Truly Blessed

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” 2Cor 1:3

We use the word blessed in Christianese often to point to something good.  Maybe when we “feel” good we say we’re blessed.  Some find it synonymous with “lucky.”  The reality is that if we have been saved from our sin and its eternal condemnation, no matter how we “feel” or fair in life, we are truly blessed to be found in Christ.  Our awesome Savior is most blessed and if we have hidden our lives with Christ in God so are we.  “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col 3:3-4)  The biggest thrill or glory for us in this life and the next is being God’s own through our Lord Jesus!  We are blessed because of who our God is.  He is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.

God is the Father of all mercies.  Let’s be honest… every single one of us has sinned and deserves hell.  We may not have “killed” anyone, but we have all broken His holy standards in one way or another.  Matthew 5:21-22 tells us that if we are angry with someone, we deserve the lake of fire.  Every day that we get to live without being consumed by God is a mercy to us.  Furthermore, He has made a way for us to be forgiven our sins, by freely giving us Jesus’ perfect standing and resurrection.  Anything else that we get is just icing on the cake.  Do we have delicious food, a closet full of clothes, comfortable bedding in a home and not on the streets or the ICU… these are just a few of God’s mercies.

What about the times that we may find ourselves in the slums (physically or emotionally) or surrounded by hospital walls? He is the God of all comfort.  The same God who created the galaxies and the stars is the one who cares so much for our little existence that his thoughts of us are more than the grains of the sand (Ps 139:17-18)…  He is not aloof when our world seems to be falling apart.  In fact, He is even nearer if we persevere with faith to see Him work through our trials to give us comfort from His own loving arms.  Not only does He take account of our tears, but he does not waste a single drop.  He gives our cries a deeper purpose—that we would comfort others and glorify Him.

The Word blessed comes from the word eulogy and means to speak well of. Do we speak well of God? Or are we more likely to complain to Him or others? Complaining and discontentment are hindrances to the gospel.  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:14-15) When we bless and praise God for His great mercy to save us and even for the mundane such as food and clothes, we shines as lights in a dark world.  “Paul had experienced much pain, suffering, and heartbreak, particularly because of the false teachers at Corinth.  They slandered his character to discredit him in the minds of the people and even more painful to the apostle, sought to deceive the Corinthian church with lies about the gospel.  But in God’s merciful comforting of him, he received the strength he needed to carry on.  For that Paul was deeply grateful and blessed God.”  (John MacArthur)

 

Photo credit: Vern Jensen Photography

Lovely Thoughts Based on a Loving God

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Phil 4:8

Life doesn’t seem to be going to way you planned?  You got a call from your doctor, are getting the cold shoulder from a loved one, or can’t seem to get through with your children.  In everyday testings like these, our minds can easily turn to worst case scenarios.  Whatever the uncertainties we may face, we are likely tempted toward fearful, anxious thoughts.  Often, our flesh functions on the auto-pilot of fear.  We might fret over getting a fatal disease, losing our loved ones, and our children or ones under your care ending up like prodigals.  The other option is the only way for the Christian to be Sprit-filled and experience lasting peace and joy.  It is the way of love.  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1Cor13:7)  A sanctified mind is born out of a love for Christ and following in His steps of obedience.  It is the path of God’s choosing for us.

Obedience in the area of our thought life is very challenging.  It’s nearly impossible for others to keep us accountable since our friends and mentors are human and don’t posses superpowers to read our minds.  Yet, as Scripture says, we must guard our thoughts, for from our heart springs the issues of life.  Whatever we sow in our hearts will inevitably come forth in our speech.  We can’t hide our feelings for long.  However, there is a way for us to filter our feelings with the app of Scripture.  God’s great wisdom helps us as we strive to practice heavenly thoughts patterns that excite us toward godliness.

We are naturally given toward thoughts of anticipating what comes next.  We sometimes try to fill in the missing piece of our puzzling circumstance with different scenarios and “could-be’s”.  However, we must remember Philippians 4:8 and dwell only on what is true.  Furthermore, we are not to stay in the bleakness of a harsh reality based on the depressing aspects of our lives.  We are to dwell only on what is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent.  This is who God is, and who we are becoming if we are in Christ.

The question is not so much what we’ve been through or even who we are, but who is God? All it takes is faith in our awesome God, even faith as small as a mustard seed will move mountains.  Our rest and peace does not come from our ever changing circumstances or on how much others like us at any given moment, it comes from the unchanging character of God Almighty.  He loves us the same always and His character never changes.  When we truly believe in our hearts that our advocate and intercessor Jesus is also the King of the universe, we will not be shaken though the ground under our feet were to give way. “Throughout the gospel of Mark, they (the disciples) don’t seem to understand that Jesus is the King of the world.  He is the one who holds the whole cosmos in his hands.  Their failure to accurately identify Jesus leads them to fear, anxiety, and worry.” (Dave Furman, Kiss the Wave)

Heavenly Father, you are near and still sovereign over all the worlds’ affairs; you carry eternity and all existence on your shoulders; yet your eyes are interested in the minute details of our life and the hidden recesses of our hearts.  Oh, our great God, make us wholly yours and woo us captive to fall in even greater love with you.  May our thoughts be characterized by truth, honor, justice, purity, love, goodness and excellence that we may reflect Christ.  In His name.

Filling-up Our Love Tanks with Jesus

“He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me” Psalm 144:2 ESV

The Lord has been my source of steadfast love at a time after my love has left this earth, and my love tank is left running on empty.  Furthermore, I am called to solely and constantly love and fill the love tanks of two energetic children that seem to always run amuck.  In all this, my life is not pitiful but actually very blessed.  “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” (Chuck Swindoll) For some of us right now, it may mean learning to love in the often non-reciprocated- agape sense in a way that can only come from God.  For all of us, our “tank” must be filled from the fount of His Spirit, in order to then overflow to those who need the gospel.  It might be a daily battle, yet it is one that is won in Christ.  This verse is one we can take to heart, even in our weakness.  God will lift our head and display the greatness of His power.

It is believed that David wrote this Psalm in reference to war with the Ammonites and Syrians.  (Studies in the Book of Psalms) David ascribes glory to God for preparing him for the battle and the ultimate victory.  The previous verse he gives credit to God for teaching him the skills he needed for his particular warfare.  He was born as a shepherd boy; nonetheless, God taught and skilled him for battle unlike any other, even more so than most experience and strongest of men.  Frist, he had to wrestle with lions and bears, then with a giant.  When he fought Goliath, everyone was astounded –it was obvious that this young man’s strength did not reside in himself.  In these “small” battles, God is training us for the giants of war.  We have no idea what will come tomorrow, but we can be sure that God has already supplied the grace, like ammunition, for today’s attacks for His glory.

In my weakness, I despair…  My heart still feels a Grand Canyon size gapping hole. It stings. It was once full in the measure of God’s gift.  I had to part with half of whom I had become one.  Yet, not entirely as he has made me who I am today… That can’t be taken from me.  My faith is often tested and I am tempted to doubt and complain.  However, in the flood of testing, I can still count it as a blessing because my Hope is set on Christ who is a high tower and deliverer.  He is producing mighty faith and will make a warrior out of me and you.  Furthermore, God arms us with His grace to peacefully subdue the enemy of a lonely heart.  “We have the power over our desires instead of letting them have control over us.  We can get our desires down to match our circumstances.” (Nancy Wilson, Learning Contentment)

Heavenly Father, your steadfast love is a strong fortress.  May we lose ourselves and find our refuge and strength in your love, in Jesus name.

“Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end.”

“Oh the Deep, Deep Love” by Sovereign Grace Music

Children of God Are Never Left Alone

“The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah” Psalm 46:11 ESV

Four-year-old Nathan tugged at my blouse and whined, “Mommy, I’m all alone…”  His older brother had gone to an amusement park for the day with his friends.  I stroked my child’s soft baby face and looked straight into his saddened eyes and replied, “You are not alone; I am with you.”  Isn’t it true that you and I act like this when we fret or grow discontent?  It’s like complaining to God, “Father, I’m all alone…” When he is right by our side whispering, “You are not alone dear child; I am with you.”

The Lord of hosts never leaves his children to fend for themselves.  “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)  Jesus is truly all we need to cling to when we feel entrapped by darkness and emptiness. “He has promised to never abandon us.  This promise is the ground for our contentment.  In every need, remember He will not abandon you.  In every circumstance, take courage and be strong, knowing your good Savior will never forsake you.” (Learning Contentment, Nancy Wilson)  If we are genuinely His, our loving Father has not only sent Christ to die for us and is now seated at the right hand of God making intercession on our behalf, he has also sent His Spirit to live inside of us. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16)  Furthermore, He promises to be with us till the very end. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

In certain seasons of life, we may feel utterly alone… it may be that we are single; or that our loved one, closest friend or spouse is busier, taken a business trip, grown distance or moved away.  Whatever the reason for our loneliness, God wants to come into it by having us abide in Him.  He may want to shake us silly in order to get our attention sometimes.  Sadly, at times only the kind of trials that do shake our world are what finally gets our attention.  It is during these times of adversity that we are driven to our knees to seek His presence, while it was with us all along.  It is WE who turn our face away from seeing His constant blessings.  God is so gracious and answers us when we turn to him for deliverance.  “The recourses of the Almighty are infinite.  He is the Lord of hosts, He commands and the starts fight his battles.  He sends legions of angels where he will, and one angel destroys in one night an army of one hundred and eighty-five thousand men.  All plagues and storms and earthquakes, all cause and all effects, are under his control.” (Studies in the Book of Psalms)

Heavenly Father, omnipresent and unchanging God.  Thank you that your love follows us wherever we go.  May it not take trials and tribulation to have us learn to lean on you and acknowledge you’re ever helping presence in every aspect of our lives.  When all is well, may we never forget it’s because you are with us.  When life is hard, help us remember that you are our defender and will in time send forth deliverance because you go with us.  In all things may we praise your lofty name.

A Soft Tranquility in the Rage of War

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 ESV

The world around us can be frightening.  There are all kinds of wars going on.  Not only physically wars, there are spiritual wars for our souls and those of our children. There are emotionally wars threaten our family relationships and friendships in the church.  There are religious wars and persecutions impend to shake our faith in Christ.  Overall the turmoil of the world, God sits enthroned on high and will win victory and safe passing to the other side for the Christian.

“The spiritual comforts which are conveyed to the saints by soft and silent whispers, and which come without observation, are sufficient to balance the most loud and noisy threatenings of an angry and malicious world.” (Henry Studies in the Book of Psalms)  The spiritual blessings and comforts that are available to the Christ follower are found in knowing God through His Spirit and the Word.   My own soul was weighted down by an imposing threat to one of my cubs and my momma bear instincts immediately came to the surface.  At that moment I couldn’t even pray with words.  All I could do was cry out to the Lord.  After letting out a flood of tears at Jesus’ feet, my heart was stilled by reading God’s Word and words of other saints that reminded me of God’s presence and faithfulness.  There are times with no feasible solution for our dilemma is within our reach.  The Lord is working through these circumstances that are out of our control to cause us to be spent of ourselves and depend on Him alone for deliverance.  “The storms of life often seem so imposing that our hearts faint within us.  Greater and greater a problem can grow, causing us to be discouraged and dismayed.  This is why it is important to keep our eyes fixed on God.  Focusing on our problems breeds fear.  But looking to God increases faith, bringing peace and comfort.” Steve Lawson

Whatever problems we face, from the minute yet constant burdens that make life wearisome to the giant crisis that hangs to our potential demise or that of our loved ones, we can be stilled by God’s steady anchor.  The Lord who rules over the wind and the waves has the power to hush the sea of trouble that befalls us or supply us the faith to rise above and walk on water.  Yet, our eyes lose sight of Him so quickly and we are overcome with fear.  This is when we most need to strain to look up directly to Christ and trust in His great and final victory on the cross.  Speaking of Martin Luther, Lawson said, “As he lay on his deathbed in Eisleben, Germany, his last words were, ‘Our God is the God from whom comes salvation: God is Lord by whom we escape death.’ Firm till the end Luther remained strong in his faith in the Lord”

Heavenly Father, you are perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness. You are worthy to be worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe—all our days and even in the most trying and dark hours.   Forgive us for allowing the world to weigh us down.  Please give us the grace to still and prostrate our hearts with your splendor.  Be pleased to deliver us from the entrapments of the world, the enemy, and even our own flesh—that you would be exalted through our life and testimony.  In Jesus’ name.

Photo used with the kind and gracious permission of Sara Alexander Photography. Check out more of her wonderful work on her Facebook fan page!