My God is a Rock

We are living in such troublesome times.  I’m coming to the point that I don’t want to turn on my computer because I don’t want to see what might be waiting for me.  I don’t think I am the only one. Recently, I had a particularly difficult day.  As I was mulling things over in my mind, the Lord brought this song to my mind.  I thought I would share it with you.  Perhaps you need to hear it too.

Broken Bones

There are times in life when God is working in your heart and showing you things about Himself from His Word that are too personal to share with others.  Not because you don’t want to be transparent and open, but because it loses something when shared with others. It is an intimate time between you and your God.

Since my return to Japan the end of February, I have had some of those moments.  During my recent time as an invalid, I have had more of those moments.  God has been my refuge during this time of quarantine from corona virus and now another type of quarantine of being confined to my chair.

My devotional this year is New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp.  The author had no way of knowing what would be going on in my life the year I chose to read his book.  He had no way of knowing what I would be enduring on a daily basis as I read his entry for that day. But God knew.  I have no doubt this year was the year God wanted me to read this devotional.  The entry for June 1st cemented that for me.  God is faithful.  He knows our need.  He plans in advance to meet those needs before we are aware we will have them.


God’s care comes in many forms. He cares enough to break your bones in order to capture your heart.

I wish your care was always easy, predictable, safe—
a cool drink
a soft pillow—
but you are too wise,
too loving,
too committed to your work of
transforming grace.
So your gracious care comes to me
in uncomfortable forms:
the redeeming care of
disappointment,
the unexpected
trial,
suffering, loss.
These things don’t tell me you’re
cold-hearted,
absent,
uninvolved.
No, each is a sign of
zealous grace,
redeeming love.
I struggle to grasp how much you
care,
so I struggle to rest in that
care.
You care enough to give me what I
need,
not what I want.
You care enough to break my bones
in order
to recapture my heart.

For further study and encouragement: Psalm 51 (especially v. 8)

“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.”

Tripp, Paul David. New Morning Mercies . Crossway. Kindle Edition.

 

Psalm 91

The group memorizing Psalm 91 at Do Not Depart is finished according to the schedule.  I am still working on it.  I’ve been struggling with the last few verses.  I’ve also been struggling with the meaning behind some of the verses.  We know that God allows pain and suffering to those who love Him, so what does He mean when He says, “No evil shall come nigh thy dwelling.”  I have done some study on my own, read my study Bible notes and notes in a commentary.

You may remember that I have been pretty much confined to a chair due to a recent injury.  Today I took the time to go back and read the posts that were written about each week’s memory verses.  I would encourage you to do that even if you didn’t memorize the chapter.  They were such a blessing to me and gave me much to think about.  We live in such tumultuous times.  God is our peace.  It is my prayer that we will all run to Him for protection.

Here are a few of the most thought-provoking statements in those blog posts to me.  I wanted to write them out for my future reference and thought I would share them with you.  If you read the posts or have been meditating on Psalm 91, please share some of your thoughts in the comments so we can encourage one another.  I linked to each post in the Bible reference.

Psalm 91:1-2, “Regardless of the devastation that the coronavirus threatens us with, we can rest assured that if we stay in our shelter, once the storm passes, our souls will have survived.

And we will still be with God. Together.

He’ll help us pick up the pieces and put our lives back together. Then, as now, He will remain our refuge, our fortress, our God.

In Him we can trust.”

Psalm 91:3-4, “The mouse had taken the bait. And lost his battle.

We, however, don’t have to take the bait of worrying, of panicking, of complaining. We can go higher. Call for help. Avoid the traps.

God knows where our traps have been set, and if we’ll shelter in His nest, we will be safe. He’s got this. Let’s let him fight this one for us.

Count on His faithfulness.
Trust His goodness.
Rest in His love.”

Psalm 91:5-6, “We have a safe place in Jesus, despite our vulnerability in the world.

Ultimately, vulnerability isn’t our weakness. It’s our opportunity—to run to safe refuge in God.

It’s in God’s shelter that we are finally safe.”

Psalm 91:7-8, “While our bodies are just as susceptible to destruction as any other, our souls are not as susceptible. They are protected.

Our immunity doesn’t rest in the physical (although God can still perform miracles there also). Our advantage comes in the peace of God’s presence in us and around us.”

Psalm 91:9-10, “By trusting in God as our refuge, we not only are protecting ourselves, we’re also protecting those ‘near our tent.’

God’s protection ripples out.

When you stay close to God, others around you also benefit by His shade.”

Psalm 91:11-12, ” He doesn’t always stop the catastrophe from happening to us in the physical realm…Even when we can’t see God, He sees us. We are always on His mind and always in His works.”

Psalm 91:13-14, “Getting to know God more doesn’t have to be complicated. But you do need to consciously choose it.

Loving God more means spending more time with Him, being more aware of His presence, learning more who He is, talking with others about Him, talking more in person with Him.

The more you know God, the more you’ll love God. You’ll then hold on to Him in love because you want to, not from guilt or fear or obligation.

You’ll know Him by name.”

Psalm 91:15-16, “We often don’t see the gifts. Our blindness causes us to miss out on God’s good gifts.”

I think, perhaps, the fact of God’s presence is the dearest truth to me next to His love.  It is something that I dwell on continually. God reminds me of it when I don’t. This psalm is full of reminders of His presence.

Thank you, Lisa, for allowing the Lord to use you in this way.  The time spent in this psalm was exactly what my sore, anxious, weary heart needed.

God knows what He’s about.

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts Him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out–
God knows what He’s about.

~untitled and unattributed in a volume by V. Raymond Edman,
The Disciplines of Life

 

Returning to Change

By the time you are reading this, I have returned to Japan.  Many things have changed since we departed for our furlough the end of April 2019.  Favorite restaurants have closed.  Favorite shopping places have closed. Even a favorite shipping company that we used to ship items from the USA has closed.  Foods and toiletries that we previously shipped to Japan are no longer able to be shipped due to changing custom regulations.  Some responsibilities are no longer mine, while new ones are being added.  In some regards, it is like starting over.

I don’t like change very much.  I often wish things could just stay the way they are, but in the world that we live in, it will never be.  I’ve shared here before, but maybe you need to be reminded too. What a great comfort to know that there is ONE who never changes!

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
~Hebrews 13:8

“For I am the LORD, I change not;”
~Malachi 3:6

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
~James 1:17

Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”
~Psalm 102:25-27

God’s Faithfulness

Several years ago, my husband and I were at a discouraging point in our ministry.  As we were talking through some of the things we were dealing with, my husband made this statement.  “I just want to be faithful to what God has called me to do.”  I remember thinking, “OK.  We will be faithful and keep plugging along.”  But as the days turned into weeks which turned into months with very little change, I asked the Lord, “How do we keep remaining faithful?”

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one word for 2018

abide

“to continue in a place”

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing…If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you…As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” 

~from John 15

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue [abide] in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 

~John 8:31-32

“The Greek word for abide used in John 8: 31-32 and John 15: 4-5 is the same word that’s used for living in a house. The idea is that we don’t just visit the Word for 10 minutes a day. We live in the Word. Meditate on it. Chew on it as we walk through the day.”

~Taste for Truth, pg. 10

Emmanuel, God With Us

Nativity

Years ago, I was challenged by an older lady in my life to ask God for something new to meditate on each Christmas season.  This year as I thought about the coming Christmas season, I kept thinking about the fact that God is with us.  Isaiah 7:14 prophecies that a virgin would conceive and bear a son and his name would be called Emmanuel.  Matthew 1:23 is the fulfillment of that prophecy.  The verse in Matthew also tells us the meaning of that name…God with us.  What does it mean that God is with us?

God’s presence is a theme throughout Scripture.  When God called Abraham to leave all that was familiar to him and move to an unknown place, He promised Abraham, “I will be with you.”  After Jacob deceived his father into giving him the blessing, he was sent away to find a wife from the daughters of Laban.  Jacob had sinned and yet God promised him that He would be with him and protect him and bring him back to his homeland.  The Lord was with Joseph in all of his trials, afflictions and false accusations and fulfilled the promises that He made to him.  God was with Moses and the Israelites as they left Egypt and He performed great miracles on their behalf.  He promised Joshua that He would be with him just as He was with Moses.  I could go on and on and list many more examples…but what does that mean for all of us today?

Psalm 46:1 tells us that God is an ever-present help in times of trouble.  In Jeremiah 23:24, God Himself says that He fills heaven and earth.  There is nowhere that we can hide from Him.  Psalm 139:7-10 tells us that no matter where we are, He is there!  He is with each one of us all the time!  We are human.  We can’t be everywhere all the time.  I can’t even be in two places at once.  I have to choose where I will be.  But God never has to choose.  He is with each one of us no matter where we are on the earth, whether it is in Japan or the Philippines or America.  This is beyond my understanding.

He is with us in our times of celebration.  In John chapter 2, Jesus performed His first miracle.  He chose a wedding to perform this miracle and begin His public ministry.  Not only was this wedding a time of celebration, it was a time of need.  The host ran out of wine.  This would have been a huge embarrassment, but Jesus turned water into wine.  And just not any wine, but the best.   All the guests were talking about it.  Not only did He save the host from embarrassment, but He made the host look good in front of all his guests.  God always meets our needs as only He can.  I love when God does this in such a way that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it came from Him.  George Mueller, a godly man of prayer known for the orphanages that he ran, would pray for his tremendous needs.  He never told anyone what the needs were, only God.  And God met them every single time in His perfect way.   We can claim Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  This is just as true for us as it was for the wedding host at Canaan and for George Mueller.

God is also with us in our suffering.  Jesus knew what it was to suffer.  He suffered great persecution and death on a cross.  He suffered abandonment by his friends and the betrayal of someone that He loved deeply.  We can expect to suffer in this world as a result of our own sin and the sins of others.  Jesus told us that just as He was persecuted, we can expect to be persecuted too.  But Hebrews 12:1-4 gives us hope.  We are told to run with patience or perseverance while fixing our eyes on Jesus.  We can think on Him and all that He endured as our example of how to suffer.  If we do this, we can endure our sufferings without growing weary or giving up as we are so prone to do.

Matthew 4 records the temptations that Jesus Himself endured.  He showed by His example how we can endure as well.  He answered each temptation with Scripture.  We are promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that,  “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  God is with us in our times of temptation and provides for us during those times.

He is with us in our times or exhaustion.  Mark 6:31 tells of a time when Christ and the disciples were so busy, they didn’t even have time to eat.  He called them away with Him “into a desert place, [to] rest a while.”  He calls to us as well in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  This is an open invitation to all who will hear.

When we read about the death of Lazarus, we learn that God is with us in our times of grief.  Martha and Mary both thought that Jesus came too late.  They both said that if He had only come earlier, Lazarus would not have died.  But He had a better plan.  He wept with them in their grief because of their lack of understanding of what He was able to do and then He did the unimaginable…raising Lazarus from the dead!  In our times of grief, we don’t always understand what He is doing, but He is there.  His plan is always best.  He may allow someone to leave this earth instead of leaving them here as we so often beg Him to do.  But His plan is far better.  First, if the loved one is a believer, they will be with Him because we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  Second, He wants us to draw into a closer relationship with Him and trust what He is doing through this time, even when we don’t understand.  The psalmist cries in chapter 119, verse 28, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”  This is a time when we may experience God’s grace as we never have before.  God’s ways are so much higher than ours and He always does more than we can even think to ask.

Do you need peace?  He not only gives us that peace as he says in John 14:27, but Ephesians 2:14 tells us that He Himself is our peace!

Do you need a friend?  He is with us when we need a friend.  In Luke 5:20, He called the paralyzed man ‘Friend’ before He healed him.  Later in that same chapter, He tells a parable when asked about fasting.  He asks the question, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?” inferring that those who followed Him were His friends.   John 15:14 quotes Jesus as saying that we are His friends if we do what He commands.

As I reflect over this list, I have to ask myself why?  Why would He do all of this?  Why Would God send His Son and why was His Son willing to come?  For God so loved that He gave…LOVE is the reason.  In John 17:23, Jesus prays that we would understand that God, the Father, loves us exactly the same as He loves His only Son!  Our human nature cannot understand this kind of love!  God has to answer His Son’s prayer and reveal it us!

Emmanuel…God with us!!!  God with us in our times of celebration and need.  God with us in our times of suffering and temptations.  When we are exhausted and grieving, God is with us.  When we need peace or just need a friend…God with us!  What a wonderful gift God has given to us…a memory and a promise to carry with us throughout this next year and in the years to come.