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Feasting on God’s Word

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Upon becoming a Christ-Follower in 1981, I knew and understood very little about God’s Word. I certainly understood that Christ Jesus came to die on a cruel cross for my sins and the sins of the world, and I completely submitted to my need of salvation, and laid my life prostrate before Him in repentance, receiving this free gift He offered…that of Eternal life.

What I couldn’t understand, at that moment, was how important it would be for me to daily sit at His table learning and memorizing all of his precepts. I honestly would not realize its importance until I was in my early twenties. I knew well the verse in Psalm 119:11,

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”

But, I didn’t understand what that meant really. In my mind it was just a Bible verse I should know — there was no application or need for application.

That all changed for me when I was around 25-years old. I met my friend, Wanda, and she was a student of God’s Word. She dwelt in His Word — she devoured His Word — she shared His Word with other malnourished souls, such as I. But, one day she just got down with me and said, “You need to be in God’s Word — reading it, meditating on it, chewing on it like a cow chews its cud! It’s sustenance for a starving soul and yours is starving.”

It all became clear — I needed God’s Word as much as I needed to eat and drink to live. My soul was starving and parched — and what do you do with all of that need?? Well, I sat down with my Bible and begged the Lord to feed me and He did and He has.

The prophet, Jeremiah, declared,

“Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16

How is that any different when we feed our body?? I think you would agree that when our body is physically hungry and we satisfy it with food, we feel full afterwards, and contented. I have Type 1 Diabetes and when my blood sugar drops too low, I have to give myself food to bring my blood sugar back up and balance the insulin that is in my body. If you’ve never experienced a low blood sugar, I will tell you that when it drops you become clammy and confused…you start to feel shaky. It is imperative to bring your blood sugar back up because if you don’t, you can slip easily into a diabetic coma. This I understood and I understood it well because I’ve experienced it.

Jeremiah is saying the exact same thing, but the difference he is talking about is feeding his soul and when he did, God’s Word became a joy and a delight to his heart. Well, I am not a rocket scientist, but I realized how low my spiritual blood sugar was — that I had an imbalance! So, I just propped myself up to the Lord’s table and began to feed!

Jesus told the disciples in John,

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” John 6:63 (Emphasis mine)

As I learned to dine consistently and often in God’s Word, I became stronger, more discerning, and better able to understand the Lord’s will for my life. I began longing more and more for the Word — I couldn’t hardly wait for an opportunity to get back into my Bible and study. Peter, when writing to several of the scattered churches encouraged them to “long for the pure milk of the word,” like babies! Babies when hungry and given the breast, suckle fast and hard…they want to get out every bit of goodness from their Mommas. If you’ve ever nursed a baby, you will understand. They are so contented…it is a “delight” to their bellies and it causes them to grow strong — feeding every ounce of them.

“…like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,…” 1 Peter 2:2

The more I read the Bible…the more I studied it…the more I suckled every bit of goodness from it, my heart was delighted with pure joy — I felt full and contented. Conversely, when I do not sit daily to read my Bible, I suffer greatly and my soul does languish. David understood this and he meditated on God’s Word — he treasured the Lord’s precepts — he declared that they were pleasing to his taste buds and “sweeter than honey or the drippings of the honeycomb.”

“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.” Psalms 19:7-11

I encourage you to make time daily to read God’s Word. Ask Him to reveal it and to open your eyes — to feed you from it — so that you may be sustained and restored by it. He will — He most certainly will!

Soli Deo Gloria

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Fat on Milk

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When I was around 4-years old, I was still walking around the house with a baby bottle hanging from my mouth — held there by my baby teeth that had protruded through tender gums. There wasn’t milk in that bottle, rather my Momma kept it filled with Pepsi Cola! Oh, how I carried that bottle around drinking that sugary soda…it was all I wanted…it kept me and my 4-year old appetite satiated!

As much as I could, I understood that I probably was too old to be walking around with a baby bottle — but it was a comfort and had all of that sweetness inside of it. Why in the world would I want to give up such a delight?? However, one day my Aunt Scarlett came to visit us. I saw her car pull up into the drive-way and she started walking toward our front door. I panicked! Totally, full-on pan…shame! I ran toward the kitchen and hid that bottle in the refrigerator so that my Aunti wouldn’t see it.

Not long after that confrontation with my shame, one morning I walked into the kitchen and asked Momma for my bottle and she announced that there were no more bottles — the rats had eaten them! I do not remember crying over it or throwing a fit. I must have just taken her word that rats had eaten my bottles and they ceased to be. I had finally out grown the baby bottle and was expected to now eat and drink the same things the rest of the family did.

I remembered all of that when I was studying in Hebrews this morning. The writer in Hebrews 5 and down in verses 12 through 14, speaks of the the Body of Christ needing milk again, even though by then they should be teachers.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14 (Emphasis mine)

When I read that passage, I felt such overwhelming conviction in my heart. There are many days when I do not feel that I’ve had any recent or sustainable growth while following Jesus. I find myself back in a place when I first came to Christ when I was 15-years old — having trouble discerning God’s Word and applying the wisdom I should have gained by now in my life. Truly, I feel malnourished and lacking the discipline I should have as a disciple of Christ…I’m still sucking on the bottle of milk rather than chewing on the meat and marrow of His Word.

I keep falling into the same ole’ sins — sins that keep me from a deeper fellowship with the Lord. Paul addressed this very thing with the Romans,

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:1-2

My heart felt such defeat because I am still stumbling over the same sins that were forgiven and not living in the newness of Christ. Paul said,

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:12-14 (Emphasis mine)

…and, as I asked the Lord to forgive me for falling back into the slavery of sin, I realize that I need to drop that bottle I am sucking on and pick up a fork to start eating the meat of His Word.

Milk certainly helped me to grow when I was a babe in Christ, but in order to strengthen my faith and walk, I must suck that rich marrow out of God’s Word that will build me and make me “an instrument of righteousness to God.” I no longer need to be weaned…I am more than ready to masticate on His Word…it’s really the only way to keep me mature in Him, discerning of His precepts, and more able to apply wisdom in my decision making.

BUT, it’s not just about me — nothing is ever just about us alone. When I allow God to feed me that which sustains and strengthens me, I can then be the teacher that Hebrews 5:12 declares I should be. We are not here to live like fat little babies, but we are here to be tools that God can use for His glory…we are to bring others to Christ. We are here to share the Gospel — that Good News — because HE is not willing that any should perish!

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

My encouragement and prayer for you, dear friend, is that you will lay that baby bottle down and pick up your fork and sit down and feast on God’s Word. Learn His precepts…love His law…ask Him to feed you generously at the table of His Word and to forgive you for not supping there, as you should have. He will not despise your contrite heart…in fact, He loves a contrite heart!

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalms 51:17

One day we will all meet at a Banquet Table set by Holy Hands and fellowship together with Christ at the center. Oh, how I look forward to that day!

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.” Revelation 19:7-9

Soli Deo Gloria

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Irises and Pinions

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I have many memories of my childhood from growing up in Virginia. Some of the fondest I have were spending time with my grandparents. We spent the summers running the fields and fishing and playing…they were full, and welcomed each year.

When my Momma’s mother died, it was the first time that I had ever lost one very close to me. I was 15-years old when she passed. I loved her ever so dearly…and as I remember her I can still smell the Oil of Olay on her skin and how soft she was when I touched her and hugged her. I smile as I remember how she would giggle and cover her mouth as she did, or how she crossed her arms together when she was sitting and listening or talking. I do not remember what her voice sounded like, but I can almost hear her say my name. I stand in her 4’10” shadow and know that I will never be half the woman that she was — she was so strong — like the Appalachian Mountains she called home for so many years.

I do believe that the hardest thing I ever had to do was bury my Momma. She was another strong woman — not letting much get the better of her. However, our relationship (as close as it was) was tumultuous at best. There was a deep need within both of us for someone to love us without condition — that need rose above everything that we did or touched.

Oh, we would fight…almost to the death…but I was tethered so tight to her that the our need for each other outweighed the angst between us. She resented my pulling away from her in every way I could and I resented her tight control of me that was suffocating much of the time. Yet, still, she was mine and I was hers and we stayed tethered so closely in angst and love all wound up together — sometimes resembling something beautiful and other times revealing an unfathomable mess with knots and frays — that neither of us understood how to unravel — so we loved because honestly, there was no other choice. We were tethered to each other until death.

I broke my parents’ hearts so many times over their lifetime of raising me. I caused them to walk the floor many nights and days too. One of the most poignant struggles was August of 1981 when I attempted to end my life. I was only 15-years old…confused and I desperately needed someone to somehow show me how to aright my life. I felt so lost and in that lostness there was so much unbearable pain. So, from there began years of pain for me and for them.

Daddy died about 10 years before my Momma did and it was hard. However, in 2009 when Momma suddenly died, a pain entered my soul that I had never experienced before. I was living in Florida by then with my husband and we received the call that we needed to get to Richmond and soon. However, the morning my plane landed and unbeknownst to me, Momma had died.

The journey from Richmond to Powhatan, where my childhood home was, seemed so much longer than it ever had before. Every thing I saw betrayed my senses and the world was so unaltered by my grief and her absence. I couldn’t breathe really — air betrayed me — my chest was so tight with pain. How was I supposed to go on from here without her? Because I knew that the tether that kept me planted on the ground was now irreparably severed. Who would I be without her? Was I now an orphan??

There were no answers to my crushing questions — only darkness — only grief.

As we climbed the little hill and turned toward the house — we descended the next hill — there was her home and at the end of her drive-way, the loveliest Irises were in bloom. The purple and lavender hues reached toward the Creator of all things and I knew at that very moment that I was tethered to Christ.

I understood at that very moment that I was not orphaned at all — but I was rooted in Him — in the midst of grief and pain and sorrow beyond measure that my roots were firm and sure because He is my surety. I was so grateful for that reminder in simple Irises and took my breaking heart and hid it under His pinions — my Refuge and my Strength!

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

“He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” (Psalms 91:4)

The Lord reveals Himself in the beauty of Irises and grandparents and Mommas — He tethers us to earthly things while we are learning Kingdom things. He demonstrates His great love for us through the death of His son and the beauty of earthly relationships.

He is faithful to care for us in these things — He is faithful to me —- and YOU!

Soli Deo Gloria

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Fractured Light

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There are days that I just want to throw in the towel…I’m done! My mind and heart become so darkened by the daily-ness of living and being and existing. There have been days when I do not want to breath or blink or even think of breathing another breath.

My mind has felt so fractured — so full of things that distract me from the work I must do in the name of Jesus. My mind fills with constant noise and red bouncy balls that are incessantly maddening — it is hard to catch my breath. I feel like I’m drowning in an ocean so very deep that I find the light almost impossible to distinguish.

I cry out to the Lord minute-by-minute and beg Him to help me — beg Him to hold me up out of the depths of the depression and darkness that threaten to end me. David cried out to the LORD in his darkness,

“O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD—how long? Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks? I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief; It has become old because of all my adversaries. Depart from me, all you who do iniquity, For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD has heard my supplication, The LORD receives my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed.” Psalms 6:1-10

When I read David’s prayer to the LORD, which is prayed from the depths of his utter despair, I do not feel so far away in my own despair. I believe God recorded David’s prayers in His Word so that we wouldn’t feel so foreign and worn and fractured when life weighs heavily in on us. God gave us more than David’s laments, He also recorded David’s declaration of God’s faithfulness to him. “The LORD has heard my supplication, the LORD receives my prayer.” One can draw such comfort from those words — words of promise — words that ensure we’ve not been forsaken or ignored.

In fact, God assures Joshua through Moses,

“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

He assured Jacob,

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

In Isaiah,

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

With all of those assurances God has given in His Word, I am most comforted by Solomon’s words upon bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple,

“May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers.” 1 Kings 8:57-58

As the doubts and darkness and aloneness found in sleepless nights invade my fractured and splintered mind, I am reminded that in the depth and midst of those fractures their is Light breaking through. The Light is Jesus and He dispels the darkness with Hope and urges me to persevere…even when the very next breath is difficult. He is my Light and my Breath — amidst a fractured and broken mind. David again reminds me of this truth,

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” Psalms 27:1

However, as I look through the fractures and through the lens of God’s all-knowing, eternal Word, I cannot help but see the Eternal Promise God has given us in Revelation,

“There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:3-5

As I eagerly await Christ’s return, I will allow the Light to seep through the fractures in my mind and heart — I will hope — I will persevere! There really is no other way and how sweet He is to allow me to rest here until then!

You can too!

Soli Deo Gloria

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When I Am Afraid

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My sojourn here seems to have lengthened into a snail crawl over the past ten plus months. The news, the pandemic, and the uncertainty for tomorrow that we all are facing makes one quake in their shoes. I find myself praying more to the Lord about being afraid than I ever have before.

In a couple of weeks, our country will vote to decide who the next President of the United States will be and regardless of who you are voting for, it is a scary thought. Our votes will count for more than the next four years because with each President that is elected, it counts for policies that reach into future generations. I will consider my vote very soberly and pray that I’ve voted according to the will of God, and the candidate that lines up more closely with my Biblical world view.

However, I am afraid. I am afraid because I just don’t know what will happen. Yet, God’s Word assures me that I do not need to be. Again and again, His Word tells me to trust in Him and to leave my anxieties with Him for He is able to bear these burdens of my flesh. The Psalmist wrote:

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” (Psalms 56:3)

Those words from David should bring comfort to me, but my heart is still beating erratically. “Lord, help me to trust You!” “How can I trust You when I am so afraid, Lord?” As I cry out these prayers to the Lord, I remember His pinions and drag my frightened soul beneath them and as a Father does, He wraps them around me and hides me. He beckons me to rest there where I can be safe. As I tremble beneath those sheltering wings, I hear the Holy Spirit speak gently to my soul, “Rest child and trust He who calls you His beloved.”

Still my spirit shakes with fear and I beg Him to show me how. Then more firmly, He says to me, “Child, all that is happening in the world is being carefully sifted through my Holy hands. Do you think that I’ve now abandoned you? Who told you such a thing!?!”

I know well who told me such a thing! I know who places the doubts and fears into my soul. “Oh, Lord, forgive me for listening to the destroyer of this world, please forgive me.”

In Romans, Paul answers my question acutely and firmly:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

In those last two verses, we are told that we can be confident through tribulation and to know that there is nothing that can come in and separate us from Him. What a sweet promise with much certainty for us!

There will be times when we are afraid, but in our fear we are sheltered beneath His pinions where we are secure and nothing can sever us from Him. Mary Sullivan wrote this poem:

Give us wisdom, Lord of mercy.
Confused we are by worldly things.
Instruct us through our days and nights.
Hide us all beneath Your wings.

In You, O Lord, we are at rest.
To our minds, the truth You bring.
Our hearts rejoice, with thoughts of You,
Who keep us safe beneath Your wings.

You are our mighty fortress, Lord.
Our King above all earthly Kings.
Your strong pinions cover us.
We are secure beneath Your wings.

Give wisdom to our loved ones, Lord.
Confused they are by worldly things.
Instruct them in the way of truth.
May they too hide beneath Your wings.

May loved ones turn to You, dear Lord,
Seek You as their only King,
May they ever seek Your will.
Shelter them beneath Your wings.

“He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” (Psalms 91:4)

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A Useless Wineskin

“Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Your statutes.” Psalms 119:83

I have spent a lot of time reading David’s cries and prayers and praises to the Lord. The Psalms are brimming over with David’s laments. I think the reason I spend so much time reading the Psalms is because I can so very frequently identify with David.

Jeremiah is referred to as the “Weeping Profit” and his laments were for Judah. He wept over them because they had been taken into exile. He wept because they had been unfaithful to God. He said,

“For these things I weep; My eyes run down with water; Because far from me is a comforter, One who restores my soul. My children are desolate Because the enemy has prevailed.” Lamentations 1:16

David’s pain and cries were of a different lament. When I look at him, I see a lot of me — one who has fallen into the snare of sin many times — one who has fought tirelessly for Israel — one that other men sought to kill and destroy. David’s burden was heavy. The weight of his sins made him feel heavy and so he took that heaviness and turned to God with it.

After all that David had been through — battle, adultery, committing murder — and there is so much more — we are not even told the whole of David’s heart in the Psalms — though it appears he laid it all out.

David felt like an old, smoke-filled wineskin that was no longer useful for its created purpose. I didn’t know what David meant in verse 83 of the 119th Psalm, “I have become a wineskin in the smoke.” So, I paused from my study to research it and understand it better.

During David’s time they used wineskins to carry their drinks and when they were in battle or sojourning, they would have tents that had fire in the them and the wineskins would be filled with the smoke. This caused the wineskins to be useless, as they would turn black and start to be shriveled from absorbing the smoke in the tent and they could not restore them to new.

After finding what David meant by “wineskin in the smoke,” I then understood his heart a bit more deeply. I feel useless…just like David.

The sins that beset me and satan putting stumbling blocks at every turn, I cry out as David,

“My soul languishes for Your salvation; I wait for Your word. My eyes fail with longing for Your word, While I say, “When will You comfort me?” Psalms 119:81-82

Yet, he quickly added, “I do not forget Your statutes.” Then he declares to the Lord,

“If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me.” Psalms 119:92-93

David said, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding.” Psalm 119:103 – 104

David knew and understood that all of God’s commandments are faithful (vs.86) — he understood that if he kept God’s precepts and meditated on them, God could still use him and save him. He would have been a useless smoke-filled wineskin had he turned away from the Lord, but he did not. He continued to meditate on God’s Word — even though he could see the enemy laying snares for him — He told the Lord, “I have forgotten your law!” David said, “I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, even to the end.” Psalm 119:105-112

Through David’s testimony in this Psalm, I have learned that however old or useless I feel, when I stay in His Word — keeping His precepts — meditating on them — God can and will still use me.

The feelings of uselessness are a deceptive lie from the father of lies. If he can convince you or me that we are useless, we will believe it and become useless. That is why it is so important to be centered in God’s Word. His Word is there to balance us. When I am still, there is no doubt He is God. His Word declares the truth and it is available to me to read and understand. David said, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” Psalms 119:11

When you feel like a useless, old, smoke-filled wineskin that has no more value…please stop and meditate on His precepts. There are so many faithful promises to us in God’s Word, but we will never know what they are if we do not pick up His Word and read it.

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The Hope of Pain

Suffering and pain come to us all from time-to-time…we are all familiar with its ache and sting. It is very non-discriminating when it pierces us and it is quick to try and leave us with no hope.

Many of the things going on in our world at this time are hard to bear up under. Without ruminating too much, the folks on the west coast of our country have certainly had enough of the flames that are greedily snuffing out lives and homes. I am sure many of us have never seen the likes of those fires that are raging so adamantly in California, Oregon, and Washington…I pray we do not see them again. It must seem to be adding insult to injury in the midst of a virus that is claiming so many lives and changing the way we have always lived and worked and loved. The folks in Louisiana are desperately trying to pick up the pieces of their lives shattered and ravaged by a ruthless hurricane.

I do not know why God allows such suffering to take place and with what may seem to most as holy silence. When I search His Word, I long for an answer to the suffering and only one thing has stayed constant in my wonderings…He is sovereign, He is holy, and He is just. He is most definitely not unkind or cruel…I know this to be true in my own life. However, how do we answer within our souls the questions of why or why not? How do we reconcile the pain and ache or even help someone else to reckon it out?

The great theologian, Charles Spurgeon, said, “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” Spurgeon spoke these words because in his own life he suffered from the pain of deep depression, darkness, and the incomprehensible ache of aloneness. Yet, he understood that Hope, if to be found, was found in our suffering. He said, “Hope itself is like a star- not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.”

There are things we think we cannot bear. We do bear them…we can bear them…because He bore our sins. Isaiah told us:

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

Many of the great giants of the Bible suffered with physical pain and souls that anguished from depression or moments void with hope. David said of his pain,

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. Psalms 27:13-14

We all have read of Job’s pain and heartache…great heartache and suffering sought him in his life. He never cursed God in this, but he did ask God why…he sought an answer to this question of suffering. God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and then Job…reconciled his questions by proclaiming to God:

Then Job answered the LORD and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6

David’s suffering and Job’s suffering are no stranger or more painful than our suffering is now. The ache and sorrows of life overcome all of us…but we do not have to languish in that hurt. There is Hope…it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is truly acquainted with the heartaches we feel that weigh so heavily on our souls. He suffered loss, as we see when He wept at Lazarus’ tomb — his friend — and yet while He was fully man and fully God, He wept so that we would know that He truly understands.

Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They *said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” John 11:32-36

Truly, as Isaiah said, He has bore within His body our grief and our sorrows. He bore within His flesh the punishment of our sins. He bore our stripes and was stricken and smitten of God. Why? Why would Jesus come from His throne on high in the form of a man to bear so much for us? He came so that we would be redeemed…that we would dwell with Him for eternity, if we served Him as Lord. He reconciled us — He bore our sin and shame — because He loves us.

So — as ashes fall from the skies on the west coast and as we learn to live in a world that is plagued with bacteria that seek to kill us — remember that these are so very temporal. Trust Him — trust Him with today…with your pain and heartache…with your life. Eternity is a moment away — just a moment away. Trust Him with your eternity. For now, allow Him to bear your pain and suffering for tomorrow we will live forever without it in His glorious Kingdom.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. Revelation 21:1-7

It will be glory — for our good — and only for His Glory!

Soli Deo Gloria

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The Other Side of Jordan

 

Sunset

My aunt, who is in her 90s, just celebrated her birthday.  She has had a long life that has been full of joy, laughter, love, and at times pain.  She was born in 1928, almost a decade after World War 1 had ended, in a deep hollow of the Appalachian mountains.

She and her family were hard-working, but like most folks, the Great Depression hit them hard and then another World War.  Some of her brothers fought in that war and the man she would marry in 1948 lost one of his legs in the Battle of the Bulge.  Work was scarce in those hills of Appalachia — mostly only coal mining, which was a very hard life for men.  So, they along with other family moved to Richmond for better opportunities.  My mother once told me that the only thing you learned in school was reading, writing, and the road to Richmond.

My aunt and her husband, Hallie, made a good life for themselves in Richmond.  Many of her siblings, including my mother and her mother, came to Richmond.  Her Daddy passed in 1953 and so my grandmother needed to come to a place where she could work and finish raising the children still in the home.  My aunt sheltered many relatives and friends who found their way to the big city until they could find their own homes to call their own.

The long years have passed since that time…meandering with turns and dips and climbs like those rugged mountains.  Parents and children and spouses have been laid deep in the earth to rest — leaving a dark void in the lives of those left.  The memories of leaner and harder times stick to the soul like the sap from a Maple tree and one-by-one the calls come that yet another loved one has crossed over the banks of the Jordan.

I was talking to my aunt last night and she shared with me that her dear friend and husband’s cousin crossed that river just a day or two ago.  She shared with me how her friend had stayed with them when she first moved to Richmond.  She remembered her kindness when Hallie was dying and birthday cakes she had made to bring joy to them.  Her grief looms largely and her soul seems so barren.

It is so very difficult to say goodbye to these souls who have peppered our lives with their presence.  More difficult still when we are left, after so many years, waiting to join them again on the other side of the Jordan where there will never again be sickness or pain or heartache or goodbye.  We have this hope because Jesus died for our sins and when we repent, ask forgiveness, He will save us.  Therefore, we can live knowing that because we are saved, we will see our loved ones again.

Like Abraham who lived a long life, then died and was gathered to his people, so shall we be gathered to Heaven, our home.

These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:7-8)

Then we will be face-to-face with Jesus and He shall wipe the tears from our eyes, as we enter into eternal rest with Him.

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:2-4)

Beloved, as you wait for that glorious day that you too will cross to the other side of Jordan, do not lose heart.  Use this time you have to tell others of this eternal hope that you have in Christ Jesus so that they too can enter the holy city…the new Jerusalem.

I am looking forward to the blessing of seeing you there!

Soli Deo Gloria

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)

 

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Worn-Out Shoes

Photographer: Dave Provencher 2020

As Samuel unpacked his tattered suitcase, he remembered how he had always wanted to be a missionary — always!  A husband and wife came to his church when he was nine years old and told of their adventures and time in the jungles of Ecuador.  He was captured instantly when he saw their photographs of native Indians, age-old tree hammocks with their vines sprawling with such density you could not see the villages from the plane they flew over those villages.  Sam decided right then that he wanted God to use him in such a place to share His Word with those who had never heard it before.

As soon as Sam graduated from high school, he set off to a mission training school with a fresh heart and mind for Christ.  He plunged himself into language school and Bible studies…and Ginny.  Oh, how he loved Ginny.  She had beautiful brown eyes and hair the color of cornsilk — and, well, she shared Sam’s passion for bringing others to the Lord.  He knew that he needed Ginny beside him and he married that beautiful girl.  These two knew where God was leading and they stepped forward together to another jungle far away in Papua New Guinea.

When they arrived at their “new” home, they were met with wonder.  The native people had never seen such fair-skinned and funny dressed people in their lives.  The men stood off and observed Sam and Ginny, but the women began gathering around Ginny like butterflies.  They too loved her fairness and beautiful cornsilk hair of which they’d never seen before.

Sam began the work of learning the culture from the men — gaining their trust and earning their respect.  The men would laugh, as his hands tried to learn how they fished or hunted or built a hut.  Ginny set up their humble hut with just the bare necessities of life and began learning from the women of food and children and life.  The children flitted around her and followed her to the river and the gardens.  Ginny soaked in the sounds of their foreign tongue and set to writing them in a book each night as she learned them.  Slowly Sam and Ginny began building a bridge that would carry God’s Word into their hearts from the words and dialect they used.  It was a painstaking task, but they remained diligent in their work.

As days and months followed into years, they hedged a life with these beautiful souls.  Sam and Ginny birthed five of their own children, brought men and women to the saving knowledge of Christ, and wept and prayed for those who seemed forever frozen in the world of darkness and superstition.  Tears and laughter and hard work and life and death were their companions for more than 40 years in those hidden hammocks of Papua New Guinea.  Now the time had come to return to their home far away in North America.

Sam and Ginny left men who were capable of carrying on the work as ministers to the people…new and younger missionaries came in…time had turned its full rotation and they were confident in God’s Word “that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Ginny packed their few, small bags because all things couldn’t return with her.  She left one of her own children buried in the deep, mountain soil of that place they called home for 40 years.  She took with them only their Bibles, their tattered worn-out shoes and clothes, and a handful of pictures they had managed to capture over those years.

They said tearful goodbyes to these they loved knowing they would not be left abandoned because He promised to never leave them nor forsake them (Hebrews 13:5), and His promises are sure.  They were showered with hugs and kisses and smiles and waves knowing that so many they would see again on the Bright Shore of Heaven.  It was not goodbye at all, but “until then.”

When they were home, the house of Sam’s parents was quiet.  The furniture covered with stark, white sheets to keep the dust away.  His parents were home with Jesus, his children were around the world in their ministries, and he and Ginny were left in the quiet.  Sam opened his tattered bag and put his old things away.  He sat on the edge of the bed and looked down at his feet and his old, worn-out shoes reflecting on the life journey.  Tears dropped quickly and spattered on those old shoes.  His heart was full with no regrets.  Ginny walked into the room and he took her hand and they, for the first time in 40 years, were still.

“How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

 

Writer’s Note:  This story does not reflect that of any living missionaries and is a work of fiction, however, it does reflect the stories I’ve heard from many missionaries who have served in many parts of the world.  I’ve written it to honor their lives, which have been given so freely for God’s use and Christ’s sake.

Photo By:  Dave Provencher © 2020

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The Missing Piece

assorted puzzle game
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Have you ever sat down to put a jigsaw puzzle together?  You work for a long time, days even, to put a beautiful picturesque scene together and just as you are finishing it up there is a missing piece.  Your heart sinks in disappointment because it can never be finished.

Life can be so much like that jigsaw puzzle.  You strive and work and press on to great achievements.  You pour into your life, your family, your jobs, and you give it all you have.  You think that life is so good and it could never be better…or worse.

Then you hit a wall — a new day dawns and suddenly a piece is missing.  The thoughts whirl inside of your head…processing what could have gone wrong…why now??  Maybe its the loss of a job or the death of a loved one.  Maybe your child has wandered away from the Lord and the values you instilled in him.  The day awakened and yet you are in the dark.  What happens now?  A piece is missing…it is an important piece and now you feel that God is not being fair or He is being unkind.  How could He let this happen??  You’ve worked hard to live life right and He abruptly halts production!  Now what?

We are told of a man that this very thing happened to in God’s Word.  Job — he was doing life the right way.  He had a good wife, healthy and happy children, riches, and land…Job had it all!  He was the man on Life’s “Man of the Year!”  Job was a big success and seemingly with no worries at all.  Job was the Joneses next door — Job is you!  The epitome of the good life.

Then one day dawned and it was all gone.  Every last thing — ashes.  His children had perished, his riches stripped away, and he cursed the day he was ever born!

Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, And the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ “May that day be darkness; Let not God above care for it, Nor light shine on it. “Let darkness and black gloom claim it; Let a cloud settle on it; Let the blackness of the day terrify it. “As for that night, let darkness seize it; Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; Let it not come into the number of the months. “Behold, let that night be barren; Let no joyful shout enter it. (Job 3:1-7)

“Whoah, Job, aren’t you being a bit rash here?”  Was he?  Have you ever been rash when it all seemed to be falling apart?  I have! Job also did something that I have done…he started questioning God!  He interrogates God on one hand and praises Him for who He is on the other.  His friends give him poor counsel, as does his wife.  His wife told him to curse God and die!  “Wow, Mrs. Job, that’s some support your offering your beloved!”

I think what is really remarkable about this whole account is that God entertains Job’s interrogation…He listens to Job.  Did He have to??  Well, actually, no!  He is God…He is a holy and sovereign God…no, He didn’t have to listen at all.  BUT, He did!  Why?

Because God loved Job.  He simply loved Him and understood that his questions came from a deep source of loss and pain.  While Job was not entitled to ask the questions, God was gracious in hearing them.  Then, when Job was done, God spoke…

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? “Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? “Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop’? “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it? (Job 38:1-13)

Oh, my friend, this goes on through chapter 38 and 39 and finally in the first two verses of chapter 40 God says,

Then the LORD said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.” (Job 40:1-2)

Job is quite humbled at this point and declares to the Lord:

Then Job answered the LORD and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more.” (Job 40:3-5)

Then, and then, God continues to challenge Job through the rest of chapters 40 and 41.  He has spoken, and Job is left.  I do not believe Job was left defeated at all…God had given him the missing piece.  God showed Job that His sovereignty over Job was perfect and there was in fact no missing piece at all…it was missing understanding of who God is and His love for him.  I absolutely love Jobs response and repentance to God:

Then Job answered the LORD and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

My friend, that should be our response too.  When we feel defeated and life has chewed us up and spit us out, we can turn to God and not be afraid to ask the hard questions.  However, we must also be prepared to hear the answer.  We also must be prepared to turn from this place of brokenness and sin so that God can restore us to Himself.  Satan petitions God for us, but when we are in Christ, satan’s petitions are not going to produce ugliness.  They will fall in the heap of ashes and those things meant to destroy you will not prosper because of the Blood of Christ and for His sake!  Will it be easy?  Absolutely not!  Yet, you are not left alone to figure it all out on your own!  God will answer you through the whirlwind from His Word, as He did Job, if we sincerely and humbly approach Him and with a repentant heart.

I pray the void and brokenness that you are feeling will be soothed with the balm of His love for you.  If you have not been born again and would like to understand the love of Christ that was poured out for you on Calvary…message me.  It would be a privilege to share Christ with you.

Soli Deo Gloria