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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)

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The Old Path

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I am not sure how long I had been on the old and dried dirt path.  My feet and legs were growing tired and the sun was beating down on that red, Virginian clay with no mercy.  My sandaled feet were ever so tired, I was parched from the dust and the relentless heat, and it was taking so very long to get home.  I prayed, “Lord, how much longer do we have to go on this old and dusty path?”  All I could hear were the Locust singing and announcing that Winter was to be very long and cold…or at least that was the talk of the old folk at the end of each hot summer.

We don’t always start out on an old path, now do we?  No, we start out welcoming the Springs and Summers of our life.  We are vibrant and have endless amounts of energy and good health to use said energy.  Working hard and playing even harder is what fills our days.  We don’t grow tired of such a life…when we are young.

At the right and appointed time, we marry and have children.  The path is still lined with green shade trees and we don’t mind so much the heat of the day or the bit of sweat that has beaded up on the bridge of our noses.  We work even harder and then on the weekends, we gather with family and friends on the banks of a cool lake or river and enjoy the laughter all around of our families.  Life really couldn’t get any better than this…or worse.  And, as the path weaves along, we add the wedding of our children and the birth of our grandchildren…no, the path, and the journey have all been relatively easy.

But, that path does become dusty — the earth becomes cracked and those crevices swallow up parents and friends and some times our life partner.  Now we are walking it alone and we are tired and we are worn and our health is declining so rapidly.  “Lord, how much longer?”  He whispers a response to my soul, “A bit farther child…a bit more.”  “Oh, Father, I can’t walk anymore — my feet hurt and I am thirsty — I want to rest now.”

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t know how much farther I have to go, but I know that He is with me and His grace is sufficient for my every need.  So, I continue walking and as I do, the Locusts are singing loudly of the coming Winter and I know the journey is coming to an end and I’ll be finally Home.

“But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. “My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. Job 23:10-11

 

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A Measure of Faith and His Easy Yoke

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I was chatting with a life-long friend today and what joy it was to catch up with her and each other’s lives.  It is so easy for the dailiness of life to keep us from sitting and visiting for a spell.  Usually what binds us together with friends is commonality — faith, family life, and many other things that fill us and shape who we are and how we bond relationships.

Some of those things that bind me with my friend are first and foremost our faith in Christ Jesus, but then we both have one child and both boys.  We’ve each only been married once and have had beautiful marriages with Godly men.  We love music and crafts and French Country decor — the list goes on.  Yet, in the commonality, we’ve both had to walk parallel, but different paths.

Our sons, though raised similarly, have chosen different paths — one in Christ and the other away from Christ.  About ten years ago, she buried her dear husband…a grief that weighs still so heavily over her soul.  She is now alone — her son is not very attentive — friends have come and gone — well, for her life has been “unfair” it seems.  Is that true?  I don’t think so and this is why!

In Romans 12:3, Paul tells us:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

 

Commentator, F. B. Myers said, “that God deals out according to the measure of our faith. Let us ask that it may be “pressed down and running over.”  To me, this means that my friend was given God’s best for her.  He, in His merciful sovereignty, gave her the burden and load she must carry.  It is not unfair or unkind because all throughout Scripture we are reminded of His provision and His grace to help us bear our burdens.  Jesus said in Matthew:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Nowhere have I found in Scripture that says we will not have trials and burdens or that we would not be laden down with them.  Instead, we are promised that “His grace is sufficient” to help us bear them.  Paul reminds us of this and through his own trial:

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

How can one be content with weaknesses and insults and grief or children not walking according to God’s Word??  Paul told us, “It is for Christ’s sake.”  It’s not for our sake or to make us appear better than we are…It is for Christ’s sake.  It is for God’s glory and His alone.  We can boast in these weaknesses because of Christ!

Sufficiency in Christ Jesus — isn’t it so daily?  Each day is given to us by Him and for Him — He is sufficient for our every need.  Some days that is harder and some days it is not, but every day that we rely on His sufficiency and His grace — when we take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, Jesus said that “you will find rest.”  That, my friend, is a promise with certainty!  Jesus didn’t say you might find it, He said, “YOU WILL FIND IT.”

My friend will most likely awake tomorrow, Lord willing, and find her heart grieving and her home loudly quiet.  God, in His rich mercy and love for her, has given her that portion.  He loves her and His grace is sufficient for her and it is sufficient for you and it is sufficient for me.  Rest in that sufficiency today and do it to the glory of God.

 

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Contentment in Christ – Letting Go of Bitterness

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Bitterness has a certain ability to take root in the depths of our beings.  When we have experienced woundedness in our lives (and we all have), often we allow that woundedness to cause us to be bitter and it seeps into other areas of our lives.  Bitterness can keep us from being overcomers in Christ Jesus.

I have experienced in my own life things that have caused trauma and disruption.  I have allowed it to affect many places — relationships, experiences, and peace.  There have been times when it has kept me from getting involved in ministry, as I should.  Too often, I’ve allowed it to hedge a barrier around my heart so that I would not be wounded again.  This is not how we are intended to live as followers of Christ.

When Joseph was left for dead and then sold into slavery by his brothers, he proclaimed to them years after serving in Pharoah’s court in Egypt:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”  Genesis 50:20

However, he did not say this to them in a vacuum — he said it after he had been mistreated, accused of rape, imprisoned for that false accusation, and seeing his brothers again.  Before he could even reveal himself to them and upon seeing his favored brother, Benjamin, we are told that:

“Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there.” Genesis 43:30

Joseph most assuredly missed his family — he had been treated horribly by others and his brothers and in Pharoah’s court, but he didn’t allow bitterness to take root in his soul.  After he wept, the Scripture tells us that:

“Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, “Serve the meal.” So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him.” Genesis 43:31-34

Imagine inviting the person or persons who have caused you great distress and woundedness to come and dine with you in your home!  Beloved, only God can work such an invitation and response.  The change is wrought by Him and He only; for to take on the image of our Father, requires Him to change us — He is the one who is loving and merciful and gracious, and when we mirror those attributes of God, we can forgive!  However, not just forgiveness, but restoration.

This is what Christ has done for us!  He has taken our sin upon Himself, forgiven us when we repent and restored us to a right relationship with the Father.  Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross — because Jesus has forgiven me and restored me — I can forgive and should!

I pray that you can find healing with the balm of forgiveness and root out the bitterness you may be harboring in your heart.  It is possible, but only through Christ Jesus!

Solo Christo!

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A Tool for His Workmanship

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There are times that I simply get in the way of God’s work…it is true.  The Holy Spirit lays on my heart a work that God wants to accomplish and rather than realizing my role as His tool, I try to affect the work in my own humanness and striving.  Then in His mercy and love, the Lord chastises me to remind me of my purpose.

This all became more evident to me today, as the chastening rod came across my heart.  I have been diligently working on a very important project…necessary Kingdom work towards the saving of not only lives but souls.  So, this morning as I was making calls and purposing to get the matter all settled today, I hit a brick wall. Not any brick wall, but the same one I have been hitting day, after day, after day!

Honestly, hitting the same brick wall continuously starts to hurt!  And, feeling battered and bruised from the perpetual beating did not bode very well with my spirit.  I became angry and confused.  I was really mad!!!

Well, I don’t know that getting mad was very effectual for me.  In fact, it was just the opposite of effectual — it was quite ineffectual.  After stewing for a few minutes in my pride and sin, the Lord came over me with His righteous discipline.  Oh, if you could have heard the conversation!

“Tam — why are you so mad?” He said to me.  “Are you trying to get lauded with praise because you did a mighty work?”  “Did you take on this for Me or for you, Tam??”  His questions made my cheeks hot with shame, and I knew that I had sinned against Him.  I realized that I forgot that I am His tool to perform His work and in His time.

In 1 Corinthians 3:4 through 7, Paul addresses this very problem with the Corinthians.

For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (Emphasis mine).

I had forgotten my function and my purpose.  I, quite pridefully, had put myself as the head and in turn, left the sovereign work of God completely out of the equation.  Truly He is the master builder and I am His tool to be used at His will…not my own.

I repented and asked His forgiveness and I am thankful and grateful that He arighted me quickly!! Even more, that I allow Him to chastise me from time-to-time, as needed for His glory!  We are reminded in Proverbs,  that we are to not reject that reproof or chastisement from Him.  His correction and discipline are demonstrations of His love toward us.

My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
(Proverbs 3:11-12)

I will continue to work on this project that the Lord has graciously given me to do, but with added humility and understanding that I am only an instrument of His will and for His glory.  Should I ever forget who I am, Who He is — should I ever become so full of myself that I am no longer of use to the furtherance of the Gospel, I pray that He will take me Home.  My purpose is to only serve Him, and that is for what I was redeemed to do!

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

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Threads of Time and the Crimson Blood

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My mother loved embroidery and purchased a rather pricey embroidery machine to fashion different gifts.  When she first started this new found hobby, she made hand towels with monograms for the whole family one year at Christmas.  The next year we all received blankets with flowers and our first name embroidered on them…and so it went year after year receiving one of Momma’s creations.

Momma had her machine in a rather small little corner with endless spools of thread.  I was quite fascinated with all of the hues of color there were and how pretty they looked lined up on wooden spokes ready to be beckoned to the machine.  Each design with someone she loved in mind — certain to bring warmth and love — something she could give to demonstrate her love.

It calls to my mind a “thread” that is embroidered throughout the Old and New Testament.  A crimson thread sewen through the fabric of God’s mercy and love toward us…a thread of redemption.

The first stitch begins in Genesis after Adam and Eve sinned — blood, shed to cover the nakedness of that sin.

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21

Then for the Hebrew Children — Israel…God instructed them to apply blood to their doorposts so that when He sees that blood of the Passover lamb He would not allow the destroyer to come into their homes.

“Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. “You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. “For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.” Exodus 12:21-23

Throughout Scripture, that thread weaving and shuttling, by a merciful Father, toward the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ!  It was the plan all along — from the Creation to the Fall there was Jesus!  Isaiah prophesied Him…

“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:10-12

Christ Jesus came to save man from his sin!  Then He spilled His blood and as that crimson flow from Calvary came to cover our transgressions — to wash us whiter than snow — to redeem us to eternal life.  The Psalmist said,

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”  Psalms 51:7

As the Israelites applied the blood with hyssop branches to their doorposts the smell of hyssop permeated their homes, David prayed that the LORD would purify him with hyssop, and then as Jesus hung dying on the Cross of Calvary He said, “I am thirsty.”  The Roman soldiers lifted a sponge full of the sour wine on the branch of hyssop —

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:28-30

The smell of hyssop would bring to mind that the blood had been applied — forgiveness and redemption of sins … “it is finished.”  And, death and the grave had been defeated when He rose again as He said!

The weaving, shuttling, detail of the crimson thread in the Master’s Hands — a beautiful gift for all who would accept it!  God’s work and restoration have been offered you only need to apply that crimson blood to the doorposts of your life.