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When Faith Meets Fear and Suffering

 

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As I was reading in Matthew’s gospel today, the Lord softly revealed a new understanding to me.  Before I continue, allow me to share the account with you.

“When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He *said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

There have been many sermons preached from this text with regard to fear, and there is a huge lesson here regarding fear and trust.  However, what I saw differently today was what Matthew says in the first sentence:  “When He (Jesus) got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.”  They followed Him!  He certainly didn’t drag them onto the boat or bribe them or coerce them…they followed Him.  The seawater is calm and the Lord is doing the leading…what’s to fear, right??

Well, what was changed quickly, and what was becoming became paramount to them all…except for Jesus.  He rebuked the wind and the sea and it became perfectly calm.  BUT, Jesus did not rebuke them…He just asked them why they were afraid…why were they being faithless?  In their following Jesus wherever He leads them there had to be faith.  Because fear would come and with fear a certain amount of suffering.  If I had been on that boat, I probably would have been puking over the side of it from all of the waves and wind rocking us about. They were fearfully suffering.

You see, when we decide to follow Jesus, He doesn’t promise a smooth sail.  Times will come when we are afraid, or sick, or depressed and any other way one suffers while sojourning here.  Suffering is quite inevitable, but Jesus is ever-present.

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.” (Psalms 46:1-3)

The righteous cry and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
(Psalms 34:17-19)

When your suffering is long and your fear is overtaking you, cling to Him.  He cares for you — Peter said to, “Cast all your cares upon Him for He careth for you.”

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.”
(1 Peter 5:6-9)

 

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Morning Mercies

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It just doesn’t happen every day.  No, some mornings barge in without yesterday completely being put to bed.

The sun peeked up over the horizon early this morning (really not any earlier than it does any other morning) and I was not ready for its perky light.  It stretched up over the houses behind ours waking the morning dove and sandhill cranes.  From a distance, I could hear the cars driving by carrying unreluctant folks into their Monday and work schedules.

My Minature Schnauzer, Maggie, was curled up tight against my body to stay warm.  We’ve had our windows open during the night to enjoy the crisp cool air.  I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and gave the sun a bemoaned look while Maggie grunted her displeasure along with me.  I quietly prayed, “Lord, I’m not ready to face today — please teach me to be grateful for this day.”

My husband sauntered out of our closet — dressed for work.  He greeted me with his perpetual smile and came over to kiss me.  He cupped his hands around my head and gently pulled it to his chest…and at that moment my heart betrayed me as a tear slipped down my cheek.  I think he sensed the betrayal and gently held me a bit tighter.  I wanted to scream, “please don’t go…don’t leave me today.”

I quickly moved into the bathroom and brushed my hair and teeth then made my way upstairs to our den.  I sat down and it just felt so difficult to breathe the air that God had so graciously provided for me that day.  David came upstairs with a hot cup of coffee and I tightly wrapped my hands around the warmth of the cup and smiled at him.  And, as he gently kissed me on the cheek and said, “Goodbye, ” I was alone.

We don’t always get up in the morning feeling grateful and alive and ready to take on the day that is so mercifully and graciously provided by our Heavenly Father.  When the living is tough, the days run quite unmercifully together and grace seems foreign to a day that won’t end.  However, God is not foreign to the day or what He has planned for us that given day.

You see, ours isn’t mere survival — although it often feels like it.  Our lives, intertwined with others, is a gift.  It is given in love and graciousness.  Resting in the understanding that I am tired and He is good — well, it can be work.  I always know He is good — “all the time,” but my energy and light abandon me and so I have to know (not feel) that He can be trusted regardless.

As I continue to hold the warm mug of love that my husband prepared me, God whispers to my heart that His mercies are new each morning.  Thank you, Father.

But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: GOD’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. GOD proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from GOD. Lamentations 3:21-26 (The Message)

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Faded Quilts

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I have a quilt that my Mammaw made over 30 years ago.  It is a patchwork of squares made from her dresses that had worn thin and threadbare.  She sat many a night working on that quilt — each stitch sewn with love by hands that always worked so hard.  It is certainly a treasure and heirloom to have such a gift now that she has passed to Heaven.

That quilt laid on my parent’s bed for at least 25 of those 30 years, keeping Momma and Daddy warm.  Momma kept it there long after Daddy died — comforted by the love of Mammaw and her memories of Daddy.  I can only imagine the security she must have felt underneath of it — after all, we kids were all grown and moved away and had families of our own.  When Momma finally joined Daddy and her parents in Heaven, I became the owner of that beautiful quilt and all of its memories.

Sadly, that old quilt is threadbare like the dresses from which Mammaw fashioned it.  I have it put away “for keeps” so that it will pass on to my child.  I have asked around on how it might be mended, but have been assured that to mend it would take away from its original work…and so, it must stay tucked away.

This quilt conjures memories — it is a reminder of love.  Each stitch into each square sweetly fashions images of a home that lives in my heart.  The old folks are leaving us so quickly now  — the church bells toll more frequently with their mournful songs of buried love.  Each grave, each soul — it takes one of those stitches out of the quilt that is family.  Then, as we age ever so quickly ourselves, we find that we are getting a bit threadbare here and there.

It is good that God gives us blankets of family — quilts sewn through the ages — kin and kindred.  We are all unique like each square in that quilt Mammaw fashioned.  We are blessed to have known such love…and loss.  We grieve — then when the grieving is not so raw, we take that quilt and place it gently in a box so that the next generation will have a bit of fabric that was us.

I hope that as we journey into the coming holidays that we all will be thankful for God’s gifts of relationship and love.  More importantly, I pray that Christ Jesus will fill your heart with His merciful love.

Soli Gloria

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Incomprehensible Light

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I am sure, like me, you’ve gotten out of bed in the middle of the night and stubbed your toe on something or another…am I right??  The black of the night shrouded that dresser foot or the door frame that accosted your toe.  Darkness does that to us.

There is also the darkness of the soul that seeps in and shrouds anything good at all that is around.  This darkness makes you ache and long and often times despair.  Our souls become battered and bruised from simply living life.  It is quite difficult for our eyes to adust like they eventually will in that dark room.  It is difficult because our soul needs a light that is incomprehensible.

John 1 tell us of this incomprehensible light:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  John 1:1-5 (Emphasis mine)

Jesus came into a world that is dark with sin and pain and hurt to bring to us, not only light but salvation.  He came to give us life and life more abundantly!  Jesus said,

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:9-10 (Emphasis mine)

We no longer need to be enveloped and cradled by the darkness of sin!  Jesus is that incomprehensible Light — the Light of the world!  We no longer need to stumble through life, catching every door frame and dresser drawer with our soul’s “toes.”  He will illuminate your path with His light, but even more, He came that you might have eternal life.  In Romans, we are told,

But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” Romans 10:8-11

I don’t know what your darkness is today or how long you’ve been walking in it.  I do know that I have walked in darkness and have been frightened and hurt by life.  Yet, when I confessed the sin that was in my heart and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, I knew that I would never have to walk in that pain and hurt alone ever again.  We are taught in the Psalms,

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Psalms 119:105

Jesus is the Word and Jesus is the Light of the world.  Seek Him, believe on Him, trust in Him and then the darkness will not be so suffocating and you will see the goodness of Him who died for you to give you eternal life!

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Sustaining Love and Mercies

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It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night. Psalms 92:1-2

Pastor Charles Swindoll once said, “Life is so daily!”  Yes, it most certainly is so!  The daily-ness of life brings many trials and heartaches and grief.  We try to anticipate what may come tomorrow — after all, we should be prepared — and with the anticipation of Hurricane Dorian a couple of weeks ago, we Floridians prepared for a deadly storm!  In fact, it did not take very long for the store shelves to be emptied of water and canned food…gas stations were running out of gas and generators were far and few between.  People were scared and anxieties ran very high!  However, after all of that hurried prep, Hurricane Dorian only grazed Florida, but not without the devastating and deadly impact on the Bahamas.  Weathering a hurricane and its aftermath is a huge trial.  I’m sure that the Bahamian people would agree for it blew in death and destruction and blew out leaving those islands with grief and pain.

Even though hurricanes are horrible events to survive…or not, what of the “hurricanes” that blow destruction on a daily basis.  My best friend will bury her 95-year old mother on Sunday.  The ill wind that blew into her life on September twelfth and left her to close the book on her Momma’s life, has left her grieved.  We will go and honor her, but the pain won’t stop for my friend because we laid her Momma’s body to rest.  No, but I am certain that she will awake each morning and find His mercies are new and His love is steadfast.

Moses prayed to God (while wandering for 40 years):

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil. Psalms 90:14-15

Moses understood grief and despair and affliction, but with that understanding, he understood the stability of God.  Each morning that he arose, each morning that he breathed anew, he learned of God’s steadfast love and sustaining mercies.  He saw again and again how each day God provided the Hebrew children’s hunger with manna…He wasn’t ignorant of such mercy.

We are shown throughout Scripture of His holy mercies toward us.  Jeremiah in Lamentations said, after seeing the destruction of the temple and the people dead:

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 [Emphasis mine.]

In God’s steadfast love and his ceaseless mercies, I want to incline my heart to Him…I want to echo Jeremiah and say, “The LORD is my portion.”  He is all I need and He is enough.  Even when I am not steadfast and loyal, I am not consumed.

“For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
(Malachi 3:6)

As I continually turn my heart toward Him, I will not be consumed by those things which threaten my sanity and my life.  When the night is long and the battle is difficult, I will not be consumed.  His steadfast love and endless mercies sustain me and they are new each morning.  He has a storehouse of love and a storehouse of mercy and out of that storehouse, each morning He showers us with the grace of new mercy.  I am thankful for His storehouse with no bottom and His abounding mercy toward me…I am not consumed.

I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah. Answer me quickly, O LORD, my spirit fails; Do not hide Your face from me, Or I will become like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.
(Psalms 143:6-8)

 

 

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Woven

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Pondering who I am and Whose I am caused me to think of how God made me. We are told in Psalm 139:13 David said,

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.”

I often lament my frail body and ask the Lord frequently why He gave me a body that needs so much and would wear out so quickly. Lord, do I truly need the things you “wove” into my body? Surely, if I didn’t have a stomach, I wouldn’t grow hungry and overeat. If I didn’t have a pancreas, I wouldn’t have diabetes, right? Why give me eyes, if they would be destroyed by disease and the beginning stages of Glaucoma? If there were no heart, I’d not develop heart disease…it seems pretty simple to me. Father, why make me thirsty when my kidneys and bladder are overcome with the effects of diabetes? Couldn’t You have just created me with a perfect body that didn’t break down?

Then I remembered what I’ve learned in His Word…

When I am hungry, He tells me He is the Bread of Life…

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
(John 6:51)

When I am thirsty, He tells me that He is the Living Water…

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'”
(John 4:13-14)

When my eyes grow dim, He reminds me that He is the Light of the World…

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'”
(John 8:12)

If He had not created longing, hunger, suffering, and want in me…how would I ever realize that I need HIM? I was created to desire Him — to crave Him — to only want for Him. Thank you, Father, for weaving my body in secret, and this trial You have graciously given me.  When I feel that I am unraveling and as my body betrays me, I pray that I always seek You, and in that seeking find only You.

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”
(Psalms 63:1-8)