Your Soul Needs Food Even When It Doesn’t Want It

Your Soul needs food even when it doesn't want it

You’re sick. Your sinuses are inflamed, your throat is raw, your nose is red, drippy, and chafing. You have a fever and ache all over. And you don’t feel like eating.

But you do eat. Nothing sounds good (except maybe the proverbial remedy for a cold, chicken soup). But you eat because your body needs it. And the very food you don’t have an appetite for not only nourishes you, but helps your body fight infection and get well.

The same is true spiritually. When something is wrong in our lives—someone has hurt us, we’ve given way to some sin, we don’t feel we fit in at church, maybe we’re even a little malnourished from lack of time at church or in the Bible—we tend to put God’s Word aside. Our appetite for it has waned.

But we need the Bible now more than ever. We may not be able to keep up with our usual routine or an intense study. But we need to keep sipping and tasting. We might spend more time in the Psalms or the gospels than some of the other books. We might listen instead of read.

And the very Word we don’t have an appetite for not only nourishes us, but helps us heal. It will strengthen us and help us fight spiritual infection.

So when your appetite for the Word of God is off, keep partaking. Your soul needs it. You may not feel instant refreshment. It may seem a little dry. But ask God to open “the eyes of your heart” and minister to you.

Often a subdued appetite can be aroused by tasting food. It didn’t sound good, but once we had a few bites, we wanted more. We may feel like reading the Bible is the last thing we want to do. But it’s been my experience, many times over, that once I start reading it, I want more.

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways (Psalm 119:36-37).

They loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

(Psalm 107:18-22)

Jeremiah 15:16 Partaking of God's Word

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

A Perfectly Ordinary Thanksgiving

I was working through a couple of blog post ideas, trying to decide which to use. Then I remembered this was Thanksgiving week.

“Hmm,” I thought. “I should probably say something about Thanksgiving.”

But what could I say that I hadn’t already said? What new angle or twist could I come up with?

Then I thought—does Thanksgiving really need an angle? Can’t we just—be thankful?

But what if we’re not feeling so thankful?

Well, thanksgiving isn’t a feeling. It’s an action, an act of the will. And once we start giving thanks, it’s not long before we feel thankful.

If you’re not feeling so grateful this week, maybe you could read some psalms, like 100 or 103 or 107 or 145.

Or you could sing or read some hymns, like “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” or “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Or you could recount your Ebenezers, those times in your life you especially saw God’s hand at work.

Or you could make a list of simple blessings: a beautiful sunset, a warm home, friends and family, food to eat, and so on.

Though we should be thankful every day, Thanksgiving is a good reminder that we do have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve found that once I get started looking for things to be thankful for, it’s hard to stop.

It’s fine to create a Thanksgiving feast (we will) or try some new ideas to spur thankfulness (we have) or set out Pinterest-worthy decorations or or try some Thanksgiving-ish crafts (done those, too).

It’s also fine to eat out or use paper plates or grill hamburgers or make sandwiches.

But simply giving thanks to the Giver of all good things often gets lost in the shuffle of everything else. Whatever else we do, may giving thanks to Him be our main focus.

Here’s both a hymn and a thankful list! It’s beautifully sung by the Sacred Music Services‘ men’s chorus.

I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, someone to share it with, something good to eat, some time to rest, and some time to “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Don’t Reject God Because of His People

There are a number of reasons people walk away from Christianity, or at least from church. Some have faced disdain or hurt from those who were supposed to model and minister Christ to them. Some groups or ministry leaders were found to have shocking hidden pasts or current sins. Some movements displayed racist thought in their pasts.

Sometimes leaving a particular group or church or dissociating from an individual is the right thing to do.

But we shouldn’t reject the whole body of God’s truth because some of His people, or those who professed to be His people, fell so far from His ideal. They’re accountable for their sins and failures, but what they do doesn’t void the truth they taught. We’re accountable for the truth we’ve heard despite the vessels it sometimes came through.

Someone once said if you look for the fatal flaw, you’ll find it. And you don’t have to look very far in some cases. That’s because we all have one—or more than one. Some seem worse, or more obvious, than others.

When you look through the Bible, you find people who loved and followed God, yet they failed in spectacular ways. Though we grieve over their falls, we don’t dismiss the truth they taught. We don’t throw out Proverbs because Solomon failed to keep his own admonitions. We lament David’s sins, but we don’t reject the psalms because of them. The disciples fought over who was greatest and fled when Jesus was arrested. Yet God transformed and used each of them in mighty ways.

Instead of throwing out “the baby with the bath water,” we can learn from the failures of others.

We’re all at risk of falling. Proverbs 16:18 warns that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Verse 13 goes on to say that we’re not tempted beyond our ability, but God will provide a way of escape. But we need to look to Him: we can’t take pride that we would never do certain things.

Most have or will experience failure of others. Joseph’s own brothers wanted to kill him and sold him into slavery. Abigail’s husband, who should have been her leader and protector, nearly caused their household to be attacked by the king. Saul, who should have been David’s mentor, instead was jealous and tried to kill David. At some point, we will fail others and they will fail us.

Learn from people who failed what not to do, what precautions could have been taken, etc.

For all the bad ones, there are many good ones. When I worked with the general public, the rude and obnoxious customers and comments hurt and stayed with me a long time. Yet there were many more kind and thoughtful customers than bad ones. Though none is perfect, there are many within Christendom who love God and others well. Don’t let the bad ones obscure the good ones.

Compare what we see and hear with Scripture. Those noble Bereans “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They took what they were told even of Paul and Silas and checked it against Scripture.

Others’ failures don’t nullify truth. In Romans 3:, Paul writes, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:3-4). Does that mean faithfulness doesn’t matter, or people get away with being unfaithful? No. God will deal with them. But their unfaithfulness doesn’t make God unfaithful or disprove His truth.

Hold fast. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Then verse 35-36 says, “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

Stir up others to love and good works. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” which, interestingly, takes place in the context of church: “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25). Perhaps some would have been prevented from a fall by a loving friend’s kind rebuke.

Forgive. Most have found that when they refuse to forgive others, the one they end up hurting the most is themselves. Unforgiveness can lead to bitterness and unanswered prayer or keep us from being forgiven. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). He taught that we’ve been forgiven so much, we should not withhold forgiveness for lesser sins than the ones we’ve committed against Him (Matthew 18:21-35).

Overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This sentence comes at the end of a section about loving enemies and not avenging ourselves, but leaving vengeance to God. That’s not to say we don’t report or deal with wrong-doing. Sometimes we need to allow consequences to catch up to someone for their own good and for protection of ourselves and others. But we don’t seek to “get them back.” Instead, we go the extra mile and do them good.

Jesus knows what we’re going through. No one has been failed by others as much as Jesus. His family didn’t understand Him. His disciples missed the point of His teaching much of the time. They fled when He was arrested. The people He came to save rejected Him. But He didn’t walk away from them. He loved even when they didn’t love Him. He patiently kept working with them. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15).

Keep our eyes on Christ. Others will fail us, even those who mean well. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2b-3a).

In Psalm 55, David tells of his fear, trembling, horror, and anguish due to the oppression of an enemy. Then he reveals in verses 12-14:

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.

Instead of letting a friend’s betrayal drive him away from the God he professed, David let the situation drive him to God.

But I call to God, and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety  from the battle that I wage (verses 16-18).

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved (verse 22).

When others fail you, betray you, ignore you, or hurt you, they are accountable to God. But don’t walk away from Him because of them. Run to His arms and let Him heal, soothe, encourage, and strengthen you.

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
(Psalm 147:2-3)

Man may trouble and distress me;
Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me.
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me.
Oh, twere not in joy to charm me
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Henry Francis Lyte, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken”

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

What Kind of Roots Are You Growing?

I am guilty of negligent planticide. Multiple counts of it.

Houseplants rarely survive my care . . . or lack thereof. I forget to seek out their specific needs. I just stick them in front of a window and water them . . . when they look a little droopy. Turns out, that’s not healthy for them. And not all of them require full sunlight. And fertilizer? You mean there’s not one generic plant food for them all?

My hanging baskets outside fare better since my dear husband has taken it upon himself to keep them watered.

But plants in the ground or big planters do best for me. At least they get dew every morning and enough rain to keep going, and they have enough room for a deep root system.

Occasionally, though, I’ll do battle with a plant that not only survives my neglect, but actively thrives despite my attempts to get rid of it.

Once I had what I thought was a pretty kind of ivy. I think it may have come in a mixed basket of some kind. I planted a few strands along the front edge of of two outdoor planters so they would spill out over the front, making a pretty foreground to the begonias and petunias behind it.

The only problem was, the ivy took over. It stretched over the other plants until eventually it was the only thing growing in the planter. It took all the nutrients so there was none left for anything else. Despite my frequent trimming, the ivy grew so fast that it began to attach itself to the ground around the planters. I pulled up several cords of ivy vines, but in a few days there would be new shoots. I thought we’d never get rid of it.

When a book I read recently mentioned a root of bitterness, some of a root’s imagery came to mind. The phrase comes from Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Deuteronomy 28:18b warns: “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.”

Despite my botanical ignorance, I know a few things about how roots function.

Roots need room to grow. We planted two crepe myrtle trees at the same time in different parts of the yard. One did well and is now as tall as the house. The other is only about three feet tall. The latter is in a small area between the sidewalk and house, where there must not be enough room for it to spread its roots out.

Roots anchor the plant to the ground. Plants could easily blow over or be dug up without a sufficient root system. Somehow weeds seem to have the strongest or deepest roots, making it difficult to eradicate them completely. Some taproots can grow 200 feet downward according to this article.

Roots take nutrients and water from the soil and feed the plant. Some roots even store food for later use.

Roots help some plants reproduce in other areas. And weeds return unless you dig them up or kill them at their roots.

A root of bitterness will act the same way as a persistent plant’s root system. If we’re not careful, that kind of root will anchor itself in our souls. We can’t easily brush it away or dig it out. It will spread so it takes over our thinking. It will leach nutrients away from other areas of life, so we fail to grow spiritually while the bitterness increases. Eventually we plant bitterness in others as we spread our discontent.

I need to frequently examine my heart. Even when I am not aware of any deep roots of bitterness, I often find seedlings of grudges, resentment, or irritation. I need to avoid giving these roots room to grow. If I don’t dig these up right away, they can send their roots deep and cause bitterness.

Instead I want to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7).

I want to be like the blessed “man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

I pray “ that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

I want to be anchored in Jesus, the “root of Jesse” (Romans 15:12-13), the “root of David” (Revelation 5:4-6), the “root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:15-17).

Guarding against spiritual weeds takes diligent care. While we pull out weeds by the root, we plant in their place the right kind of roots. The verse just before the one that mentions the root of bitterness says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Even those of us without a physical green thumb can carefully tend our hearts, pulling up weeds, planting good things, sinking our roots deeply into Christ.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Is This the Right Way?

“I hope you know where we’re going.”

My mother-in-law would say this whenever I drove her anywhere.

Ten years before my mother-in-law passed away, we moved her from her long-time home in Idaho to be near us, then in SC and later in TN.

For the first five years, she was in an assisted-living facility. She was still mobile (with a walker) and verbal then.

When she first came, we had to gently insist that she needed new hearing aids. We could yell right next to her, and she’d encourage us to “just speak up.” When we finally got the new aids, she could hear much better and didn’t fuss about them any longer.

The new hearing aids required that we visit the audiologist’s office every few months for a tune-up and tube replacement. It was my responsibility to chauffeur Mom to these appointments.

Mom had never driven. She had several physical issues as a result of being born two months premature in the days before the streamlined NICUs we have today. She was used to her husband driving her wherever she needed to go. And she was used to the familiar roads in her small town in Idaho.

She did not have Alzheimer’s, but she had a degree of dementia that flared up most often when she was nervous or agitated.

So on our drives, in a place and vehicle and with a driver she wasn’t used to, she would frequently express her hope that I knew the way.

I would reassure her again and again. Once I teased, “No, I thought I’d just get in the car and drive around until we found it.” But her uncertain look told me that teasing probably wasn’t wise.

Later I would learn that when we’d get in these repetitive conversational loops, logic didn’t work. It was best to respond factually and then divert her attention. Trying to keep up a conversation kept her mind from reverting back to wondering where she was going . . . most of the time.

Her repeated question often reminded me of a poem I saw in one of Rosalind Goforth’s books. She and her husband were ministering in China when “foreign devils,” as they were called, were not welcome. They were staying in a “barn-like room” with paper windows full of holes. She couldn’t get warm. She got sick. She cried out, “O Lord, have you no pity? Oh, help me! Why should I suffer so?”

Just then someone brought in two baskets with a letter from two missionaries who had stayed with them the day before. The missionaries saw the Goforths’ meager accommodations and must have sensed that they had used most of their supplies to serve them. So the caring guest missionaries sent an assortment of food. Rosalind rejoiced at the kind provision. “But the most timely and precious evidence of God’s love and care came, when tearing paper off a bottle of grape juice,” she noticed this poem:

Is this the right road home, O Lord?
The clouds are dark and still,
The stony path is hard to tread,
Each step brings some fresh ill.
I thought the way would brighter grow,
And that the sun with warmth would glow,
And joyous songs from free hearts flow.
Is this the right road home?

Yes, child, this very path I trod,
The clouds were dark for Me,
The stony path was sharp and hard.
Not sight but faith, could see
That at the end the sun shines bright,
Forever where there is no night,
And glad hearts rest from earth’s fierce fight,
It IS the right road Home!

The poem was from an English paper printed in 1914, four years earlier, with no author listed. Who knows how it “happened” to find its way to Rosalind right when she needed it. She read the words over and over and finally prayed, “O Lord, if this is the right road home, then I will not murmur!”

Two days later, Rosalind returned to their home in Changte while others went on with the tour. Noting that she looked like a ghost of herself, friends cared for her until she recovered (Climbing, pages 118-120).

Even those of us who know the “prosperity gospel” is false sometimes fall into the trap of thinking the Christian life is akin to the “American dream.” When troubles come, we’re dismayed, because this isn’t what we thought the Christian life would be like. Did we take a wrong turn? Did God really mean for this to happen?

But He told us, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Yet He sandwiches that truth between two promises:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Several people in the Bible must have wondered if they, too, were on the right road:

Abraham and Sarah waiting long years for the son God promised.

The children of Israel wandering for forty years in the desert.

David, though anointed as the next king, hiding out in a cave from Saul.

John the Baptist in prison.

Peter when he heard Jesus speak of suffering and dying.

We’ve had friends who also must have wondered at times why life looked so different than they thought it would: a couple on deputation for the mission field when their son was diagnosed with leukemia; a young man in seminary who was in a car accident which left him paralyzed; a woman who is still alone though she thought she would have a husband and children; another woman who had to leave her beloved mission field due to her husband’s sin.

The Bible tells us often that trouble is part of life here. But the Bible also assures us time and again that God will be with us and help in trouble. God tells us not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust God (Proverbs 3:5).

He promises that when—not if—we pass through deep waters or fire, He will be with us:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2).

What’s the best way to stay on the right path? “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). If we’re seeking Him day by day, step by step, we can be assured we’re on the right path even if the circumstances are confusing.

What if we do stray from the path of God’s will? Sometimes trials are God’s chastening or His attempt to get our attention. Jonah went the opposite direction God told him and ended up inside a big fish. The prodigal son deliberately walked away from his father and ended up in a pigsty. Most of us don’t have one dramatic turn, but we gradually drift. We miss a few times with the Lord until we get out of the habit. We make excuses for a sin instead of killing it. Then we find ourselves either lukewarm and apathetic like the Laodicean church, or in a tangled mess. God issues many invitations in the Bible to repent and turn back to Him. One is Isaiah 55:7:

Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

A beautiful song based on this passage:

And I love this new version of the old hymn, “Coming Home”:

We can trust that God knows the way home and is with us every step.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

What Light Reveals

I woke up in the middle of the night. As my eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, I became aware of a round shape on the edge of my bed.

I thought it was a headhunter.

It’s not like we had a lot of headhunters roaming southeastern Texas in my childhood. But I was seven or eight with a vivid imagination. I constantly pictured someone hiding in dark corners, or reaching for my ankles in the darkness under the bed, or staring at me in the darkness while I slept.

I decided if the headhunter thought I was asleep, he wouldn’t bother me. So I laid very still, closed my eyes tight, and drifted off again.

In the morning, when I woke up to light streaming in my room, I saw the rounded head of my teddy bear beside me and had a good laugh at myself.

During this time, my brother and I shared bunk beds. I had the top bunk, since I was four years older. When he was little, my brother used to have some pretty wild dreams. Once he woke up in the night and toddled to my parents’ room to tell them there was a snake in our bed. They accompanied him back to our bedroom to turn on the light and assure him there was no snake . . . except there was a snake. The box springs under the top bunk were uncovered, and a snake was making its way through the coils. I happened to be asleep on the top bunk.

I don’t remember the sequence of events, but I was retrieved from bed, and our neighbor somehow appeared. I don’t remember her face because she usually wore a bonnet. She looked like an extra from Little House on the Prairie or maybe a middle-aged Holly Hobbie. Her name was Mrs. Beeson, and she seemed an expert on all manner of flora and fauna. She told us this was not a poisonous snake, and it was probably after a nest of eggs in the window next to the bed. Still, she chopped its head off. I can still remember watching in awe as the snake’s head and body still moved though they were severed.

In one situation, light exposed false reasons to fear and brought comfort. In another situation, light exposed a potential danger to be dealt with. In both, light showed the difference between reality and imagination.

Light provides rich imagery and symbolism in the Bible. This Bible Study Tools article says, “Throughout the Old Testament light is regularly associated with God and his word, with salvation, with goodness, with truth, with life. The New Testament resonates with these themes, so that the holiness of God is presented in such a way that it is said that God “lives in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16). God is light (1 John 1:5) and the Father of lights (James 1:17) who dispels darkness.”

Ephesians 5:13 says, “When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” When we shine God’s light and truth into our lives, we discern reality from imagination. We see what’s innocent and what’s dangerous. Our fears are comforted with God’s power and grace. We see areas that need cleaning, like when the afternoon light exposes missed spots of dust. We see the next step on the path ahead as God’s “word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

God’s light even exposes our hearts to us. Jeremiah asks, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9). We can fool ourselves about our motives, even our own sin. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (emphasis mine).

Earlier in Ephesians 5, Paul says :

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible (verses 8-13).

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). We need to regularly shine God’s light on our circumstances, our culture, and our own hearts to have the right perspective and response.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

From “What if” to “Even If”

What if this odd symptom turns out to be something serious?

What if I don’t get the job?

What if this investment fails?

What if I bomb this presentation?

What if the scan shows cancer?

We have so many things to be concerned about, both large and small. And some of us are “gifted” with the ability to imagine all the ways something could go wrong.

Ed Welch says in Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest, “Worriers are visionaries without the optimism” (p.50, Kindle version).

So we cycle through our worries, scaring ourselves to death, feeling trapped like a hamster in a continuous wheel.

Someone once said that if the thing we worry about doesn’t happen, we’ve wasted all that angst and energy and head space. And if it does happen, we’ve doubled the toll it would have taken by worrying about it beforehand. That helps me put aside worried questions and supposing.

But something else helps me even more: facing those worries full on. What if the worst possibility happens?

If the medical news is not good, some hard roads may be ahead. But God promised His grace and help. And if “the worst” happens, it will be the best—we’ll be with Him without pain and sin. We don’t want to leave our loved ones. But God will give grace for that if and when the time comes. He won’t give grace for illness and parting in this moment because it’s not needed yet.

If this job or investment falls through, God will provide for us in some other way.

We’ll do everything we can to be ready for the presentation and will pray about every aspect of it. God will give grace when the time comes. But if we still fall on our faces—maybe we needed the humbling. Maybe others needed to see our humanity. Elisabeth Elliot once wrote in Keep a Quiet Heart that her daughter, Valerie, got lost in her notes during a talk and got flustered. She finished as best she could and sat down, discouraged. But ladies thanked her for what she shared. She later told her mother that she had prayed beforehand that the ladies would see she was just an ordinary woman who needed His help, and she felt this stumbling was His answer.

When we face our “what ifs” full on instead of running from them, we deplete them of their strength. In every case, no matter what “the worst” is, God’s grace will be there. He may take us down paths we wouldn’t have chosen. But He has things to teach us there that we couldn’t have learned elsewhere.

In Daniel 3, three young men could not in good conscience bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, even when threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace. They told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (verses 17-18). God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t, we’ll keep obeying and trusting Him.

One concern for many Christians these days is the increasing possibility of persecution. But Peter gives us encouragement:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:14-17).

God is sufficient for all our “What ifs.” I still pray and hope against certain things happening. But even if the “worst” happens, God will give grace and peace and enabling. Even if the outcome is not what we wanted, the better we know our God, the more we can trust Him.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

(Update: I was asked to do a radio interview about this post. My son recorded it for me and linked to it here, if you’d like to listen.)

I know God promised, but…

I know God said He’s always with me, but I just feel so alone.

I know God said He would enable me, but I just don’t think I can do it.

I know God said He would take care of me, but I fear what might happen.

I know God wants me to witness, but I just don’t think anyone wants to hear the gospel.

It’s possible to have the promises of God but still not move forward in our Christian lives.

How can that be?

According to one commentator, the difference between Israel’s failure to enter the promised land in Numbers and their success in Joshua was a matter of reckoning.

In the American South, the word “reckon” is sometimes used to mean “suppose.”

“I reckon it’s about time to go to bed.”

“Do you reckon it will rain tomorrow?”

But one American dictionary definition for reckon is “to count, depend, or rely, as in expectation (often followed by on).”

And the Greek word rendered reckon in the KJV lists counting as one definition, but also includes words like “consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on, suppose, deem, judge, determine, purpose, decide.”

In both Numbers and Joshua. God had promised to give Israel the land. But in the first case, they didn’t believe God and failed to obey. They spent the next forty years in the wilderness while all the adults except Joshua and Caleb—the only ones who did believe God—died off.

Hebrews refers of this period: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Hebrews 4:1-2, KJV)

Then in Joshua 6, “the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.'” God told Joshua this before the battle even began. Joshua counted on this promise as well as the one God had given him in chapter 1:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:8-9).

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary Be Strong (Joshua): Putting God’s Power to Work, says this:

Victorious Christians are people who know the promises of God, because they spend time meditating on God’s Word (1: 8); they believe the promises of God because the Word of God generates faith in their hearts (Rom. 10: 17); and they reckon on these promises and obey what God tells them to do. To “reckon” means to count as true in your life what God says about you in His Word. . . .

Christ has conquered the world, the flesh, and the Devil; and if we reckon on this truth, we can conquer through Him. It’s possible to believe a promise and still not reckon on it and obey the Lord. Believing a promise is like accepting a check, but reckoning is like endorsing the check and cashing it (p. 88-89, Kindle version).

If we say, “I know God said, but….” we’re not relying, or reckoning, on His promise. We’re looking at circumstances or our abilities or feelings instead, none of which are reliable.

But reading and meditating on God’s Word leads to faith in God’s Word, which leads to relying on God’s Word, which leads to obedience.

Relying on God’s promises doesn’t give us grounds for presumption. Israel got into trouble in the next few chapters of Joshua because they went forward presumptuously (in the case of Ai) and didn’t ask counsel of the Lord (in the case of the Gibeonites).

Relying on God doesn’t mean we follow a formula. We’re prone to seek three easy steps to handle any problem. God’s instructions for battling Jericho and Ai and other cities were very different.

We need to humbly seek God’s will and stay in His Word so He can guide us, show us sin in our lives that we need to confess to Him, and show us His promises to help us overcome for Him. But as we rely on His truth,

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

(John H. Sammis)

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Interestingly, Adrian Rogers’ Love Worth Finding radio program touched
on “reckoning” today (Monday) in a sermon titled “How to Live in Victory.”

Thoughts From a Memorial Service

Last Friday, my husband and I attended the memorial service of one of his primary mentors.

We didn’t really use the word “mentor” back in the day. Pastor Bob was the pastor of Jim’s family’s church and also the father of his best friend. Jim said at the memorial service that he had spent almost more time at this family’s home than his own during his teen years, not counting sleep time.

Three of Pastor Bob’s children were in college when we were, so I got to know them when Jim and I started dating. The youngest came to the university later, but we were living nearby at the time. We saw her sometimes on campus and had her over occasionally. She began attending our church, and when she married, her husband became one of our assistant pastors. So we got to know them well, too.

We had hoped to have time to visit with the family before and after the memorial service, but we also didn’t want to intrude. We knew this was a special time for them when they needed each other, plus they had other friends and relatives there. But we did get to catch up with them during the visitation and at a lunch afterward that they graciously invited us to. Then Jim’s friend invited us to his house afterward, where all the family would be visiting the rest of the afternoon until different ones needed to head back to their homes. It felt something like a family reunion, and we were blessed to be a part of it.

Memorial services are good and sad at the same time. The whole reason for such a service was due to a beloved person’s absence. But it was a joy to hear of his life, his humor, the sayings he was known for, his heart for people, his integrity and work ethic. After each of his children spoke, the mic was open for anyone in the congregation to share a memory or something they appreciated about Pastor Bob. It’s amazing to consider the ripples that spread from one life to so many others.

Ecclesiastes 7:12 tells us, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

The “house of mourning” reminds us that

  • Our lives will come to an end, and we need to be ready. “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
  • Our lives will influence others for better or for worse. “A good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1a).
  • “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
  • Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-6), a place where He dwells, a place with no sorrow, crying, pain, sin (Revelation 21:1-4).
  • Believers will see their believing loved ones again after death (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

I’ve also pondered this last week that what I think of as the “old guard” —the faithful people who were major influences in our lives—is almost gone. They weren’t all old in years, though many were. Both my parents and my husband’s have passed away. The woman who was the greatest influence of my life next to my mom passed away a few years ago. The pastor of my early formative years went to heaven just last year. Now Pastor Bob. Other pastors, teachers, aunts, friends have gone on ahead.

Some of these were the ones I most counted on for prayer and counsel. What am I supposed to do without them?

Well, God is faithful and supplies all our needs. He counsels us through His Word and brings others in our lives to strengthen and support us.

But I’m humbled and stunned that I am supposed to be the “old guard” in others’ lives now. Who is sufficient for these things? Not me. But He is. Memorial services also encourage me to give my one brief life to Him and to others.

Are you ready for heaven? If not please, please, read here.

Two songs have been on my mind the last few days. This first one, Ron Hamilton’s “Goodnight,” came to mind because it was the reality of my husband’s friend, Steve, who took care of his father the last several years. The first stanza tells of a dad tucking his kids in bed and telling them good night. In the second stanza, the son now tucks the father in with the same message. In the third, the father has passed away, and the son looks forward to seeing him “in the morning.”

This one was sung at one of our former churches often and was sung at another former pastor’s funeral. Then I saw it on my friend Kim’s blog just before attending Pastor Bob’s memorial.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Pressure

My husband and I listened to an online sermon recently which contained a story I had never heard before.

The USS Thresher was a nuclear-powered submarine that sank in 1963, killing all 129 people on board. A series of events caused it to sink and then to implode due to the extreme pressure deep in the ocean.

Research equipment with cameras that could withstand the oceanic pressure were lowered and found the Thresher in five pieces.

It’s hard to fathom water pressure strong enough to crush a submarine.

Yet there are fish and creatures that live at such depths. How are they not crushed?

This article tells of some features of a few specific deep-sea creatures. But the bottom line, Wikipedia says, is “Deep-sea organisms have the same pressure within their bodies as is exerted on them from the outside, so they are not crushed by the extreme pressure.”

The fish and other creatures aren’t crushed by deep sea pressure because their internal pressure is equal to it. In fact, many die (even explode) when they are brought to the surface for study because their pressure is no longer equalized.

We face a lot of pressures these days, don’t we? Making a living, keeping up with responsibilities, making time for those we love. Then we all have struggles against our own besetting sins. The world is getting less friendly to Christianity every day. And we have an enemy of our souls who seeks our destruction like a roaring lion.

We’re not equal to it in ourselves. “My flesh and my heart may fail,” Asaph says. Mine, too. But he goes on to say, “but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). The one within us is more than equal to the pressures around us.

“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:7-8, HCSB).

Sometimes God relieves pressure by removing a burden from us. Other times, He gives us grace to bear it. He invites us to cast our care on Him, to depend on His strength in our weakness, to come to Him for rest.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)