“And the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”https://bible.com/bible/2692/mat.28.5-6.NASB2020
Matthew 28:5-6 NASB2020
BLESS THE LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
BLESS THE LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
The LORD performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.
But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children, To those who keep His covenant And remember His precepts to do them.
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
BLESS THE LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word!
BLESS THE LORD, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will.
BLESS THE LORD, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Psalms 103:1-22 NASB1995
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully
and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalms 139:13–21,23-24 NASB1995
Michael W. Smith, in his devotional Still, writes this:
“Recently when I went to the mountains, they were hidden by a thick layer of smoke from wildfires. Their beauty was concealed. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t see them! Then the next day it began to rain. The temperature suddenly dropped and the rain turned to snow. The strong winds blew the snowflakes around in heavy swirls. It looked like a blizzard in September! When the storm cleared away, the mountains were revealed in striking beauty. The smoke was gone. The trees and mountaintops were blanketed in white.
The following day, the snow melted and the green appeared. The birds sang, the creek flowed, and the sun warmed us. As the land appeared to wake from death to life, God spoke to me and awakened my heart.”
What a beautiful and apt analogy of the some of the things we go through in our lives. We can be in the midst of the ‘fire’, in complete darkness and chaos in our lives, smothering in smoke and flame, thinking things can’t be any worse. We want to give up in despair and hopelessness. Then the rains come. These can be soothing, healing rains, dousing the flames and giving us hope, or it can be a deluge, causing us to feel as though the last of our hope is being washed away. Life can turn into a blizzard of confusion, where we can’t see our hand in front of our face, lost and not knowing where it is safe to step. Am I on the path, or am I about to step off a precipice?
God is there. He is with us throughout these disasters.
In a fire, even with all of their protective equipment and training, people who fight fires can get burned, sometimes badly. Fire can be deadly, even to the most well trained firefighters.
In floods, rescuers wear flotation gear and take precautions, yet some are injured or killed every year.
In blizzards and storms, in avalanches, rescuers have specialized gear and training, and still some sustain injuries and death.
The LORD God is our protection. He is our trainer. His Book provides us the training we need, and the Holy Spirit provides our protection. Learning God’s Word outfits us with our armor, the protective gear that we need to survive the attacks of the enemy.
I feel like a majority of my life has been spent in the fires and the storms of life, without a lot of calm. Many poor decisions on my part have contributed to this, and because of the long reaching consequences of some of those choices, I don’t expect that my life will ever be ‘easy’. Even knowing this, there are many opportunities for me to see the smoke clearing, the rain ceasing, and the beauty of God’s Creation. The green appears. The birds sing, the creeks flow, and the sun warms me. The land – my land, my life, wakes from apparent death to life; God speaks to me and awakens my heart to His Beauty. I may forget, momentarily, but He always reminds me.
For the last few days, my city and state have endured an historic ice storm. Thousands of trees (and consequently vehicles and houses) have been utterly crushed and destroyed. Fierce winds have broken branches and snapped telephone and electric lines. Thousands are still without power. Millions of dollars in damage. Where is the good in this? How can God possibly use this?
Even before the first 24 hours were up, people were posting on social media that they were willing and available to help anyone who needed it, to remove branches, cut down trees, carry debris to the curb. That’s the Spirit moving! Even non-Christians are caught up in it, even if they don’t understand it. What an opportunity for God’s people. In the middle of our personal storms, we have the opportunity to reach out to others and show God’s Love.
The temperature is rising, the rain is stopping, and the sun is coming out. Today will be a good day.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord , ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB1995
I don’t know God’s plans for you. I don’t even know what His plans are for me! What I do know is this. I have to rely on Him, because without Him, I am utterly and completely lost.
“Who out there fears GOD, actually listens to the Voice of His servant? For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, Here’s what: Trust in God. Lean on your GOD! But if all you’re after is making trouble, playing with fire, Go ahead and see where it gets you. Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames, But don’t expect ME to just stand there and watch. I’ll hold your feet to those flames.” Isaiah 50:10-11 MSG
I wonder a lot about why we have to suffer so much; why people have to go through so many hardships. I’m reading a devotional by Elizabeth Elliot, called Suffering is Never for Nothing. If you are going through a period of suffering, it’s well worth your time to read. Even if you are in a good time of your life, it’s very insightful. She refers to this verse from Psalms 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Then she says this:
“Just start thanking God in advance because no matter what is about to happen, you already know that God is in charge. You are not adrift in a sea of chaos. So, what is there to be grateful for in the midst of suffering? Well, God is still love. Nothing has changed that. God is still God. He’s sovereign. He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
Just think on that for a minute. Is your world falling in on your head? I know how that feels, and how utterly helpless and hopeless it can feel to be in the midst of it. But think on that verse.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with Whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17 NASB
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30 NASB
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:7, 9-10 ESV
“But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart , ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss ?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart ” – that is, the Word of Faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as LORD, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same LORD is LORD of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the Name of the LORD will be saved.” So Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:6-13, 17 NASB
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NASB
Is there a simpler, more easily understood way to say it?
“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are Blessed. And do not fear their intimidation , and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as LORD in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the Hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
1 Peter 3:14-16 NASB
This verse should constantly be on my lips and in my heart: “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the Hope that is in you” ….
Are you Blessed; do you have Hope? Are you ready, with gentleness and reverence, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others, especially in the face of scepticism and derision? Are afraid of upsetting – or even angering – friends or family with your testimony of the saving Grace of Jesus?
I answer ‘yes’ to each of my questions, but am I being truthful? I am Blessed, I have Hope eternal, but I find myself holding back when I should be sharing the Love of Jesus, because I don’t want to upset or anger someone. But then, is that even the truth? I have no problem telling anyone that I am a patriot and staunch defender of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. I happen to like firearms and shooting. I’m not afraid of offending anyone, because I know that I am correct in doing so, and yet all of that pales in comparison to Eternity, and the SAVING GRACE of my Saviour Jesus Christ! I’m so glad Jesus loves me in spite of myself!
Humans are so weird.
“But I rejoiced in the LORD greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:10-13 NASB
We can’t control what is without us, but we can control what is within us. Contentment is dynamic; it is not complacency or settling, but in very circumstance and every situation, it is glad submission to God’s providence. Contentment isn’t based on the “if only’s” – not “when you have” but what you have in your heart. The LORD wants us to have it through all the circumstances of life, whether in plenty or in want. It has to be learned over a lifetime, by experience and hard work. “All things” means the ups and downs, the fluctuations of life, ALL the circumstances of life, and it comes from the One Who is constantly pouring His strength into me. It is up to me/you to stay in contact with Him. Contentment does not come from WHAT we have but from WHO we have, because to be content is to be satisfied, and we gain it with the sufficiency and adequacy of Christ. Both abundance and loss will pass. GOD is the ONLY constant in life.
“He only is my Rock and my Salvation, My Stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” Psalms 62:6 NASB
I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of GOD.
“Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the Power that works within us, to Him be the Glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NASB
“Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 66:1-2a NASB
Who are we to question the Creator? Who is man, to build fancy buildings and claim that they are GOD’S house? How do we become so arrogant as to believe that something we put together is sufficient for Him?
I have been blessed to be able to travel some in Europe, and see some of the stunning, soaring architectural features of many cathedrals. I’ve been in the backwoods of middle America, and in the Southwestern states, and witnessed majestic churches and humble adobe ones. The awe that I felt was the same for all. Stepping into a building that is dedicated to the LORD brings a sense of worship to me. I have felt His Presence.
I have felt the majesty of my God even more profoundly out in His Creation. Have you ever stood on the edge of a mountain at sunrise, or sunset? Have you witnessed the unspeakable grandeur of the Grand Canyon? Have you stood in a creek at daybreak, witness to His creatures waking to a new dawn? Have you been in a field, listening to His breath as it brushes across your skin? Watching clouds as they appear to boil up on the horizon, or been caught out in a summer rain shower? It amazes me that anyone can see these things, and still refuse to acknowledge our Almighty God!
For all of history, man has been trying to impress God with buildings. I’m not against church buildings. They serve a necessary purpose for the gathering together of fellow believers. It’s when we try to out-majesty the Majesty of our God that we often begin to go astray. Are we trying to impress God, or people? I’m not against pretty churches. I attend a pretty (in my opinion) church. I have enjoyed visiting God’s church buildings across the U.S. and Europe. I’m just afraid that we get too caught up, sometimes, in “going” to church. Especially now, in this weird time of social distancing and not being able to join together in our usual manner, we have the opportunity to observe God in His Creation and worship with Him there.
If you are able, take your online worship outside. Use our Savior’s beautiful creation to enhance your time. I think He will be pleased with us. Even my humble backyard is a part of His glorious world.