Friday, June 29, 2012

Giving and Getting Comfort (1 Cor. 1:3-7)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7, NASB)

I would give a lot to live without constant pain and fatigue. I would love to wake up one morning and feel well. It would be a pretty amazing thing …

But that doesn’t seem to be God’s plan. Oh, I’ve prayed for healing. Others have as well. And I believe with all my heart that God could take my pain away.

So, since He hasn’t healed my earthly pain, I’ve had to make a choice: wallow in the pain or see a greater purpose in it. And I choose the latter.

That’s why I love verses like today’s. There is a purpose in pain. For me, one purpose is that it keeps me focused on God. I know I can’t handle it on my own. Those mornings when I wake up and it’s all I can do to even get out of bed? I immediately ask the Lord for strength, just to get through that day. And He does.

The other purpose is that I’m able to comfort others who deal with health issues. I can offer a shoulder or a hug. I can give advice based on my own experience. I can pray with them and for them.

There’s nothing quite like having someone who’s experienced something similar to what you’re going through. While my wonderful husband loves me and wants to help me, he really doesn’t “get it.” And I’m glad he doesn’t because I wouldn’t want him to live with the pain I do.

So when I need a bit of comfort myself, I tend to gravitate to others who can empathize. To those who say—and mean it—“I know what you’re going through.” Not a pity party, mind you … just a feeling that I’m not on this journey alone.

Yes, I’d love to be pain-free. But since I’m not, I can feel blessed because I know God is using my pain.

It’s not just about physical pain. Whatever you’ve experienced—abuse, infertility, divorce, addiction—God can use that experience to help and comfort others. You can directly impact the lives of those who are on similar paths to your own.

And that’s one of the greatest blessings.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Grace and Peace (2 Cor. 1:1-2)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 1:1-2, NASB)

Today begins a several-weeks journey through Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth. And as always, he starts by greeting his brothers and sisters.

I’m sure I’ve written this before, but letter-writing—true pen to paper letter-writing—is a lost art. I’m as guilty as the next person … I rarely sit down and actually hand-write a letter to friends and family.

Certainly, I text and message and email, but taking out a piece of lovely stationery and pen? Not so much. It’s kind of sad. I still have many of the handwritten notes my husband wrote when we were dating. He’d often leave one on my car or slip one in a silly card. Those notes document a part of our history together. Now he’ll text a silly comment or two, but I don’t keep those.

Kind of sad.

But I guess, even if we don’t hand-write any more, one of the most important things is keeping in touch. And even more important? Praying that our friends and family experience the grace and peace that comes only through relationship with Jesus.

And so, as we head down this path through 2 Corinthians, I pray the same for you: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Search Me, O God ... (Ps. 139:23-34)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
         Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
         And lead me in the everlasting way.

(Psalm 139:23-24, NASB)

I’ve read these verses countless times. I’ve memorized them. I’ve quoted them. And yet I forget how profound these two short verses are.

Search me, O God, and know my heart …

I want to be intimately connected to my Abba Father. I want Him to be the focus of my thoughts, of my heart. I want every part of me to be open to Him.

Try me and know my anxious thoughts …

He knows the trials I face. He knows my struggles. He uses those to refine and mold me. But He also knows I can be anxious and worried at times—I’m only human, after all.

And see if there be any hurtful way in me …

God knows the deepest parts of my heart, those areas I hide from the world. He knows my weaknesses. I want to be free from any thought or action that would hurt others—or myself.

And lead me in the everlasting way.

As a daughter of the King, as a follower of Christ, I know—beyond doubt—where I’ll spend eternity. I’m going to be with my God—Father, Son, and Spirit—forever.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

God's Enemies (Ps. 139:19-22)

O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
         Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
         And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD?
         And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
         They have become my enemies.

(Psalm 139:19-22, NASB)

Solomon wrote, “… there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). Isn’t that the truth? Centuries ago, David wrote about those who spoke against God and took His name in vain. God’s enemies rose up against Him, and David considered God’s enemies his own.

And what’s happening today? A new generation of atheists is inviting people to actually denounce God—Father, Son, and Spirit—on an on-line forum. It seems that the only acceptable swear words are “Jesus Christ” or “Oh my God.” You don’t hear anyone saying “Buddha” or “Oh my Krishna.” It’s only the name of the one true God that’s taken in vain.

One thing has changed, however, since David wrote this psalm. God Himself came to earth in human form, and Jesus spoke of loving our enemies and loving others as ourselves. David hated his enemies and wanted to see them destroyed. We, one the other hand, should love them. We should do all we can do to help them see truth.

And we must stand firm in our own faith, continually filling our minds with God’s word. We must ask God to fill our hearts with love for those who speak against God. We must let our hearts be broken when we think of how the enemy has brainwashed so many.

Monday, June 25, 2012

How Precious Are Your Thoughts (Ps. 130:17-18)

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
         How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand
         When I awake, I am still with You.

(Psalm 139:17-18, NASB)

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, reminding him—and us—that He is God. All-knowing. All-powerful. All-loving.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
         Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
         So are My ways higher than your ways
         And My thoughts than your thoughts.”


Honestly? I find this very comforting. I wouldn’t want to serve a God whom I could fully understand. I love the mystery of a God who is so great and so vast. He is the Creator; I am the created. As it should be.

The really great thing? He is so much greater and higher than I, but He still reveals so much of Himself. Through His word. Through His creation.

I may not know everything. I may not understand everything. But I do know this: My God loves me more than I can truly comprehend. And He holds my life in His gracious and merciful hands. I can have confidence in His plan for me.

So can you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Ps. 139:13-16)

For You formed my inward parts;
         You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
         Wonderful are Your works,
         And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
         When I was made in secret,
         And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
    Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
         And in Your book were all written
         The days that were ordained for me,
         When as yet there was not one of them.

(Psalm 139:13-16, NASB)

Fearfully and wonderfully made. 

I often joke when I speak that many of us would agree with “fearfully.” I’m downright scary! you say. But that’s not what “fearfully” means. It means “awesomely.”

Awesomely. Wonderfully.

You are awesomely and wonderfully made. If you have a relationship with Jesus, you are God’s beloved daughter or son. God looks at you and sees such beauty. Have you stopped to think about that?

So often, all we see are the scars, the flaws, the wrinkles. We see the many mistakes. The hidden sin. The times we strayed.

But God doesn’t see all of that. Those of us who are cleansed by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial blood are as white as snow in the eyes of our Abba Father (see Psalm 51). He sees purity where we see sin. He sees beauty where we see ugliness. He sees awesome where we see a big ol’ mess.

Try and see yourself the way your Lord God does. Look through His eyes. Know that you’re awesome and wonderful. 

And you are.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Night as Bright as Day (Ps. 139:11-12)

If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
         And the light around me will be night,"
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
         And the night is as bright as the day
         Darkness and light are alike to You.

(Psalm 139:11-12, NASB)

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by darkness. I’ve mentioned in other blogs that I deal with several chronic health issues, and this morning, I’m feeling the effects of each and every one of them … It’s figuratively dark.

It would be really, really easy to wallow in self-pity. I have so much to do, so many things on my plate. 

When I woke up a half hour ago and knew today was going to be a “pull the covers and hibernate” day, my immediate thought was—let’s be frank here—why? I don’t have time. Just so much to do. Definitely not a good day to do what I must do—give my body time to heal.

Then I read verse 11 and yes, I felt the darkness. Oh, but then I read verse 12. There is no darkness in my Lord God. As the apostle John wrote, “…God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It may seem very dark, but I’m not alone. I can bask in the light of my Lord and know He has a reason for today.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by darkness today? If so, I pray for God’s light to shine over and through you. I pray you’ll feel the warmth of His brightness cut through whatever darkness you’re experiencing.

And if you feel in the depths of night, remember: Day is coming.