
was changed to “Even so, it is well with my soul”.]

How many of us can say the same as Spafford? Can we lean on our LORD the way Spafford leaned on Him, and go on from tragedy – in peace! – and do the work GOD calls us to? I find it to be a hard task to let go of hurt and resentment, and yes, jealousy, because I compare my life and my hardships to others….. Oh, but that is just looking at the outsides of their lives! Do we really know what those we are looking at with their ‘better’ lives have gone through? Do we know their hardships and their tragedies? No! Even knowing someone well and having a closeup view of their lives doesn’t allow us to understand and to know what they have gone through. As humans, I think we tend to look at others through somewhat rosy glasses, and judge them for having what we think we want/deserve. Perhaps that’s why JESUS said in Matthew 7 not to judge others. For myself, on my own, I find it impossible to have peace and contentment. It is only when I can release the hurt and negativity to my LORD, and lean entirely on Him that I find peace, and then it is truly well with my soul.

Like everything else in life, attaining true Peace – through JESUS CHRIST – is a choice. Like Mary, listen to the words of the angel Gabriel:

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And let my answer be as Mary’s: “I am the LORD’s slave. May it be done to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:37‭-‬38 HCSB

Amen.

From the Library of Congress.