Resting in the Midst of Trials – Psalms 4:1-8

No one likes trials! Can I get a witness to that truth?

But, the reality is, trials come into each and every life. No one is exempt from the trials of life. Unforeseen circumstances that blindside you and threaten to bring you down. Unexpected emergencies that catch you off guard and rock your world. A loss of job and thus lost wages for your family. A medical bill that is too high and you wonder if you will ever be able to get it off your plate. An illness that threatens your very life or the life of a loved one. Drama from the kids, sensing something is wrong with mom and dad but can’t find the words to express themselves. Death hanging about your door, just waiting to snatch a loved one from your grasp. Oh, yes, trials come from every possible side of life. And they come to us all.

The Psalmist David was no stranger to trials. He had them too. Plenty of trials haunted him at times throughout his life. And no doubt, just like all of us, David would have found it difficult to sleep at night for all the trials that weighed so heavy upon his heart. In Psalm 4, David writes of one such time. Within this psalm, we find him crying out to his God:

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. . . But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him.”

Even though David was going through some sort of trial at the time of this writing, he KNEW with all his heart, that he belonged to God, and that God would hear his servant when he called out to Him. So, in the midst of his trials, in the quietness of the night, David called. With a bold confidence, he called out to his God, knowing that He would hear and answer him.

David doesn’t share the details of the present trial that he was going through. Although verse 2 gives us a little clue: shame, worthlessness, falsehoods and lies. Yes, David’s heart was in emotional conflict. David didn’t have to share all the juicy details. We don’t need to know them in order to learn something from how David dealt with his trial.

In verses 4 and 5, David shares with his readers, through the prompting of God no doubt, some very good advice. Four things to do in the midst of our trials. I want to consider those for a moment.

“Be angry and do not sin.” Some people will look at that phrase and think, “Oh good, this gives me permission to get really angry at the people or circumstances I am in. I can say what I want in anger, I can throw things in anger, I can do what I want because I am angry right now. I can seek revenge because I am really angry. It’s my right to be angry.” But this “anger” is not that kind of “anger”. Dr. David Jeremiah, in his The Jeremiah Study Bible (page 209) describes it this way: “‘Be angry’ can be translated, ‘come to your senses’ or ‘be stirred, tremble.’ Being in this state is not an excuse to surrender to emotions and sin. Anger and sin do not have to go hand in hand.” Well said Dr. Jeremiah!

Now, can we be angry at our circumstances, angry at what someone did to us? I think that is a normal human reaction. And we all get angry at times, in the midst of trials, at the circumstances that we are dealing with, or with someone who has hurt us deeply. But what is important is what we do with that anger. It is not a good thing when our emotions take over and our anger leads us to sin and more sin. Better yet, we should strive to “come to our senses” and take the anger we feel about our circumstances to the God who cares and who will listen. When we go to God with it, we remove the avenue to sin that threatens and tempts us. When we go to God with it, we open the door for God to work through our trials, our circumstances, and through our emotions.

“Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still.” Meditation brings calm, right? Or does it? I think it all depends upon what you are meditating upon. Personally, if I go to bed and lay there, thinking about, meditating upon all that happened that day, my trials, my reactions, my anger, my emotions, etc. well then, I am guaranteed to have a sleepless night. That kind of meditating keeps me awake. It fuels my anger. It keeps the fire of the trial burning within. That is not a good thing. And it certainly doesn’t help me to “be still.” No way!

BUT, when I call out to my God, as the Psalmist David did, then, I have instant access to Someone who not only hears me, but is able to take the stress of the trial from off my shoulders and allow me to rest. He will hear my cry, understand my emotions, and work towards the solution on my behalf. When I choose to meditate upon His Word, His Love, His Presence, His Comfort, then good things start to happen in the midst of my trials. His Word settles my soul. His Love relaxes my mind and body. His Presence fills the room with His everything. And His Comfort brings that sense of calm and a stillness that enables me to simply rest.

“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness.” What does that mean? Here’s what I know that it means to me: There is only one sacrifice I can offer up to my God. It’s not an easy one to offer during times of trial. But it is a necessary sacrifice for me to offer my God when I want Him to hear and help me through the difficulties I face. That sacrifice I can give to God is “the sacrifice of a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). When my heart is broken, and my circumstances are laid bare before my God; when my anger over the circumstances is given to God; when my need for revenge is surrendered; when my thoughts are taken captive; when my fight turns to acceptance; and when “my will” becomes all about “His will” – then I know, I know my heart is truly broken. It is in that moment that I can offer to my God, my broken and contrite heart. I can offer to Him, my sacrifice of righteousness.

“And put your trust in the Lord.” Believe with your whole heart, soul, mind and being that God’s got you! Trust His working behind the scenes of your trial. Believe that He is working all things for your good. Let Him do the work necessary to bring about the perfect resolution. Trust Him! Trust – –

Take your hands off your circumstances,

Rest in the God who holds it all in His hands,

Understand that God’s work is always perfect,

Surrender your need to control things over to Him,

Thank Him for what He is about to do!

Trust! As the Psalmist David surrendered his will and his circumstances over to His God, he would rest better. It would be a peaceful rest. He could clearly see His God. And thus, with his focus now changed from off the circumstances onto His God, David could say:

Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart. . . I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

I can almost hear God’s comforting voice say, “Rest well, my child! I’ve got this for you!!”

From Grace to Glory – Psalms 84:11

With the start of each new year, I come before my God and ask Him this question: What is our word and our Bible verse for this year?

Throughout that year, I am keenly aware of that word. I anticipate God speaking that word into my life in many different ways throughout the year. I am listening for it in sermons and bible studies, searching God’s Word to learn more about that word, memorizing Bible verses using that word, eagerly awaiting God’s lessons pertaining to that word. In year’s past, together God and I have learned more about hope, love, joy, peace, patience, endurance, purpose, strength, boldness. to name just a few. This yearly practice has been a good spiritual growth motivator for me. It keeps me more focused on God and what He wishes to teach me. I’ve seen a lot of growth in my own spiritual life because I engage in this yearly practice.

For the year 2020, God and I have chosen the word GRACE.

And our verse, uniquely enough, since I am already studying there, comes from the Book of Psalms. Chapter 84 and verse 11. It says:

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

Let me unpack this precious Bible verse with you, as God shared its truths with me during our quiet time this morning.

GRACE – I’ve heard it said (and you might have already heard this too) that grace is so often referred to as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” And that is a great way to remember its meaning. Grace is a gift! It’s given to us at the time of our salvation (Ephesians 2:8). God reminded me that my spiritual journey began with His grace! I smile at that thought! It is so precious to me. Without God and His abundant gift of grace, I have nothing! I am nothing! But, my friend, I know, because of God’s grace, I am a child of God! Forever His!

God’s gift of grace is freely given. His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, freely gave His own life, through death on a cross, so that I could freely be given God’s grace. Christ paid the cost. Grace and my salvation, have cost me nothing. I did not have to do anything to earn it. It cost me nothing. I certainly don’t deserve God’s grace, being the sinner that I am. But, praise You dear God, You freely gave me Your gift of grace at the time of my salvation. And, You have been freely giving me more and more of Your grace ever since. What a gift!

GLORY – Our spiritual journey begins with grace. It is going to end in glory! My life goes from grace to glory! I sat and meditated upon that thought for the longest time. From grace to glory! That truth brings joy to my soul. That’s how the story of my life goes: it begins with grace and ends with glory! Not my own glory, but God’s glory! One day I will stand in glory (heaven) in the presence of the God I love dearly. I will enjoy His glory forever and ever. Oh, that will be glory for me!!

Truth of the matter is though, that our journey from grace to glory is a difficult one. God doesn’t promise us an easy life at all, but He does promise that He will be with us in that journey (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5). I’m so glad that I don’t have to walk that journey alone, not ever!

I also love what 1 Peter 5:10 says, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” No one likes to suffer. But the truth of the matter is this; our lives are filled with periods of suffering in one form or another. The perfecting, establishing, strengthening and settling work of God that comes to us, as a result of that suffering, is all done through God’s grace. Undeserved. Unearned. All freely given. God’s got us covered. God’s walking the journey of our life with us, taking care of each and every detail of the journey with His grace. Oh, what a gift!

As we walk this journey with Him, we need to remind ourselves of this truth from Psalm 84:11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” Another great promise to us. Let’s look at it in more detail.

SUN – It gives light in the dark places. It speaks of provision and sufficiency. As we walk with God, He lightens the pathway of life that He wants us to walk upon. He shows us, step by step, which way we are to walk. With all the ups and downs, twists and turns, bends and boulders that we may face on that pathway, we have to know and learn (and thus love) the fact that He walks with us, so we have no fear of the darkness that looms over us. His light (sun) provides us a valuable resource for the journey. Without that resource of light, we would be in total darkness and fear. In knowing that we have God’s light, and His provision, we also have His sufficiency for the journey. All that we need, He will provide. We walk in light as He is the light!

SHIELD – It speaks of protection and security. Along our journey, we will no doubt face hardships, difficulties, encounter evil, perhaps persecution and other unforeseen struggles. It is good to know that we have a God who is not only walking with us on that journey, but He is our protection and security. He will shield us from all forms of danger. He will be with us when we encounter them. He will forever be our shield!

NO GOOD THING WILL HE WITHHOLD – As we journey through this life with God, from grace to glory, He will be sharing all good things with us. What are those good things? Whatever He deems them to be! Material things? Perhaps. Emotional things? No doubt. Spiritual things? Absolutely. Spiritual things like: helping us to understand His Word, teaching us to love, trust, obey, and serve Him, opening our eyes, our mind, our heart to learn and love Him more and more. All of these good things (and so many more!) come from our God. Along our journey of life with our God, He will no doubt shower us with His blessings, His promises, His presence, His everything! All good things will be given to us in His time, and in the way He wants to share them with us. And as we wait for those good things to be revealed, we are to walk boldly knowing that “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

WALK UPRIGHTLY – What does it mean to “walk uprightly?” It means to walk in the light, trusting in His provision and sufficiency. It means knowing that He is your shield, protecting you and keeping you secure at all times. It means loving Him, obeying His Word, and serving Him as He gives you opportunity. It means opening your heart to Him and letting Him be your guide through life. It means trusting Him with every aspect of your life. It means walking righteously in His presence.

Grace is a good word for this new year of 2020. Psalm 84:11 contains a very precious promise that I choose to carry with me through the year ahead. We start our true journey through this life of ours with God’s grace. We continue the journey by trusting God’s sufficient provision and protection, knowing we are secure in His presence. And then, in God’s perfect timing, we end our journey by entering into the glory of the Lord!

From grace to glory!

Lead the way, Lord God!

We Will Say Goodbye and We Will Remember – Psalms 25:6-21

This morning, in my church worship time, we sang one of my favorite songs. It calls us to remembrance. Remembering what the Lord has done for us. Remembering to offer Him all our praise and worship for His faithfulness to us. Take a moment and listen. . . and remember!

We are about to say goodbye. I don’t know about you, but I do not like goodbyes. They are hard. Often heart-wrenching. They are impossible to avoid. Goodbyes come. We have to experience them as a part of life.

Soon we will all say goodbye to this year of 2019. For some its been a really good year. For others its been the most difficult year ever. For still others, and this would include me, its been a mixed year. There has been plenty of good things: joys and triumphs, periods of great laughter and fun, good news of accomplishments, rewards of a job well done, monetary blessings, new friendships formed, new challenges created, and the daily reminders of God’s presence, protection, promises and peace. I smile when I remember the good things of this year 2019.

But there has also been plenty of not so good things, like: medical illnesses and new diagnosis’ made, loss of several friends and family through death, broken relationships, financial struggles, loss of belongings, job insecurity, sadness and bad days, sin and evil within and around me. 2019 has not been my greatest year. But then, it really hasn’t been my worst. Yet, it has been exactly as God planned it to be.

I remember this year fondly though. For I remember God’s hand was upon me as He guided my footsteps through 2019. I remember His imprint into each and every detail of the year. He left His mark upon my heart, my soul, my life and it will always be there for me to remember Him by. How special that He loves me that much! I have seen and I have experienced His faithfulness to me, over and over again. His faithfulness shown to me at times that I didn’t deserve it (that’s grace!). His faithfulness that carried me through the tough times of the year. His faithfulness that taught me many a new lesson to put into practice and carry forward into a new year. His faithfulness that showed me more of who He is! And because I learned more about my God in 2019, then I would say, that I had a really good year!

There is so much for all of us to remember. Our remembrances could get stuck on all the bad things that have happened. Things that were difficult and hard to bear. Things that discouraged and attempted to bring us to despair. Our remembrances could become overwhelming by what our lives, our families, our churches, our communities, our country have become as many people focus less and less upon our God. Our remembrances could even get mired down in the all-consuming mud of the sin and evil around us. That could be our choice, should we choose to remember those things. OR, as the time draws near to say goodbye to this year of 2019, we could choose to remember the Lord our God and the work that He has done in and through us, each and every one, throughout this year. For whether we choose to admit it or not, our God remains the Faithful One!

This morning as I sat, curled up in my “quiet time” chair, with a hot cup of tea in my hands, my Bible opened, and my heart and mind ready to meet with Jesus, I came across something special in the Book of Psalms. David wrote a Psalm of Remembrance to His God. It’s found in Psalms 25, verses 6-21. It says this – –

Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving-kindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness sake, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies. For Your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great. Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. He himself shall dwell in prosperity, and his descendants shall inherit the earth. The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You.”

Thank you David! If you don’t mind, I would like to borrow this prayer, this psalm of remembrance. I should like to read it aloud to my God, each day, as this year 2019 comes to an end. It will be my way of saying goodbye to this year and remembering God’s wonderful work in my heart, my soul and my life.

Goodbye 2019! Thank you God for helping me to remember! Truly, my Lord and my God, You have been faithful to me!

“I Have Got to Go!”

. . .But my heart stands in awe of Your Word. I rejoice at Your Word, as one who finds great treasure.” Psalm 119:161-162 (NKJV)

I read these Bible verses this morning in my quiet time with God. The very words seemed to jump off the page of my Bible. My heart thumped as I read them, again and again out loud. A very precious remembrance came to my mind and a smile worked its way across my face. I’d like to share the story with you, my blog readers.

It was a cold winter’s day and it had been raining all throughout the night. Secretly I had been wishing for snow. It seemed like everyone else was getting a white Christmas, why not us? But, sadly, I live in a place where snow is not often seen on the ground of my front yard. It just doesn’t look right for a desert cactus to be dressed with snow caps and icicles. But a girl could dream, right? I looked out the window as the rain started once again. It was getting heavier and judging from the blackness of the clouds in the sky, it wasn’t set to let up anytime soon. “I have got to go. I have too much to get done on this rainy day.” So, I put my shoes on and bundled up in my coat and set out on my secret mission. I had shopping to do. Buying the perfect Christmas gifts was my goal. “I have got to go!”

Traffic was crazy, or was it just me. I seemed invisible as cars sped past me, going at a pace far greater than the speed limit. “Oh oh, there’s an accident over there. Whatever happened, God be with those involved. Guide the rescue workers helping the injured right now that they may do the right thing. Help the police officers bring calm and figure out all the details. And God, please protect me from other crazy drivers around me.” Oh, great! Here I am at another red light. Every single light, that I have encountered, turns red before I got to the intersection. Really? Don’t you know I am a woman on a mission. “I have got to go!”

In a space of time that seemed like forever, I pulled my car into a parking spot. I remember thinking to myself. “This place is super busy today. I wonder what’s going on here? Ah, probably just lots of Christmas shoppers like me.” Getting out of the car, I glanced down at the ground as I set my feet in place, getting them ready to walk. “What’s this?” Right there, at my feet, lay a five dollar bill. I bent over to pick it up and instantly my brain started to process all the things I could do with a brand new five dollar bill. Hmmm? “I have got to go!”

Just a few moments later, on my way into the store, I dropped that brand new five dollar bill into the donation bucket of the Salvation Army bell ringer. Someone else needed that money more than me at that moment of time, right before Christmas. “I have got to go!”

I stepped inside the door of a well known, very popular department store, ready to complete my goal. Oh, the sights and sounds of Christmas were everywhere. Beautiful decorations to behold. Christmas carols being sung. Shoppers seeking out their bargains. But wait – “What is all this?”

Within seconds, I realize that I am surrounded by police officers. What? A quick glance around and I realize, with a sigh of relief, they weren’t after me. Whew! But, it was very clear, they too were on a mission! So, I simply paused in the middle of a aisle to take in this unusual sight before me.

There were literally hundreds of police officers in this store, milling around, looking for what? Then I noticed, with each officer was a child. Some just little kids. Others were elementary aged children. I even saw a few teenagers in among the crowd. Then all the sudden I realized.
“Ah, I get what this is!” I said to myself. This was the annual “Shop with a Cop” event. I have often heard about this event, but this – – – this was the first time to actually experience it. “I have got to go!”

My hurried “gotta go mission” just took a slight detour and who knows where it might lead. But this particular detour was okay with me today, because this special event was well worth seeing. For the next two hours, I just roamed throughout the store, watching, listening, laughing, and enjoying what was taking place around me. Every year, our local police officers held this event. Their mission was to take a group of underprivileged children and go shopping for something special for Christmas. They were buying shoes, coats, clothes, toys and all kinds of goodies. More and more I was convincing myself that I just had to – had to check this all out in a little more detail. “I have got to go!”

Look, over there, in amongst the toys. It’s an officer, with a little girl. Ah, she is adorable. All dressed up pretty with ribbons and curls. She can’t be more than five or six years of age. He’s carrying her in his arms and they are rushing (“walking feet inside please!”) over to see the dolls. I cannot help myself, but I just have to rush behind them. He gently puts her feet down on the floor and lovingly says to her, “Now what doll did you want sweetheart?” I listened intently to the precious conversation between them as she educates the officer on the “bestest ever dolls.” I smile at her innocence and his patience. I asked God to bless them both. “I have got to go!”

Laughter caught my attention. Big, loud, belly jiggling laughter could be heard throughout the store. I head in that direction. Yep, there’s another officer (actually he could have part-timed as a Santa look alike). Well, this officer and his child, an elementary aged boy with curly hair and a bright red sweater, were sitting together on the floor in front of the TV screens. There was a children’s Christmas cartoon playing and they were laughing together as they watched. Their laughter was ever so contagious. It drew quite the crowd without them even knowing it. I’m not sure what the cartoon was, but my delight was in watching and laughing alongside the officer and child. Laughter is great medicine to the soul. I pray that child will always remember that special moment with a police officer. I pray that officer will always share his laughter with those around him. “I have got to go!”

“I want a Bible!” Okay, I heard that. But where? Where did that come from? I stood still, listening intently. And then I heard it again. “I want a Bible!” Okay, I think it was that direction. I headed to the east side of the store. Yes, there they were. Another police officer with a rather determined boy. “I don’t want that stuff officer, I want a Bible!”

A quick glance at his face and one could clearly see that he was about to lose his patience with this child. “Officer, I don’t want clothes, toys and stuff. I want a Bible so that I can read for myself the true Christmas story about baby Jesus. I want a Bible!” Ah, that poor officer.

“Listen kid, I don’t even know what a Bible is, and besides I don’t know that this store has one. Now I don’t know what to do.” My heart went out to him in that moment. Police officers are usually pretty quick to take action. But this officer was kind of stuck. His face said it all, as a small crowd gathered to see what would happen next. I couldn’t help myself. “I have got to go!”

I quickly worked my way through the small crowd of people, trying to get closer to the officer and child. I made eye contact with the officer and said to him, “Need a little help officer?” You should have seen his smile! I felt his sigh of relief. Bless him.

Immediately this boy tapped me on the shoulder and says, “Hey Miss, do you know what a Bible is? Does this store have one? Can you help me get a Bible for Christmas?” I turned to the boy, bent down so I could look him in the eye and said. “Yes, I know about Bibles. And yes, I can get you a Bible for Christmas.” There was an applause from the onlookers. Another sigh of relief came from the officer. And the boy, wrapped his arms around me in the biggest hug. “I have got to go!”

The three of us sat down on the floor. We had to come up with our plan of action. “So,” I said to the little boy and the police officer. “I know for fact that this store does not have Bibles.” Instantly, I watched as a frown began to plaster itself on the boy’s face. And I kept watching as that frown was quickly turning into a pout which meant we were heading for some form of melt down. Not on my watch!

“But, do not fear. I have a plan. I know just the right place to go and get your Bible.” Frown instantly turned upside down. That’s better. I continued to share my plan. “So I will go on a mission and get you your own Bible. This police officer here really wants to buy you some other Christmas presents as well. So, why don’t you go with him. Have some fun choosing something special. Laugh together. Share a story about yourself. Enjoy this time of shopping with a cop. I will meet you both back here at this very spot, in one hour, and I will have your Bible. How does that sound?” A quick glance at the officer told me that he greatly appreciated my help. The boy? Well, he was already on his feet, pulling the officer up off the floor, ready to get started on his new mission. “I have got to go!”

“Wait!” I called after the two of them. The officer kindly helped me up off the floor. “Can you tell me one more thing before we go our separate ways? I’m just curious little guy, why do you want a new Bible for Christmas?”

He drew in a deep breath and began to tell his story. “I don’t have a mom and daddy anymore. I live with my Grammy. She has been really sick and I try to be really quiet so she can rest. One night last week, she told me a story. She said it was the true Christmas story about a baby named Jesus. She said that if I ever wanted to read the whole story I should get myself a Bible. She cannot get me a Bible. So, I thought this police officer could get me a Bible. But he cannot do it either. Please miss, can you get me a Bible so I can read the Christmas story to my Grammy before she dies?” Tears are tripping me at this point. I glanced around the aisle. There wasn’t a dry eye in the small crowd that had gathered. “I have got to go!”

The crowd dispersed. I don’t know what all they did. I just knew what I had to do. As I walked to the car, I prayed for Grammy. I prayed for that police officer. I prayed for that little boy. I prayed that the store I was about to go to would have the exact things I sought after. I had just one hour to complete my mission. “I have got to go!”

Yes! There it is! And yes, they have that too. I began to pull my desired items from the shelf. And, oh yes, that would be perfect for the police officer! The sales clerk was ever so helpful. As we searched together for the prized items, I shared with her the story of the morning. She too was in tears. Oh, and even better, everything I wanted was part of a 50% off sale. I just knew that I would have paid any price for the Christmas items I wanted on that particular day. As I headed toward the cash register to check out, the clerk did the unthinkable. “And Ms. Claus,” she says to me. “I am giving you all this for FREE so you can bless those who need to know Jesus this Christmas!” Whhaaat? Are you sure? Yes, she was absolutely sure. More tears, hugs and prayers all around. “I have got to go!”

I made it through the heavy traffic, through the pouring rain, through the parking lot full of cars, back to my destination with just seconds to spare. I walked through the doors. Another police officer greeted me and said, “We’ve been waiting for you to return. Here, let me walk with you back to your destination spot!” Wow! “I have got to go!”

Wow! Oh, wow! What a crowd. Bigger than before. Oh boy, I’m not used to this kind of thing. But, I wasn’t there for the crowd. Waiting for me there was my favorite little boy and his new police officer friend. “Did you get it miss? That’s a really big bag. Please tell me that you got my Bible.” The three of us sat down once again on the floor in the middle of the toy aisle. I was drawn by the fact that this kid wasn’t at all interested in the toys around him. Nor did he care that he could have had his choice of anything there. He was only interested in the fact that he wanted his very own Bible.

I asked the little boy if he would like to sit on my lap. “I have a story I’d like to read to you.” His eyes danced with delight. He sat down on my lap, and then I reached into my bag. I pulled out a Christmas storybook. A hush fell over the crowd. I cleared my throat as the boy started to turn the pages. I began to read. With every turn of the page, I could hear the little boy, softly say, “Wow!” Even the crowd listened to the reading of the Christmas story.

As soon as the story ended, the little boy jumped up from my lap. “Please miss, can I have this book. I would like to read it to my Grammy tonight!”

I gave him the storybook. It was like a slab of pure gold as he held it in his little hands. I also gave him a brand new Bible of his own. He started to cry. He held that prized possession gently in his hands. He jumped up and down with sheer delight. The crowd cheered with him and shared their smiles of approval. After a few moments of rejoicing, he asked me to write my name in the front of his brand new Bible with the red pen that he took from the officer’s pocket. Earlier I had inserted a bookmark in Luke, chapter 2, where he would find God’s version of the Christmas story. I gave him a few Bible story coloring books and stickers and crayons. I gave him a teddy bear with a big red heart that simply said, “Jesus Loves You!” I wanted to make sure that that little boy got his Christmas wish. I wanted him to meet his new friend, Jesus. I wanted him to experience His love in all its fullness. I wanted to give him the opportunity to share the true Christmas story and God’s love with Grammy that very night!

“Wait!” I said with a start. “I have one more thing. And I’m gonna need your help with this one.” I said to the little boy. I led him over to where the shopping bag was laying on the floor. We both peeked inside. I whispered in his little ear, “Thought you might like to give this to the kind police officer who bought you all the rest of your Christmas presents.” He looked right at me. I will never forget that boy’s dynamite smile!

Very carefully, he reached into the bag, and pulled out the last item of my shopping mission. He clutched it his chest and lovingly carried it in his arms. Then he went to stand right in front of the police officer. Once more, the police officer knelt down before the little boy. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place as we all heard the little boy say, “Mister Police Officer, this Bible is for YOU! Now you can read the Christmas story about Jesus too!” And then, there was the hug that made God smile!

Mission Complete!

“I have got to go!”

I just love it when God, in His great wisdom and perfect timing, sends us out on a mission, that gives us a blessed opportunity to share with others the real Christmas story of JESUS!!

You, O Lord, Are My Rock! -Psalm 18

“For by You, O Lord, I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? ”
Psalm 18: 29-31 (NKJV)

The battle of life is violently raging around me. It is relentless in its intentional pursuit. Day and night, the frightful and haunting sounds from the battlefield creep in to overwhelm my heart, mind and soul. It gives me no rest. Various enemies, clad with their weapons of warfare, seem to be coming at me from every imaginable angle. From without and within, and often with little warning, they seek to disable, discourage and even destroy.

Who are those enemies that are coming after me?

  • The enemy of sin and evil – my own sin and the sins of others around me
  • The enemy of temptation – the good, the bad and the ugly of it all
  • The enemy of persecution – bullying unbelievers that go straight for the spirit within
  • The enemy of harsh criticism – words that cut like a sharp knife, wounds that are slow to heal
  • The enemy of defeat and discouragement – seeking to disarm me
  • The enemy of broken relationships – saying goodbye is never easy
  • The enemy of death – walking through the valley of the shadow of death with a beloved friend
  • The enemy of failing health – so many doctor visits and tests to do
  • The enemy of financial struggle – too little money, too many bills
  • The enemy of time – so much to do and so little time to do it all
  • The enemy of “to do lists” – keeps on growing and seems like little gets done
  • The enemy of perfectionism – what? am I the only?
  • The enemy of the holiday rush – surrounded by the commercialism of the world’s view of Christmas time
  • The enemy of. . . . !

All too often, in the midst of this waging battle, it seems as though I am just waiting to hit that proverbial wall with an almighty, hard-hitting Splat!

But God!

I love what the Psalmist David says about his enemy pursuing him and the proverbial wall that he encountered. “For by You, O Lord, I can run against the troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.” (verse 29) Love the picture that comes to my mind when I read those words.

This Psalm was written on the day that David was delivered from his number one enemy, King Saul. The King relentlessly pursued David, with just one intention – to kill him. Saul’s jealousy was the driving force behind his evil intent to destroy David. And with an unrelenting jealous rage, Saul put everything else in his kingdom life on hold, just so he could go after David. That’s what the enemy does!

David describes his enemy: “. . . my strong enemy. . . those who hated me. For they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity.” (Verses 17-18)

David’s enemy was very real. David had come face to face with his enemy and the battle between them pursued. David had to run for his very life. And he kept on running. He had to do everything possible to escape from the evil king who sought after him. David spent time hiding out in the caves, hoping not to be found by the King and his men. So many times, David faced that proverbial wall, hoping he wouldn’t go splat against it. David did what he knew he had to do, in order to keep himself safe.

What David found in the midst of his battle with King Saul, greatly encourages me in the midst of my own battles of life. Let’s read that last part of verse 18 – “But the Lord was my support.”

I love these words of David. I so often have echoed them from my own lips to the listening ears of God. “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from the temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” (verse 6)

Ah, how good it is to know that we are never alone in the midst of our battles. We all can cry out to God from the battlefield. He will hear us. David cried out to God in the midst of his distress. And David found that God was there with him, right there in the midst of the battle. God wasn’t sitting on the sidelines, cheering him on. God was present, on the battlefield. Right there, with David, making known to him the way that he should go. God gave David all the resources he needed to face the enemy troops. God never once allowed David to go splat against the wall that was put up in front, behind and all around him. Nope, God enabled David to leap over that wall. God strengthened David for the battle of his life.

Here’s what God did for David:

  • Verse 17 – “He delivered me from my strong enemy.”
  • Verse 19 – “He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.”
  • Verse 20 – “The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness.”
  • Verse 32 – “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.”
  • Verse 35 – “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.”
  • Verse 36 – “You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip.”
  • Verse 39 – “You armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.”
  • Verse 40 – “You have also given me the necks of my enemies, so that I destroyed those who hated me.”

Wow! God did all that for David! Imagine what God can do for you. For me. On the battlefield. In the midst of our battles of life.

My reader, God promises to be with us. He will be present in the midst of our battles. He will be our support. He will give us strength. He will bring us to the place of victory. He will be our solid Rock!

How do we get that kind of help from God?

It starts with a cry. It starts with us acknowledging our need for God. We need His help. Cry out to Him. Call on His name. Invite Him to the battlefield. Let Him gird you with His strength. Take on His helmet of salvation, adorn the garments of praise in the midst of battle. Watch God fight for you, as He holds you tight with His mighty right hand. He will strike each and every enemy. He will be the One who destroys them all. He will bring victory over all the evil within and without. He will not cause your feet to slip, nor to stumble; rather, He will lift you up, to high places, where you will stand strong. You will stand undefeated. The Lord your God will support you!

It’s no wonder that in that moment after the battle was won, that David wanted nothing more than to stand in the presence of His God and sing his victory song aloud:

I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies. . . The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.” Psalm 18:1-3 and 46. (NKJV)

I Choose To Praise God – Psalm 150

Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! . . . Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:1-2 and 6 (NKJV)

The Psalmist David is one of my many favorite Bible characters. I love to study his life and times; learning all I can, and hopefully taking to heart some of the lessons that his life teaches. David was known as a “man after God’s own heart” and his relationship with God is something to admire and seek to imitate. While his life was far from perfect (that’s why I can relate to him!) and his relationship with God wasn’t perfect either (so glad that God doesn’t require that of us!), David set his heart on this one thing, and that to seek after His God with all of his heart. I love that. That’s the kind of life example that I desire to follow. There is something though that really impresses me about David. It stands out to me every time I read about David or hear a sermon about him. Throughout his lifetime, David had a heart that wasn’t afraid to burst forth in bold praise to his great God. David chose to praise God!

It didn’t matter whether David was tending his father’s sheep in the field, relaxing at home with his family, facing the giant that no one else wanted to fight, singing before King Saul, running for his life from someone who wanted to kill him, fighting the enemy on the battlefield, encouraging his soldiers as they returned tired from war, feasting at the fully loaded banqueting table, or pursing his kingly duties from the regal palace. One would often find David offering up his praise to God. David chose to praise God!

The Book of Psalms is full of David’s songs of praise to His mighty God. Psalm 150 is just one example; one reminder of a heart full of praise to a worthy and holy God. There are so many ways to praise God – quietly in our hearts, loudly with our voice lifted high, upon any instrument of choice, in a solitary place or in a crowd. We can praise God. There are many reasons to praise God – for who He is, for what He has done, for victories won, for good news received, for answers to prayer, for His creation round about us, for any reason at all. We can praise God. There are different places where we can burst forth in praise – in the sanctuary, in our homes, in our workplace, out in the middle of God’s creation, from a hospital bed, in a jail cell, from any place we go. We can praise God.

But, this is the part of David’s example of praise that gets me; David chose to praise God! Praise for David was an intentional choice! It didn’t matter where he was, he chose to praise God. It didn’t matter what he was doing, he chose to praise God. It didn’t matter who he was with, he chose to praise God. Good time, bad time, joyful or sad time, in time of peace or war, David chose to praise God.

I must choose to praise God too!

Praise comes easy when things are going great, right? Well, for me it does. Praise is good when God blesses me with abundant things. Praise is an outstanding way to thank God for His answers to prayer. Praise is great when I gather with fellow believers and together in one spirit we lift up our praise to God in worship of Him. But what about when things aren’t so good?

I must choose to praise God! In every situation of life, I choose whether to praise or not.

  • I choose to praise God when I’m having a really bad day and everything seems to be going wrong and I really want to run away from it all because I know wherever I am, there God will be as well, to bring comfort my troubled heart.
  • I choose to praise God when relationships are filled with misunderstandings, false judgments, lies, gossip, jealousy, and strife because I know that God will speak peace into those relationships and will do His perfect work within His perfect timing to bring about healing, calm and restoration.
  • I choose to praise God when the financial month has ended long before the calendar month and there is still a stack of bills waiting to be paid because I know “Jehovah Jireh” who is my provider and I trust Him to meet those financial needs.
  • I choose to praise God when the doctor says surgery and we say, “What, now?” because He is the perfect healer and He will guide the surgeon’s hand in fixing what doesn’t work right.
  • I choose to praise God when so many friends are being taken away from this world due to that dreaded enemy named cancer because I know those precious friends are now in the presence of their God, completely cured from that horrible disease.
  • I choose to praise God when. . . . oh, dear reader, my list can go on and on. . . and on!

But, do you see what I’m saying? Praising God is our daily choice. It is a moment by moment, all throughout the day kind of choice. Praise should never be influenced by those around us, but it should be instrumentally instructed by the contents of our heart. Praise should never be dependent upon our current circumstances being good, or right, or even fair. Praise is not based on our feelings at the moment. We can feel perfectly lousy, and still choose to open our heart, lift up our voice and burst forth with praise to the God who loves and cares about us.

Praising God is a choice! It is our privilege! It is our way to acknowledge that our great God is present with us (never to leave us nor forsake us!) in the midst of our circumstances. Praising God is a means of giving thanks for all the great things God has done for us, has given to us, and has answered on our behalf. Praising God is boldly declaring His faithfulness, His greatness, His power, His majesty to the world around us. It is an honor to lift up our heart, our voice, our hands, our very being in praise and worship to a God whose heart we seek after.

“Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!”

I choose to praise God today!

28 Days of Thanksgiving in the Book of Psalms – Day 28

(This is the last day of a challenge between student and teacher. Rules of the challenge are found in the posting entitled: “A Challenge Has Been Presented Using the Book of Psalms.”)

Today’s Verse: “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God.” Psalms 147:7 (NKJV)

I Give Thanks For: The Honor of Giving Thanks to God!

To my friends, family, fellow bloggers and especially to my God!
May God richly bless us one and all today and forever!

This 28 days of Thanksgiving challenge ends as of today – on America’s Thanksgiving Day of celebration. I have certainly enjoyed doing this challenge with my student. We both have learned a lot about each other, about giving thanks, and about our great God.

So, does my thankful heart stop here with this challenge? No way! It’s only grown larger. And my praise has grown a little louder. I’ve learned that there is so much to thank God for, because He has showered me with so many, many blessings. I haven’t even begun to complete the list of praise items. I could never really thank Him enough for it all. His goodness towards me abounds, for God is good. All the time, He is good. And my praise, well, I just want to keep it going all the time too.

Praise You, oh Lord my God, for your goodness endures forever!

28 Days of Thanksgiving in the Book of Psalms – Day 27

(This is a challenge between student and teacher. Rules of the challenge are found in the posting entitled: “A Challenge Has Been Presented Using the Book of Psalms.”)

Today’s Verse: “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence.” Psalms 140:13 (NKJV)

I Give Thanks For: God’s Abundant Blessings!

As I sit down to write this blog on the day before our Thanksgiving celebration, I think it only appropriate to give thanks today for God’s abundant blessings. For they truly are abundant! And He is so worthy of all praise for showering me with those blessings!

The student, with whom I am doing this 28 day challenge, and I decided to make this our combined item to give thanks for on this particular day. The student suggested that we sit down with a piece of paper and pencil. Across the top of the paper write these words: God’s Abundant Blessings to Me! Then set a timer for 10 minutes, and in that time write down as many blessings that we can think of that God has given us. The student and I would like to challenge our listeners, our readers, our fellow bloggers to do the same and just see how many blessings we can list. Are you up for that challenge?

Our results: Student listed 102, Teacher listed 127 How about you? How many blessings from God can you name off in just 10 minutes? (If you do this little 10 minute challenge, could you write a comment to me and share how many blessings you listed. My student and I are curious if others will do it and what their results were. It will be fun for other bloggers to read your comments as well.)

Doing this fun little challenge, brought to my mind an old favorite hymn that I have sung oh so many times over the years. Count Your Blessings is the name of the hymn. Are you familiar with it? It’s a great hymn and an amazing reminder of how great our God really is. The hymn reminds us that no matter what our circumstances may be, we can find God’s blessings there. It also tells us that if we name our blessings, one by one, it will surprise us what God has done for us. That is what this challenge has been all about. Praising God for all His abundant blessings!

And should you want to burst forth in song or just have a good read – here’s the words to that precious hymn:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. 

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. (Refrain)

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high. (Refrain)

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end. (Refrain)

28 Days of Thanksgiving in the Book of Psalms – Day 26

(This is a challenge between student and teacher. Rules of the challenge are found in the posting entitled: “A Challenge Has Been Presented in the Book of Psalms.”)

Today’s Verse: “Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven, for His mercy endures forever!” Psalms 136:26 (NKJV)

I Give Thanks For: Home Awaiting in Heaven!

Yesterday, a very dear friend of mine, met Jesus face to face! What a blessed day for her! Her short, yet viciously painful battle with cancer was done. It was her time to meet her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This special lady was my good friend, my sister in the Lord, one of my ministry prayer partners and financial donors. She was a part of my ladies bible study group. Oh, I can still picture her, sitting with us around my dining room table. Always a smile on her face, always chewing a piece of gum, and always ready to learn from God’s Word together with the other ladies in the group. She was filled with laughter and always made us laugh over something that was funny to her. Her laugh was contagious! Whenever she opened her mouth to share, the whole room listened, cause it was usually something really good, something worth listening to, something to consider. When she said she would pray for you, there was no doubt that she did just that. She always came back and wanted to know the answers to her prayers that she offered up for you. And her hugs – I will always remember her hugs – they were genuinely sincerely and warm to the heart. She was one very special lady in my life. I am going to miss her greatly!!

My friend’s passing reminded me once again that all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, all of us have a home waiting for us in Heaven. My friend went home yesterday! Her journey in this life was done. She no longer has cancer! Her pain, gone. Her days of suffering, gone. Her crying, gone. Her struggle to walk, gone. There is none of that in her new home in heaven. She now dwells in the land of perfect peace and rest, with her Savior Jesus. She got a big, warm, and sincere hug from Him as He welcomed her home!

Jesus leaves those of us still living in this world a very great and precious promise. It’s found in John 14:1-6:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. . . I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

I am so thankful today that I know Jesus as my personal Savior! Thankful that He is preparing a home in heaven for me too. Thankful, that one day, at His perfect timing, I too will go to that home in heaven. Thankful that one day I will reunite with loved ones and friends who have gone before me. Thankful that I shall spend eternity with my Savior and Lord!

I can’t wait to go HOME!

28 Days of Thanksgiving in the Book of Psalms – Day 25

(This is a challenge between student and teacher. Rules of the challenge are found in the posting entitled: “A Challenge Has Been Presented in the Book of Psalms.”)

Today’s Verse: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever!” Psalms 136:1-3 (NKJV)

I Give Thanks For: Sleepless Nights!

The clock says it is 1:18 am. Really? Yep, I’m wide awake!

I roll over on my side, curl my legs up underneath me, and pull the covers around me tighter. Surely, I will go back to sleep.

Nope, I’m wide awake! There is only one thing that I like to do in times like this. I roll onto my back and only for a few seconds do I stare at the ceiling. Almost immediately, prayer items start coming to my mind. I think of how good God has been to Andy and I and how He is helping us with so many things right now. My prayer contains lots of praise to Him for what He has already done to bless us. I think of all the different friends and relatives who have various needs that I can bring before the Lord. Many missionaries that I know who are serving the Lord throughout the world need my encouragement through prayer. I also pray for various churches and their pastors that I know. My ministry, my kids within that ministry, our financial donors and prayer partners. I begin to pray! I pray fervently! I pray boldly! God is right there with me, listening to me. I pause often, to listen to Him. Our sleepless night fellowship is sweet indeed!

I love those times of quiet prayer with God. In the quiet calm of our house at nighttime, its a great thing to do. I don’t dare get out of bed, or else I would begin to see too many things that need to be done, right now! And I would miss out on this precious time with God. No, I stay in the warmth of my bed, in quietness and calm, I cry out to God. That prayer time brings peace to my soul. It brings me closer to God as I feel His presence right there with me, listening to my every word. It strengthens my relationship with the people that I am praying for. So, its a good thing to do on this sleepless night.

The last time I remember looking at the clock, it read 3:47. Our dog Max, wanted to go outside to do his thing. “Hurry up little dude, its cold outside!” It isn’t long before I crawl back to bed, curl up under the covers, say goodnight to God, and fall fast asleep.

I know God heard my sleepless night prayers. And while I slept, I also know that He was working on the answers to those prayers. And for that, I am truly thankful for those sleepless nights!