Defender

You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a few weeks. For a moment, I let the worries of the world overtake me. For many people, and for many reasons, this most beautiful season is also the most difficult. Could be that a loved one isn’t present for a variety of reasons. It can be because of a lack of funds or other inability to serve people we love. Depression hits hard. Despondency is widespread.
Psalm‬ ‭42:11‬ ‭AMPC‬‬ declares, “Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”

Francesca Battistelli and Steffany Gretzinger were singing “Defender” on the radio as I read this verse this morning:
When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart

Then I heard “Casting Cares” by Finding Favor:
When fear feels bigger than my faith
And struggles steal my breath away
When my back’s pressed up against the wall
With the weight of my worries stacked up tall
You’re strong enough to hold it all

God’s Word answers my fears, our fears, and His musicians sing the words I/we need to hear. HE is the Defender, our Strength and our Deliverer. HE takes care of the weak, the frightened, the lonely. HE is always here with us, if we just open our eyes, our hands, and our hearts to Him.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:28‭-‬31 NASB

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Faithful Suffering

Faithful suffering. First Jesus, then Paul; actually, all of the Apostles served as our examples of this.

“Blessed be the GOD and FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Father of Mercies and God of all Comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by GOD.” 2 Corinthians 1:3‭-‬4 NASB

“But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” [Psalms 116: 1-10] we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He Who raised the LORD JESUS will raise us also with JESUS and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the Grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the Glory of GOD.” 2 Corinthians 4:13‭-‬15 NASB

I don’t suffer faithfully, or gracefully. Do you? Does it make you mad when bad things happen to you or your loved ones? I spent a large part of my life mad at God because of all the bad in my life…. I didn’t want anything to do with Him since He let all of it happen. At the same time, I ignored or denied that any of the good came from Him. My Faith was nonexistent. It took some major disasters to get my attention off me and my faithless suffering, and back into the LORD and my childhood Faith.

I still don’t want any suffering or bad stuff; however, now I can recognize where it really comes from. I know that no matter what the enemy throws at me, my LORD is with me, beside me, supporting me, carrying me when I need it. I still worry, and I still get angry, but I’m learning through Faith that I am not alone. You aren’t alone either, if you’ll allow Jesus to walk with you.

Treasure Hunting

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; …..Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
2 Corinthians 4:7‭-‬9‭, ‬16 NASB

It occurs to me that the majority of humans, me included, spent our lives searching for treasure. Monetary treasure, relational treasure, the treasure of children. We think these things will complete us, and bring us satisfaction. It’s so sad when we realize that none of these, nothing that we can do or obtain on this earth, will bring real, heart-filling satisfaction. There’s only one way to reach that. It isn’t politically correct, or socially acceptable, to say this. In many parts of the world, you can lose your life for telling others this truth….. but that doesn’t make it any less true.

One way to reach the real treasure, satisfaction, completion, in our lives. One way. The real “Golden Ticket”.

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4‭-‬5 NASB

Through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, through His Blood that was shed in His torture and ultimately in His hanging on the cross, we receive our satisfaction and our completion. It is the only way. Even when we don’t think we are broken, we are. The saddest thing in life, to me, is to see people who are “above” it all. Those people who believe in their power, that it is through their efforts that they will find their treasures. Believe me, I am not in a position to judge anyone, because I am the most guilty of all.

God loves us most when we recognize our brokenness; when we finally realize that there is nothing we can do the fix ourselves. No matter how talented or smart or wealthy. We are totally dependent on Him. I’m working on switching my focus from the treasure hunting of this world to the anticipation of the treasures of heaven, where our hearts are full of the Glory of the LORD! I’d like to have an easier life, and I’d rather be with a companion, a partner, than to continue to be alone, but I’m trying to focus on the right things, the God things, instead of the earth things.

God turns our brokenness in a beautiful treasure!

Cracked and Broken

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 NASB

“For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; …..” 2 Corinthians 4:6‭-‬7 NASB

“But God
Rich in mercy
You came to save me
Now I’m alive
But God
Strong and mighty
You reached down for me
So I could rise
Now I’m alive”

(Words by Zach Williams)

Can you relate?

Brokenhearted

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalms 34:18‭-‬19 NASB

Friends fall away. Loved ones pass on. Pets have short lives. People disappoint us. Jobs end. Businesses fail. Loss happens. We grieve. Life goes on. It. Just. Isn’t. Fair.

Nobody – ever – said life is fair. The enemy made sure of that from the moment he tricked and deceived Adam and Eve, and he has successfully continued his reign of unfairness ever since. It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ you are, or to what lengths you go, life is not and never will be ‘fair‘. Was the life Jesus led here on earth ‘fair’? No, not by any stretch of the imagination! The Son of heaven, the only perfect, sinless human to ever live, hungry, beaten, tortured, and finally stretched out a brutal cross to die an agonizing death. Fair?? Not at all. And we – imperfect, sinful, selfish – complain because we are passed over for a job promotion or because we are lonely.

And yet our GOD never leaves us to deal with our llives alone.

Amazing Grace. Sweet Mercy. Awesome Love.

“In Him we have redemption through His Blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His Grace…..” Ephesians 1:7 NASB

Amen.

Image from 123rf.com

To Honor Those Who Serve….

I wrote this 4 years ago, but I think it’s worth sharing again. I want to acknowlege a few of the pastors who have touched my life and helped me in my journey through life: my Dad, Bill Henry. Mark Hitchcock. Dennis Newkirk. Chuck Robinson. Lonny Lee. There are many others, and I’m not leaving you off to offend you!

As a nation, we have several designated days for remembering. Yesterday was the anniversary of an unfathomable tragedy for these United States. In May, we honor our fallen service men and women; in November, D-day.

EVERY day of the year is an anniversary for honoring someone who has given their life for another. It is Army and Air Force, Marines and Navy; Police officers and firemen. Ambulance personnel, EMT’s and ER doctors and nurses. Airline pilots and personnel. Everyday, ordinary people. Pastors.

Why would I add “Pastors” to this list?

Have you looked at your pastor lately? REALLY looked? I’m not speaking of preachers who stand in the pulpit on Sundays and lead separate lives during the week, or the ones who are all about appearance and wealth. I’m talking about Pastors, and missionaries who devote their lives to service. Men who love their spiritual flock as their own families. Men – and their wives – who sacrifice themselves to God and His work.

We, as their flocks, their congregations, are doing better these days to recognize their need for respite from their service, I think – but our pastors need our care and support. Physical care and support, obviously, but even more importantly they need our emotional and spiritual support.

My Dad served in the United States Merchant Marines as a radio officer during WWII. Over the course of his life, my Dad gave his life in total to serving his Lord and his flocks at the expense of his health. Wherever, whenever he was called, he gave everything he had, even at times at the expense of the family. Even during his last days on this earth he was witnessing to his health care workers. He gave all. What an example.

To me, he was and is a great example of a hero.

Every day, I miss him. I can’t wait to see him and have his arms around me in heaven. Let’s dance, Daddy. I love you.

How Great Thou Art!

How Great Thou Art! Powerful old hymn:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow with humble adoration
And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment* [*BEMA] seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:9‭-‬10 NASB

God wants us to do well. He wants us to be rewarded….. throughout His Word, He gives us the instructions on how to gain these rewards. He tells us that whatever we treasure shows where our heart lies. Everything we have belongs to God, so the focus of life is not what we have here on earth, but should be on what we send ahead.

“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” 1 Timothy 6:17‭-‬19 NASB

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19‭-‬21 NASB

The preacher Adrian Rodgers said “Don’t give what’s left over, give what’s right.” And “Don’t give till it hurts, give till it feels good.” (Paraphrased)

“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42 NASB

Where is my treasure? Is it in front of me, so that I am heading towards it and heaven; or is it behind me and I am held back by it in the form of my earthly thoughts and goods? God expects an investment and a return on our TIME here on earth. There are several stories in scripture relating to a master entrusting his servants with money to see how they handle the stewardship and responsibility. That’s what God is doing with us; entrusting us with His world to see how we do. I haven’t been a very good steward throughout my life, but our gracious and Merciful LORD lets us start each day fresh. The Scottish preacher Thomas Chalmers said: “I had forgotten two magnitudes: I thought not of the littleness of time, and I recklessly thought not of the greatness of eternity.” Another, anonymous source said quite succinctly “When you kill time, there is no resurrection.”

“So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Psalms 90:12 NASB

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15‭-‬16 NASB

We are participating in rewards, partnering in ministry – we need to be intentional and thoughtful in our thoughts, our actions, and our prayers. Prayer is simply asking God for something.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:5‭-‬6 NASB

Whatever you pray for, don’t give up. God’s “NO” is better than anyone’s “Yes.” A passionate prayer life shows trust and devotion. We each have our OWN race, no one else’s, but we aren’t running alone. Run to WIN. What is holding me back? Our “race,” our life, is our testimony to God.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the Right Hand of the Throne of GOD.” Hebrews 12:1‭-‬2 NASB

Are you in the race? The first step is the hardest, acknowleging that we are sinners (I am a sinner), and that we are totally reliant on the Mercy and Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. We are all equal at the foot of the cross!