The Luckiest Guy

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The Luckiest Guy

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world!”

I looked up from my lunch of blueberry pancakes.

“Yeah?” I replied, not knowing what my coworker was talking about, but knowing Marcus,* this was going to be an interesting lunch break.

“It’s true, and I can prove it to you!”

Excitedly the Latino man went on to explain how he had applied for his residency and it had been approved. I, not fully understanding, but wanting to be happy for the guy, issued my hearty congratulations.

“But that’s not all! No! You know I’m from Honduras, you can Google it and see what it’s like there; Second poorest country in the Americas next to Haiti. I applied for a green card, boom, it got accepted like that.”

He wasn’t done.

“I was in the military you know? And we had to go through a minefield this one time, and out of all of the platoon, only four of us survived, and I was fine. Nothing wrong with me.”

I had to admit that sounded pretty lucky. I figured God must really want Marcus around a little longer. He placed his plate on the table and began eating, but he didn’t stop talking.

“You know, the day I got my green card, I applied for a job, and that day, I got a call from HR here at our job, and the next day they hired me and put me to work. I got my green card, and the next day I had a job!”

He shook his head, in awe of these things.

“You know, I have a friend that’s a preacher, and he once told me something I’ll never forget, He said that if all my trust is in God, all I have to do is believe I will have something, and I will have it. I have always remembered that, and now here I am, in my American job, sitting with you, speaking in a different language, and I didn’t even have to try! It was all God! I challenge you Jackson, try believing you will have something! Not like ‘oh lord please give me this thing I want’, but know that you will have it!”

He picked up his glass, and held it out with his eyes closed.

“Trusting God is like when you are holding a glass of water but you can’t see it, and you need a drink, crying ‘I need water, I need sip oh! It’s there! I can’t see it but it’s there! Jesus told us all in (thinks for a moment) Matthew 7:7 that all we need to do is ask and it will be ours. He said give me your burdens so you can be free. I’ve done that Jackson, and look at me! I was born in Honduras, (held his hand level with the table) that’s like the lowest of the low, and God brought me up to here! Now you, you were lucky to born here!, and just imagine how high God can take you! As for me, God’s taking me one step at a time and He’s not done with me yet. I know it.”

There was more to the conversation about not getting exactly what you ask for but sometimes getting better, as well as heaven… but as nice as it was to talk, I really just needed to listen. I needed to hear, and through the excitement of a co-worker, God came to tell me something today.

(This is my attempt at reconstructing a conversation from memory. The quotes are not completely word for word)

*(this is not his real name, figured I would probably need his permission to share that kind of thing.)
©2020 by Matthew Jackson
Used with permission

 

Blind

Blind

 

This story happened this morning at Wal-mart.

Yeah you’ve already got some sort of idea where this is going. I was buying new wipers for my car. The rain here in Cleveland is getting a little slushy and my passenger side wiper was starting to look like a stick with a black shoelace tied to it. I bought a set of wipers, went out into the parking lot and struggled to attach them to my car. The guy parked next to me noticed my struggles and commiserated the frustrations. He and I chatted for a while about it and we came to the conclusion that I had bought the wrong kind of wipers and would have to return them.

Grateful, yet frustrated, I thanked my friendly acquaintance and went back to return my wipers. Soon I was back at the wiper isle trying to decipher the chart of cars and their corresponding wiper designs.

As I glanced confusedly from the chart to the dozens of styles of wiping mechanisms for sale, an older man joined me. He too looked at all of the wipers with confusion and asked if I could help him out. Already occupied with my own confusion, I thought perhaps he was mistaking me for a sales associate, and answered “I’m probably going to need help myself pal.”

I didn’t think this was an unfair statement but the man backed away. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you. We all have our own problems and I should have known you were busy.” I didn’t know if he was being sarcastic or not, but regardless, it dawned on me that I had basically told this man to take his problems elsewhere, that I was too busy to even look up to help him. “You see, I can’t see things up close so I can’t read the chart. I just need help figuring out what kinds of wiper I need for my car,” he continued.

I was immediately convicted. Not necessarily by the severity of my words or even the slight frustration in this man’s voice, but because I realized that I was too busy to see a person in need. Too busy to be kind. Too busy to care.

I stumbled over my apologies and offered to help him, but he insisted I finish finding what I was looking for first. I guiltily looked through the chart, found my car and then my wipers, and then helped my neighbor find the ones he needed. He thanked me for my help and turned to go, but being the apologetic person that I am, asked that he forgive me for my rudeness earlier. He smiled and said “It’s all good man. It’s how we proceeded that matters.”

I nodded and wished him a Merry Christmas, and the greeting was returned. I left that moment thankful; thankful that God gave me a second chance to show his love to someone who needed my help. I now wonder how many times someone has asked for my help and I was too busy with my own cares to look their way. Have I blinded myself with business? The words of Jacob Marley ring in my ears as he preaches of feeling the chains of his blindness to those in need, and the consummation of self-indulgence, and I wonder if I, like Marley, wear chains such as those.

Fortunately, I serve a God who not only breaks chains and sets captives free, but also gives us his eyes to see the daily bread He gives us each day; to do His will. May we all seek to see as God sees, to speak as God speaks, and to love as God loves.

 

©2019 by Matthew Jackson
Used with permission

 

The Choice is Ours

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There is nothing I can add to this excerpt from one of my daily devotionals:

“A Vulture Society vs A Diaconal Society”
by R. J. Rushdooney

Our Lord calls attention over and over again to the lust for power which marks the ungodly, and their dog-eat-dog mentality. It is a philosophy of doing in others before they do you. Christ’s commandment here is blunt and simple: “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26-28).

The choice He tells us is an inescapable one: we have either a vulture society or a diaconal one, a world of hatred, evil, and distrust, or a world of faith, grace, and ministry.

The diaconal society, however, can only be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. The modern state offers a pretended ministry of service as a means to exercising a pagan dominion, and the result is a vulture society of hatred, crime, and exploitation. It has no grace and therefore no ministry.

We cannot escape this choice: the more we build our country on any other foundation than Jesus Christ, the more we become a depraved and vicious social order, a vulture society.

The change must begin with us, and then every area of life and thought must be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. If the Lord does not govern us, the vultures will. 

Take your choice. You pay the price with your life: is it Christ or the vultures?

This is an excerpt from “A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith For All of Life Vol. 2″ by R.J. Rushdoony; Chalcedon/Ross House Books, Copyright 2011, p. 122-123

Complications

Fear Has Big Eyes--Wikipedia

Recently I received  notification congratulating me for six years with WordPress. It’s difficult to believe it has been that long since I timidly began this little adventure. And while the posts have been a bit sparse lately due to some major life changes, thoughts of this blog are rarely far away.

Several days ago, I was checking my “stats” and noticed the following post had received some attention. I went back to re-read it and realized how much I needed to hear my daughter’s wisdom that day, my life having acquired a few of those “complications.”

It is my hope that you too will find encouragement as you read, and be reminded as I was, that God really does have all things under His control. No matter what the mess, He is well able to see us through.

Don’t Send a Boy To Do A Man’s Work

Below is an essay from my daughter’s blog, “My Soul Found Rest.” When she first sent me the rough draft to look over, I was moved by what she wrote. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have never read Wendell Berry; had not even heard of him before my daughter told me that he was the focus of this semester’s Honors College at Belhaven University. I know, this admission shows me to be a severely under-educated individual; there is clearly no limit to the number of things I do not know.

My daughter’s life has, like the rest of ours, had its share of “complications.” It has been part of my job as her mother to help her navigate some of the rough rapids on the river of her life. Occasionally, she has been summarily dumped out of the boat and into the water, leaving her hurt and floundering. Each time though, she has climbed back into the boat and kept on paddling.

It has been a privilege to watch my daughter grow in her faith. She has met the complications in her life by doing what we all should do: turn to the Lord first. She truly believes that life has a “happy ending,” not because she has a false “Pollyanna-like” attitude, but because she has chosen to place her faith in the surety of God and His Word to her. She knows that no matter what this life brings, her Father continues to uphold her; her goal is Heaven. She has learned she doesn’t have to fear the future, she can trust God to use the events in her life which have left her bruised, for His purposes and the maturing of her faith. And, while her life has had no shortage of “bumps in the road,” she has learned, as her father and I have, that there is only one place we can go to find help.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68 (ESV)

It is easy to get bogged down in the trials and tribulations of our lives. We lose our focus; we forget God is Sovereign; we begin to fear we are on a path that has no good end. Just as in the Wendell Berry story referenced below, our Father comes and straightens out the mess we make of our lives and He does so with a deft and gentle Hand. His mercy, His grace, His love always ready to lift us out of the quagmire, setting our feet on solid ground.

It’s Complicated

This was my first honors essay of the semester. The short story referenced is from Wendell Berry’s That Distant Land, a collection of his short stories.

In his short story, “Don’t Send a Boy to Do a Man’s Work,” Wendell Berry describes the consequences of complications. The main character in the story, a twelve-year-old boy named Athey Keith, has been left in charge of overseeing a hog-killing while his father, Carter Keith, is out-of-town. Carter Keith has laid specific plans and enlisted the help of knowledgeable men to make sure the work gets done efficiently and well. However, several complications arise during the hog-killing, which turn the Keiths’ well-laid plans upside down and cause the story to turn in an unexpected direction. The rest of the story hinges on how Athey and the other men deal with the complications.

Complications are hardly an uncommon event in our day-to-day lives. The dictionary built into my computer defines “complicate” as such: “[to] make (something) more difficult or confusing by causing it to be more complex.” Complications, or problems, as we more often call them, seem to arise with impeccable timing whenever we least desire them. Yet it seems that although complications may be sometimes unwelcome and turn our story in unexpected directions, our stories, once finished, become clearer and more illuminating as we reach the end of the book.

The plot’s driving force in Berry’s short story is the three complications and how Athey and the other men handle them. While Athey would certainly have had a much more productive hog-killing and a less harrowing day without any such complications, such a plot (or lack thereof) would not have made much of a story. Stories are driven by conflict.

When I was part of a fiction-writing group in high school, my teacher (a fiction author) had to remind me over and over again that I needed more conflict in my story. What I was writing would have been nice to live, but it was boring to read. There was no impetus to drive the plot forward. I resented her correction, because I wanted to write stories like I wanted to live, sweet, delightful, and all with happy endings. That’s still how I would like to live my life. But I am old enough now to begin to realize that my life is not going to go in a carefully plotted way to reach its happy ending. It’s going to take its twists and turns, and complications (whether small or large) are going to arise.

If I believe the promises of Scripture, that God works in all things for the good of those that are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), then I can navigate the bumps in the road with confidence. But questions still remain, and I am sure that I am not the first person to raise questions such as, “Is there any way to avoid complications? If I can, should I? Do all complications arise from sin? Even if they do, can they still turn out all right in the end (and preferably before the end too)?”

Athey could not have avoided the particular problems that came his way, all of which began with other people. He could not foresee them, nor could he escape them. The only thing he could do was be prepared for them, in the sense that he could be ready to deal with any problems that might occur. But when the complications came, he was not ready. The somewhat cocky young boy that he was, his pride and fear caused him to react in a way that allowed the originally small problems to become big ones.

I don’t think there were any complications in the Garden of Eden. Life there must have been like the story I tried to write—boring to read, but wonderful to live. Like in Berry’s story, the first Biblical complication came from another person. The complications Athey had to deal with all began with other people, but his fear caused him to react in a way that exacerbated the problem instead of solving it. Neither did Adam and Eve begin the first complication in this world, but they chose to yield to it instead of standing up and resisting. This first complication resulted in the fall of man from perfection, and now the human story is, well, complicated. At times it’s positively messy.

I don’t think there’s any way to avoid complications altogether. If there were, someone surely would have found a way by now! We can’t force others into our perfectly molded stories for ourselves—they’re going to bring complications, and sometimes we aren’t going to like the results. But neither our stories nor Berry’s story ends with failures to handle problems correctly. Fortunately for young Athey, his father came back—to a mess, it’s true, but he was quite up to handling the challenge and soon put things back to rights.

The human story doesn’t end with failure either. Although Adam and Eve didn’t have the power to put to right the wrong that they had done—that took someone with the proper authority—our Father sent His Son to earth to handle the challenge and put things back to rights. Unlike Carter Keith, He never has to go on a business trip, leaving us in charge. If Keith had been present at the hog-killing, the complications that arose would have been handled differently, and the resulting problems avoided. Likewise, because the Lord is present, we have the ability to handle the complications that come our way correctly. Not that we always will (in fact, many times we won’t), but we can, through His power. What is more, we have the guarantee that our stories will have happy endings. There might be cliffhangers after some chapters, and plot twists, and some pages might have tears on them. But in the end, we will close the book with a sigh of relief and meet our Author, the finisher of our faith.

Author: My Soul Found Rest (Used with permission)

Original Content: Copyright © 2016 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

We’ve Got It Wrong

Attention by Marcos Tulio--Public Domain Pictures

It’s about the condition of man’s heart–always has been, always will be. We want a quick external fix, but what ails us won’t be fixed that easily. We need the power of the Living God to resonate in our hearts. When we encounter His presence, our lives change–dramatically. And that’s as it should be. . .

From a Far Country

What we want is laws passed.  What we want is people elected who see things our way, who do things our way, who make everybody else do things our way.  What we want is behaviors to change.  We don’t necessarily want hearts changed.  If hearts are changed then that would be okay with us but it’s not the main thing.  We want behaviors changed.  We want to make them change their behavior.

We’ve got it wrong.

It seems to me that our priority should be the spiritual condition of those who oppose us.  It’s not behavior that’s the issue.  It’s heart condition that matters.

I’ve been in Church services where the presence  and power us God was so real it forced me to my knees.  This morning I sat on my porch praying and I knew His presence so real that I was compelled to change, to stop doing one…

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Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?

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From sister-site “Scripture Nuggets“:

This parable gives a good picture of 1 Corinthians 12. Both fellowship and ministries are divided because believers have a wrong estimate of their gifts and place in the body of Christ. Many people think that only they have the whole truth, when all they have is a fragment. The following parable is worthy of your time.

Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?

A solemn assembly was called. Apostles and prophets gathered to sit in conference with one another. Chairs were circled, so no one man would sit at the head. As each man took his seat, an unusual silence filled the room. The men sat staring at one another, almost forgetting the reason they had assembled, not one man wanting to speak. Out of the unusual silence a Voice spoke and asked, “Button, button, who has the button?” As if well-rehearsed, the men jumped to their feet and shouted in chorus, “I’ve got the Button! I’ve got the Button!” Each man raised his arms in the air with closed hands to show the Voice, and then one another, that they indeed were holding the button. Their voices roared, as if trying to drown out one another, shouting with great apostolic and prophetic confidence. “Yes, I’ve got the Button! I’ve got the Button!”

Their voices were hoarse from shouting, the roar subsided, and all responses stopped. And again the unusual silence filled the room, each man still standing with arm raised and hand closed. Slowly, their arms began to drop and each man opened his hand and stared into his palm. The Button was not found in any one hand. But, there was something in each man’s hand… a small piece of the Button. Every man standing in the room was holding a button fragment. Not all of the fragments were the same size or shape. Some were larger, some smaller, some were round and smooth, some oblong and jagged, but each man held some part of the Button.

Again the Voice broke the unusual silence and asked, “Button, button, who has the Button?” This time there was no quick answer. The men stood silent, no longer examining their own button fragment or the fragment of their neighbor. With their heads lowered, arms hanging limp at their sides, all boasting stopped. They stood dumfounded in the unusual silence. Finally, one man confessed in a broken voice, “I don’t have the Button…” And another whispered, “I don’t have the Button…” And another, with a deep sigh, “I don’t have the Button…” This time the response was personal, quiet, and remorseful, as every man admitted to himself, to the Voice, and to his peers, “I don’t have the Button.”

Once again, the unusual silence filled the room. Moments passed into eternity. And again the Voice broke the unusual silence. “I gave you bits and pieces, but you assumed you possessed the Whole. I sought to increase and shape those pieces, but you refused to open your hand. I desired to enlarge your fragments and mold them with other fragments, but you refused to let go. My gift you made into your possession. My generosity you turned into exclusiveness. My revelation has become your prejudice. You speak of unity, yet build invisible barriers between yourselves with your boasting, “I’ve got the Button.” As you see, all you really have is a fragment. And you are protecting, exalting, and defending your fragment as if it were the Whole. My sons, you have not yet seen the Whole!”

No longer were men standing; they were on their faces. The Button fragments had slipped from their hands and lay scattered around the floor. Their hands were empty. Their self-confident hearts were broken and their proud spirits softened. For the third time the Voice asked, “Button, button, who has the Button?” Through tears of contrition came the gentle reply, “Lord, You have the Button!”

–C. Brown

Pastor George Belobaba

Copyright © 2011 by Scripture Nuggets Ministries
All rights reserved

“My Humility And How I Attained It”

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“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6b (NKJV)

One of our favorite family one-liners, when we catch ourselves sounding a bit less than humble, is this:  “Have you read my book, ‘My Humility And How I Attained It?'”

When I was growing up in suburban Milwaukee, WI, there was an empty lot next door. Eventually, this was purchased by a family and a house was built. The family who lived there was not readily accepted by the other neighbors living on our street primarily because “Mrs. R” was always bragging about how much bigger her house was, how successful her husband’s television repair shop was, how much money they had, and how brilliant her children were. This attitude spawned a saying of my father’s invention: “She struts when she sits.”

I am keenly aware lately how much pride is infused into everything we do–even as Christians. We are proud of our sports teams, proud of our schools and colleges, proud of our houses, our cars, our kids, our jobs, our education, our ethnic background, even our pastors, theology, and denominations. You name it, we’re proud of it.

It is no wonder our culture and country are such a mess. It’s often difficult to tell the Christians from the non-Christians by how we act and speak. We listen to the same music, watch the same movies and television shows, read the same books, use the same language, and go to the same events. We get so caught up, we don’t take time to examine whether what we are doing pleases the Lord or is even fitting behavior for ambassadors of the King of Kings.

Like “Mrs. R,” our lives have become a never-ending strut of pride. Of course, we don’t call it that. We use affable sounding words like “self-esteem” and “being proud of ourselves.” We “deserve” those blessings which have come our way because we worked harder, were more talented, smarter, or more “special” than others. It is no wonder God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Pride is ugly–in all its various forms.

As for me, I need to constantly keep a guard on my attitude and  mouth, reminding myself Who is the Giver and Sustainer of my life.  All good things flow from His Hand and He graciously allows me to share in them. I didn’t earn them, I certainly don’t deserve them, and I have no right to be proud of anything He freely gives me.

As I look around me at the Church, our country, and our culture, I have to wonder, what are we so proud of?

A bit of humility would go a long way. . .

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5: 6 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2015 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

The Long, Dark Hallway

Long Dark Hallway

(The following parable is the result of a time of intense prayer for a deeply troubled friend.)

Margaret walked as if in a dream. She found herself in a long, dark hallway, many doors on either side. With no visible light, she was puzzled how she could see anything at all. There seemed to be no end to the hallway she was in; she could not see where it led. As Margaret slowly made her way down the hallway, each successive door opened, spilling light into the darkened hallway, and then closed of its own accord, leaving darkness where once had been light. Door after door opened and closed as she walked, finally leaving her in total darkness.

Then she heard these words softly spoken:

“Each doorway represents a friendship or relationship that has ended because you would not let them into your heart. The hallways of your heart echo with your loneliness. You pushed away the people you love and those who loved you in return, because you have been afraid. Fear has choked out true joy. You have run from relationships because you did not believe anything in you could be loved. You rejected others before they could reject you. The vulnerability of your heart, when you loved, terrified you. You chose to hide behind sarcasm; wounding others with your careless words, hoping against hope to protect yourself. You have become cold and distant, wanting to be left alone, thinking this was somehow simpler, easier.”

“And yet this has not worked. You have found no peace. Your life is empty. You are haunted by the darkness in your heart and the memories of hurt in the eyes of those you have shut out. This pain is more than you can bear. And yet, you push it deeper and deeper so you won’t have to deal with it.”

“You have lived your life and made your choices as if you alone determine your course. You have forgotten you belong to Me. I chose before the foundations of the world which steps you should take. I placed people into your life to add richness to it and help you grow. I have not given you every ability you will need to accomplish My Kingdom purposes. You need the strengths and skills of others to help you.”

“You now face a choice. You may continue down this current path, wind up alone and unloved, or you can turn around. None of these doors are locked. All you need do is to open each one and step in. Love still waits for you through those doorways, but you must repent for your fear, repent for your hard heart, repent for your selfishness, and repent for the hurt you have caused others.”

“Margaret, the choice is yours and yours alone. But be careful, because you shall have whichever you choose.”

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. Deuteronomy 30:19 (NKJV)

For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. Psalm 18:28 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2015 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Messy Places Require Tidying

The Basement--Photobucket

“Messy places require tidying and permanent cleanness requires God.”

We all have “messy places.” God has been busy lately showing me where all of mine are. One of God’s great desires is to get into the deepest recesses of my heart, dispelling the darkness that resides there. And when He sweeps those nasty, dank places clean with the power of the Holy Spirit, I am clean indeed.

The following is from my daughter’s blog, “My Soul Found Rest.” I am so grateful for all that God has been doing in her life and for her willingness to let Him do it.

The Hidden Place

“Hello? Is anyone there?” I brushed away the cobwebs from the doorway and peered into the gloom. A chill breeze brushed past me, and I shivered. The thought of venturing into such a forbidding place was unthinkable. I stood in the doorway, teetering with indecision.

Musty rooms, cobwebs, chill breezes: such are the components of a bad horror story. But this is no horror story; it is a vivid picture of what goes on inside me. That doorway is the door to my heart, the deepest place inside me where I fear to tread. “Here there be monsters,” reads the saying, and that’s exactly what it feels like.

What’s inside? What squashed hopes, unfulfilled dreams, thwarted longings, long-held grudges, impassioned jealousies, and gripping fears might turn into terrible beasts and leap out at me from the shadows? What holds me captive and prevents me from accepting the truth that has penetrated only so far as my mind? Do I even want to know?

The truth is that sometimes I don’t. If I’m totally honest, life seems a lot easier when I can cover over and tidy the entrance to the messy places. With a little paint and dim lighting, it looks almost respectable. But when God digs deep within, and the lamp of the Lord lights up my innermost places, then the façade is shown for what is.

I tremble when I hear the “suggestion” of the Lord: “Daughter, let’s go down here. What’s in here?” The question is for my benefit–it’s not as if He doesn’t know. I don’t want to answer His question or follow His suggestion. But messy places require tidying, and permanent cleanness requires God, not my shabby painting skills. Clinging to Him, I follow the light of His lantern through the doorway.

I am willing, Lord, because Yours is the hand that does the tidying…

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

“The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the inner depths of his heart.” Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

By My Soul Found Rest
Copyright © 2012
Used with permission

To Love And Be Loved

Love

The following poem is one of my favorites.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

Oh, My Love Has An Eye Of The Softest Blue

Oh, my love has an eye of the softest blue,
Yet it was not that that won me;
But a little bright drop from her soul was there,
‘Tis that that has undone me.

I might have pass’d that lovely cheek,
Nor perchance my heart have left me;
But the sensitive blush that came trembling there,
Of my heart if forever bereft me.

I might have forgotten that red, red lip,
Yet how from that thought to sever?
But there was a smile from the sunshine within,
And that smile I’ll remember forever.

Think not ’tis nothing but lifeless clay,
The elegant form that haunts me;
‘Tis the gracefully elegant mind that moves
In every step, that enchants me.

Let me not hear the nightgale sing,
Though I once in its notes delighted;
The feeling and mind that comes whispering forth
Has left me no music beside it.

Who could blame had I loved that face,
Ere my eye could twice explore her;
Yet it is for the fairy intelligence there,
And her warm, warm heart, I adore her.

by Rev. Charles Wolfeby
(Dublin; 1791-1823)

Transformed By Grace

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But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.  Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. Revelation 2:14-16 (NKJV)

There is little doubt in most people’s minds that our nation is in serious trouble. The church, even for its multitude of sermons on God’s love and limitless grace, has been ineffective in turning this country towards righteousness. The body of Christ in America has become “nicer than God.” We have convinced ourselves that since God’s grace costs us nothing, it comes cheap, and as a result, we value it little. We tolerate that which God says He hates, and evil proliferates.

We are infatuated with God’s grace, but have not been transformed by it.

The grace of God is not a free pass to live life as we please. The power inherent in God’s vast and wondrous grace is earth-shattering, life-changing, and all-encompassing. God extends His grace to the humble and contrite.

God’s grace transforms; it does not coddle; it does not excuse.

If we continue to live unrepentant, unchanged lives, tolerating behavior which God has told us we should not, then God’s grace has not transformed us. 

If we continue to fill our empty lives with more possessions, more activities, more vanity, then God’s grace has not transformed us. 

If, in our infatuation with a cheap and easy grace, we have ignored God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice, then God’s grace has not transformed us.

And the great power of God’s grace will remain far from us.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2015 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Smorgasbord

Smorgasbord-Pixaby

Smorgasbord: a wide range of something; a variety
New Oxford American Dictionary

Scandinavians are known for their generous hospitality and smorgasbords–buffets ladened with a variety of delicious foods. Christianity in American has become much like one of these smorgasbords–a bit of something meant to please everyone.

The paragraphs below come from my daily devotionals and contain words of warning for us all. While many make resolutions for the New Year which then become quickly discarded, we would be wise to diligently seek out and remove the sin of syncretism from our midst. We teeter on the same cliff’s edge as the northern kingdom of Israel and may endure its fate if we do not change our ways.

The Great Commandment

One of the problems many people have with understanding the history of Israel, the northern kingdom, after its separation from Judah in Rehoboam’s day is their failure to understand Israel’s sin, syncretism. Syncretism means trying to combine things which are alien, such as Christianity and humanism.

Israel never formally renounced the worship of the Lord. In fact, to the last the nation believed that it was a covenant people worshipping God the Lord. In reality, what they had done was to absorb everything from Baalism that appealed to them, so that, in the name of the Lord, they were worshipping a god who was the creation of their imagination. Their idea of serving God was to absorb every religious idea which to them seemed attractive. Because they forgot that man as a sinner finds attractive things which cater to his sin, they failed to see that they were in fact creating a religion in their own fallen image rather than conforming themselves to the Lord. As a result, God sent them into captivity and destroyed the Kingdom. There was more hope for Judah, because Judah was usually either hot or cold, either strong in the faith or openly apostate. Our Lord makes clear His hatred of lukewarmness (Rev. 3:14ff.), and Israel was always lukewarm.

The churches today are very much like old Israel, syncretistic. Too often, we get, not Christianity from the pulpit, but a smorgasbord of assorted religious ideas. All this adds up to the word of man, not the Word of God. “The word of truth” (Ephesians 1:13) cannot be diluted without ceasing to be the truth.

I once met a very pleasant man, whose pleasantness soon began to look suspiciously empty. What does he stand for?” I asked someone who knew him well. The answer was briefly put: “For everything, and for nothing.” That answer sums up what syncretism leads to: it stands for nothing. Our Lord tells us that the first and great commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, with all our being (Matthew 22:36-38). No syncretist can keep that law.

R.J. Rushdooney
“A Word in Season,” Volume 4, pg. 110-111
Chalcedon/Ross House Books
© 2012
http://chalcedon.edu

Letting Go

Candle-65814_640--Pixaby

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

For the little over a year since my husband’s unexpected death, life has taken some rather interesting and unexpected twists and turns. Some of these changes have been joyous (like my daughter’s marriage to a wonderful young man), while others have stretched me to capacity.

I have had to let go of much: a husband dearly loved, a job I would never have left had circumstances been different, a daughter whose focus is now a husband (as it should be); said good-bye to family, dear friends, a beloved church, a beautiful home, and all the hopes and dreams for a life which can no longer be. Doors I thought God was opening, have been clearly shut, leaving me with a life I never wanted.

And yet, I am filled with hope for the future.

Looking over this past year, I am overwhelmed with God’s incredible love, grace, and mercy. He has protected me more times than I can count. I see how each one of these closed doors has been an expression of His great love for me. And while life often seemed like shifting sand, an Anchor held me through it all.

When I am tempted to let self-pity sneak in, I remind myself of all Jesus Christ let go of in order that we should be reconciled to the Father. How could I give much importance to my losses in comparison?

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (NKJV)

This is the season when we easily become distracted by so many things: shopping, Christmas parties, family get-togethers, plus a thousand non-essentials. The pressure to fit everything in becomes overwhelming and exhausting.

Maybe it’s time to let go of what we have come to expect of ourselves and others and focus on what is most important.

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:14-15 (NKJV)

Copyright© 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All Rights Reserved

May also be found at Gospel Blog by FEBC
http://blog.febc.org/letting-go-focusing-on-whats-most-important/

 

Charity Begins At Work

Now Repairing-Symbol by George Hodan--Public Domain Pictures

Priorities

An English writer, Graham Dawson, has written on the necessity for Christians to be mindful of the spiritual importance of material things. The trouble with modern thinkers, he says is their failure to see the relationship between the two. As a result, they are hostile to the producer of wealth, and they favor expropriation as the means of helping the needy.

To the contrary, he says, “The creation of wealth is, indeed, the most fundamental social service of all. It is no exaggerations to say: Charity begins at work.” Thus Christians need to be creators of wealth in order to further the Lord’s work, materially and spiritually.

Life is our time for work, for “the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). The discipline of work is neglected in our day. It is tragic that in a time of greater prosperity than in a generation or two ago we have used that prosperity for recreational rather than Kingdom purposes. Men have shifted their priorities from the Lord to themselves.

It should not surprise us then, that we have today a society that is lawless. If men will neglect their duties to the Lord, they will neglect them to one another. We have the results all around us.

Our Lord declares, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). As long as men seek first their satisfaction and their own welfare, the Lord’s work will suffer, and our fellow-men will be forgotten. Our priorities must be commanded by the Word of God.

R.J. Rushdooney
A Word In Season, Vol. 3, ©2011
Pages 123-124
Chalcedon/Ross House Books

Bits Of Abraham Kuyper

Town Church by Jon Luty--Public Domain Pictures

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), a Dutch theologian, statesman, journalist, and politician was prime minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905.

In 1862, he became a Dutch Reformed Church minister. Inspired by the simple reformed faith of a farmer’s wife, he began to oppose  centralization in the church and the role of the King in that centralization. He became a proponent of separation of church and state because of those strongly held beliefs.

Here in North America, his political and theological views have  appreciably impacted the Reformed community. He is considered the father of Dutch Neo-Calvinism. Here are a few of his words:

In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, “That is mine!”

He is your friend who pushes you nearer to God.

It is not your idea, not your understanding, not your thinking, not your reasoning, not even your profession of faith, that here can quench the thirst. The home-sickness goes out after God Himself… it is not the name of God but God Himself whom your soul desires and cannot do without.

Whatever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand – in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science – he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of God. He is employed in the service of his God. He has strictly to obey his God. And above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.

When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.

The “book of nature” must always be read in light of God’s special revelation, the Bible.

The curse should no longer rest upon the world itself, but upon that which is sinful in it, and instead of monastic flight from the world the duty is now emphasized of serving God in the world, in every position in life.

We can exert power for good, therefore, only if we are prepared to drum it into our heads that the church of Christ can never exert influence on civil society directly, only indirectly.

Original Content: Copyright© 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All Rights Reserved

Nevertheless

Help by Anna Cervova

After a month of considering some upcoming personal and professional changes, God has drawn me to this passage. I am reminded where my strength comes from to deal with what lies ahead:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73: 23-26 (NKJV)

Bits Of A. J. Gossip

Desert Blooms by Andrew Schmidt

A.J. Gossip (1873-1954) was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland and Professor of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at the University of Glasgow. Gossip’s passion was preaching practical applications of the Gospel–applications he had tried and tested through his own experiences, bringing comfort, strength, and hope to others who were hurting.

You will not stroll into Christlikeness with your hands in your pockets, shoving the door open with a careless shoulder. This is no hobby for one’s leisure moments, taken up at intervals when we have nothing much to do, and put down and forgotten when our life grows full and interesting… It takes all one’s strength, and all one’s heart, and all one’s mind, and all one’s soul, given freely and recklessly and without restraint.

At the very moment when the pulpit has fallen strangely silent about sin, fiction can talk of little except evil, not indeed viewed as sin, but apparently as the invariable ways of a peculiarly repulsive insect, which it can’t help, poor thing; and there is no manner of use expecting anything from it, except the nastiness natural to it.

Do you find life too difficult for you? So did we, but not now, with the amplitudes of grace there are for us in Jesus Christ, it grows satisfying and successful and exciting beyond measure, becomes another and a richer thing.

We can do nothing, we say sometimes, we can only pray. That, we feel, is a terribly precarious second-best. So long as we can fuss and work and rush about, so long as we can lend a hand, we have some hope; but if we have to fall back upon God — ah, then things must be critical indeed!

Christ holds that prayer is a tremendous power which achieves what, without it, was a sheer impossibility. And this amazing thing you can set into operation. And the fact that you are not so using it, and simply don’t believe in it and its efficiency and efficacy as our fathers did, and that so many nowadays agree with you, is certainly a major reason why the churches are so cold, and the promises seem so tardy of fulfillment.

 If we are whimpering, and sniveling, and begging to be spared the discipline of life that is sent to knock some smatterings of manhood into us, the answer to that prayer may never come at all. Thank God! If you are not bleating to get off, but asking to be given grace and strength to see this through with honour, “The very day” you pray that prayer, the answer always comes.

Do not burn false fire upon God’s altar; do not pose and pretend, either to Him or to yourself, in your religious exercises; do not say more than you mean, or use exaggerated language that goes beyond the facts, when speaking to Him whose word is truth.

You cannot escape Christ, do what You will. You reject His divinity, but, so doing, you have not evaded Him. If He is a man just like us, then obviously you must be a man like Him.

What exactly has Christ done for you? What is there in your life that needs Christ to explain it, and that, apart from Him, simply could not have been there at all? If there is nothing, then your religion is a sheer futility. But then that is your fault, not Jesus Christ’s.

Thanksgiving is the language of heaven, and we had better start to learn it if we are not to be mere dumb aliens there.

The core and essence of the Gospel is its tremendous and glorious revelation of how deadly is God’s hatred of sin, so that He cannot stand having it in the same universe as Himself, and will go any length, and will pay any price, and will make any sacrifice, to master and abolish it, is set upon so doing in our hearts, thank God, as elsewhere.

God has the right to be trusted; to be believed that He means what He says; and that His love is dependable.

Original Content: Copyright© 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All Rights Reserved

Too Easily Pleased

 

Beach by Bobby Mikul--Public Domain Pictures

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.

 We are far too easily pleased.”

The Weight Of Glory
C. S. Lewis

More Bits Of A. B. Simpson

Quill Pen And Ink

Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843-1919) was born in Canada to Scottish parents. He became a Presbyterian minister and pastored several churches in Ontario before accepting the call to pastor the largest Presbyterian church in Louisville, KY.  During a revival meeting at that church, he experienced the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Author of 70 books on vibrant Christian living, he founded the The Christian and Missionary Alliance.  This was a man who had a heart for bringing the gospel to nations.

Difficulties and obstacles are God’s challenges to faith. When hindrances confront us in the path of duty, we are to recognize them as vessels for faith to fill with the fullness and all-sufficiency of Jesus.

God does not so much want us to do things as to let people see what He can do.

 I would rather play with forked lightning, or take in my hand living wires with their fiery current, than speak a reckless word against any servant of Christ, or idly repeat the slanderous darts which thousands of Christian are hurling on others.

As long as you want anything very much, especially more than you want God, it is an idol.

We must learn to live on the heavenly side and look at things from above. To contemplate all things as God sees them, as Christ beholds them, overcomes sin, defies Satan, dissolves perplexities, lifts us above trials, separates us from the world and conquers fear of death.

Holiness of heart and life. This is not the perfection of the human nature, but the holiness of the divine nature dwelling within.

We may not preach a crucified Saviour without being also crucified men and women. It is not enough to wear an ornamental cross as a pretty decoration. The cross that Paul speaks about was burned into his very flesh, was branded into his being, and only the Holy Spirit can burn the true cross into our innermost life.

One of the special marks of the Holy Ghost in the Apostolic Church was the spirit of boldness.

God is not looking for extraordinary characters as His instruments, but He is looking for humble instruments through whom He can be honored throughout the ages.

Often we want people to pray for us and help us, but we always defeat our object when we look too much to them and lean upon them. The true secret of union is for both to look upon God, and in the act of looking past themselves to Him they are unconsciously united.

There is no harm whatever in having money, houses, lands, friends and children if you do not value these things or ones for themselves.

Our God has boundless resources. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking, our praying are too small. Our expectations are too limited.

There is no wonder more supernatural and divine in the life of a believer than the mystery and ministry of prayer…the hand of the child touching the arm of the Father and moving the wheel of the universe.

Like a chain which depends upon its weakest link, if God’s Word is not absolutely and completely true, it is too weak a cable to fix our anchorage and guarantee our eternal peace.

There are two ways of getting out of a trial. One is simply to try to get rid of the trial, and be thankful when it is over. The other is to recognize the trial as a challenge from God to claim a larger blessing than we have ever had, and to hail it with delight as an opportunity of obtaining a larger measure of divine grace.

You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience.

 

Original Content: Copyright© 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All Rights Reserved

 

 

Bits Of A. B. Simpson

Last Light--Photobucket

Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843-1919) was born in Canada to Scottish parents. He became a Presbyterian minister and pastored several churches in Ontario before accepting the call to pastor the largest Presbyterian church in Louisville, KY.  During a revival meeting at that church, he experienced the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Author of 70 books on vibrant Christian living, he founded the The Christian and Missionary Alliance.  This was a man who had a heart for bringing the gospel to nations.

We begin life with the natural, next we come into the spiritual; but then, when we have truly received the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the natural is added to the spiritual, and we are able to receive the gifts of His providence and the blessings of life without becoming centered in them or allowing them to separate us from Him.

One touch of Christ is worth a lifetime of struggling.

We must never forget that Christ did not suffer just during His three years of public ministry or the last few days of His life when He was crucified. No, He suffered throughout His life on earth. He who was without sin lived daily with the corruption and sinfulness of lost humanity.

Christ is not a reservoir but a spring. His life is continual, active and ever passing on with an outflow as necessary as its inflow. If we do not perpetually draw the fresh supply from the living Fountain, we shall either grow stagnant or empty, It is, therefore, not so much a perpetual fullness as a perpetual filling.

Aggressive Christianity is the world’s greatest need.

Perils as well as privileges attend the higher Christian life. The nearer we come to God, the thicker the hosts of darkness in heavenly places.

The sanctified body is one whose hands are clean. The stain of dishonesty is not on them, the withering blight of ill-gotten gain has not blistered them, the mark of violence is not found upon them. They have been separated from every occupation that could displease God or injure a fellow-man.

God means every Christian to be effective, to make a difference in the actual records and results of Christian work. God put each of us here to be a power. There is not one of us but is an essential wheel of the machinery and can accomplish all that God calls us to.

The Christian that is bound by his own horizon, the church that lives simply for itself, is bound to die a spiritual death and sink into stagnancy and corruption. We never can thank God enough for giving us not only a whole Gospel to believe, but a whole world to give it to.

The chief danger of the Church today is that it is trying to get on the same side as the world, instead of turning the world upside down. Our Master expects us to accomplish results, even if they bring opposition and conflict. Anything is better than compromise, apathy, and paralysis. God, give to us an intense cry for the old-time power of the Gospel and the Holy Ghost!

When you become satisfied with God, however, everything else so loses its charm that He can give it to you without harm.

The human body has been called the microcosm of the universe, a little world of wonders and a monument of divine wisdom and power, sufficient to convince the most incredulous mind of the existence of the Great Designer.

God is preparing His heroes. And when the opportunity comes, He can fit them into their places in a moment. And the world will wonder where they came from.

Original Content: Copyright © 2014 Susan E. Johnson
All Rights Reserved

More Bits Of Andrew Murray

Pipe Organ In Church by Petr KratochvilAndrew Murray (1828-1917) was born in South Africa to missionary parents. Educated in Scotland, he returned to South Africa as a pastor and teacher. He was a prolific writer having authored over 240 books and was instrumental in the South African Revival of 1860. Below are just a few examples of his wisdom and evidence of his passionate faith.

“The greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us. In man, humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility. The holiest will be the humblest.”

“God has no more precious gift to a church or an age than a man who lives as an embodiment of His will, and inspires those around him with the faith of what grace can do.”

“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do.”

“Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts.”

“If the spiritual life be healthy, under the full power of the Holy Spirit, praying without ceasing will be natural.”

“We have within us a self that has its poison from Satan–from hell–and yet we cherish and nourish it. What do we not do to please self and nourish self–and we make the devil within us strong. . . Look at your own life. What are the works of hell? They are chiefly these three: self-will, self-trust, and self-exaltation.”

“Abide in Jesus, the sinless One – which means, give up all of self and its life, and dwell in God’s will and rest in His strength. This is what brings the power that does not commit sin.”

“Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine.”

“The world asks, ‘What does a man own?’ Christ asks, ‘How does he use it?'”

“Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, His glory and power flow in.”

Original Content: Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Discipline Applied

Ballet Class by Sallie Stone--Public Domain Pictures

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6 (ESV)

I have been thinking about a discussion I had with my husband many years ago on the subject of discipline; not just that internal driving force which allows us to get things done, but also the external pressure applied to correct behavior that needs correcting. My husband recounted a conversation he had with my daughter about ballet and the discipline inherent in the pursuit of excellence in that field. As a result of that conversation, he had a revelation about God’s discipline in our own lives.

You see, in a typical ballet class, you can tell what the teacher thinks of your potential as a dancer by how often you are corrected. The more a teacher tells you what you are doing wrong, and how to fix it, the more you know the level of his or her respect for you as a dancer. My daughter, Hannah, greatly desires correction in her dance classes for this reason. She considers a ballet class without any corrections a disappointment.

Another example of discipline, externally applied, is the boot camp which is every new recruit’s entrance into military service. No one’s under any illusion that boot camp is going to be a relaxing vacation. The purpose of boot camp is to apply external discipline in hopes of instilling internal discipline into an otherwise undisciplined lot. This is liberally applied by someone who does a lot of yelling and screaming while making you do things you would rather not be doing. After six weeks of intense physical, emotional, and psychological training, you are considered ready for basic military life.

I vividly recall seeing my husband after his six weeks of boot camp in San Diego, California, the first step to entering the U.S. Navy Submarine Service. He appeared a markedly different man than the one I knew. This was more than just the obvious haircut and naval uniform. He carried himself differently and had an “air” about him. The experience changed him. During the couple of days we were allowed to spend together between boot camp and the first of eighteen months worth of specialized schools he was about to attend, he recounted his experiences of the previous six weeks–none of which sounded any fun. He told me of his Chief Petty Officer who kept screaming, “PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL, RECRUIT!!” Each and every recruit knew that paying attention to detail might one day save their lives.

Anyone who is serious about serving the Lord and accomplishing God’s call on their life, has gone through their own spiritual “boot camp” experience. We don’t call it that, of course. For some of us this training period is years, or even decades long, making for an extended painful learning experience. But, just as the Chief Petty Officer yelled during my husband’s boot camp experience, God commands us to “pay attention to detail, recruit”–for the exact same reason.

What if we viewed God’s chastisement like my daughter approaches correction in her ballet classes? What if we saw God’s discipline as something to be embraced instead of avoided?

The maturing of our faith is a life-long, never-ending process. We can’t allow ourselves to become spiritually complacent or self-satisfied. God knows what is buried in the deepest recesses of our hearts. He knows those ugly sins we expertly hide from others.  Thankfully, God loves us too much to let us stay where we are.

As for me, I have determined to welcome God’s “size nine management” to my “seat of learning.” Just as Hannah is convinced her teacher’s respect is demonstrated by each correction given in ballet class, I am convinced “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

While I may not enjoy the process of discipline applied, I can rest assured it is essential for my continued spiritual growth. I am grateful God did not leave me as I was ten years ago. Ten years from now, I will look back at who I am today with the same gratitude.

This is the process of sanctification:

Day in and day out,

The discipline of the Lord applied,

Until we begin to look more like Him.

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

 

More Bits Of Matthew Henry

Casket With Jewelry by Larisa Koshkina--Public Domain Pictures

 

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done one of these “Bits Of” posts. I thought it time to rectify that.  Matthew Henry (1662-1714) is best known for his Exposition of the Old and New Testaments (1708–1710), an exhaustive verse by verse study of the Bible. His works, while exegetical in scope, were meant as a practical and devotional explanation of scripture. It is said that George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon read through this work multiple times. Spurgeon stated, “Every minister ought to read it entirely and carefully through once at least.”

More pearls of wisdom from Matthew Henry:

“The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”

“Cast not away your confidence because God defers his performances. That which does not come in your time, will be hastened in his time, which is always the more convenient season. God will work when he pleases, how he pleases, and by what means he pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but he will perform his word, honour our faith, and reward them that diligently seek him.”

“The more we accommodate ourselves to plain things, and the less we indulge in those artificial delights which gratify pride and luxury, the nearer we approach to a state of innocency.”

“You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men. This is mine: that a life spent in the service of God, and communion with Him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that anyone can live in this world.”

“What we count the ills of life are often blessings in disguise, resulting in good to us in the end. Though for the present not joyous but grievous, yet, if received in a right spirit, they work out fruits of righteousness for us at last.”

“Those who would bring great things to pass must rise early. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty.”

“He whose head is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave.”

“Nothing can make a man truly great but being truly good, and partaking of God’s holiness.”

“Peace is such a precious jewel that I would give anything for it but truth.”

“Though we cannot by our prayers give God any information, yet we must by our prayers give him honor.”

“We read of preaching the Word out of season, but we do not read of praying out of season, for that is never out of season.”

“While we are zealous for good works, let us be careful not to put them in the place of Christ’s righteousness, and not to advance anything which may betray others into so dreadful a delusion.”

“Whatever we have of this world in our hands, our care must be to keep it out of our hearts, lest it come between us and Christ.”

“No attribute of God is more dreadful to sinners than His holiness.”

“Those that go gold into the furnace will come out no worse.”

“All this and heaven too.”

 

Original Content: Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

 

Sons Of Pride

Green Leaves by George Hodan--Public Domain Pictures

The philosophy called humanism has long been a suitor to man’s pride. It boasts in his natural strength and wisdom, and woos him with promises of grand accomplishments now, and heaven later. God Himself has scattered such Babel-builders and proclaimed His pre-eminence for eternity. Confounded for ever be such sons of pride, who trust in the power of nature as though man with his own brick and mortar of natural abilities were able to make a way to heaven! You who are yet in your natural state, would you become wise to salvation? Then first become fools in your own eyes. Renounce this carnal wisdom which cannot perceive spiritual things, and beg wisdom of God, who gives without rebuke (James 1:5).

Here is a word for Christians. Knowing your strength lies wholly in God and not in yourself, remain humble–even when God is blessing and using you most. Remember, when you have your best suit on, who made it and who paid for it! God’s favor is neither the work of your own hands nor the price of your own worth. How can you boast of what you did not buy? If you embezzle God’s strength and credit it to your own account, He will soon call an audit and take back what was His all along. Even when He seems the most generous with your spiritual allowance, He still keeps the account in His own name and can at once reduce you to spiritual poverty if you misappropriate His grace.

Walk humbly, therefore, before God and manage well the strength you have, remembering that it is borrowed strength. What kind of man will waste what he begs? Or who will give to a pauper who squanders what he has already been given? How can you look God in the face and ask for more if you mis-spend what you have already so graciously received?

William Gurnall
“The Saint’s Call to Arms,” pg. 41-42
The Christian In Complete Armour, Vol. 1
The Banner Of Truth Trust
©World Challenge, Inc. 1986

 

Rig For Silent Running

Nuclear Submarine

“Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” James 3:3-10 (NKJV)

My late husband spent time during the early years of our marriage in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service. The phrase “rig for silent running” had specific meaning to him (as did its companion, “Loose lips sink ships”). Whenever the boat found itself in a situation where it had to be undetectable, operations were instituted to make it so. His area of service on board that submarine was telecommunications. He went through extensive background checks in order to receive the required Top Secret Security Clearance. He knew how to keep things “secret.” Even to the day he died, he would not talk about most of what he experienced.

We live in a time when decorum and discretion have generally gone by the wayside. You don’t have to go far these days to hear the intimate details of people’s lives you don’t even know. The church has its own brand of this practice. We call it “transparency” and are encouraged to “make our lives an open book,” ostensibly as a means of accountability. Unfortunately, we are not particularly discerning in how, when, or with whom we do this. I can’t be the only one who has wanted to say: “Thank you for sharing, but I don’t really want to know you quite that well.”

Now, I believe in transparency. Transparency with God is essential; transparency with our spouse is imperative; transparency with those we are spiritually accountable to is critical; transparency with all others should be carefully considered. It is an unfortunate fact not everyone can, or should, be trusted with some of the more personal details of our lives.

The ability to keep God-given revelations to ourselves is especially important if God gives us insight into someone else’s situation. These revelations may, in fact, be as much a test of our character as a call to prayer. Can we be trusted with this information? Will we blurt it out at the first sign of pressure or in a moment of weakness? Will we show ourselves trust-worthy for greater Kingdom truths?

Spiritual growth is never linear; there are many “zigs and zags” to this journey. We believe we’re ready for the next step–God sees we’re not. This growth process provides many opportunities to prove ourselves. Just as we would not hand a set of car keys to a five-year-old child, God will not trust us with His plans until we can handle the requirements; He makes certain our character will support us when we get there. Otherwise, what He intends as a blessing becomes a death trap.

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10 (NKJV)

In days past, people better understood the power of their words; they were far more cautious with them. We have become injudicious with ours. We have forgotten God created the world by His Word and that we are made in His image. Our words are also containers for power.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV)

We have not rightly discerned the power of our words, and we need to. It is time to learn how to “rig for silent running” when it comes to what, and how much, we say. Just because something can be said, does not always mean it should.

Our words have consequences.

God holds us accountable for each one.

It’s time to prove ourselves more trustworthy.

There’s a harvest waiting to be brought in.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Into The Valley

Mountain Folds-Drakensberg by Lynn Greyling--Public Domain Pictures

Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing.
For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,
And streams in the desert.
The parched ground shall become a pool,
And the thirsty land springs of water;
In the habitation of jackals, where each lay,
There shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there, and a road,
And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean shall not pass over it,
But it shall be for others.
Whoever walks the road, although a fool,
Shall not go astray. Isaiah 35:6-8 (NKJV)

I first came across the following Oswald Chamber’s passage on the blog “Levi’s Daily Thoughts” in his post titled, “Visions Become Reality.”

I know several whom God has given the kind of vision Oswald Chambers speaks of here. The process of descending into the valley and being turned on the Potter’s wheel is an incredibly painful one–many of us grow weak and weary, become disheartened, angry, and finally give up.

But if we allow Him to take us to the end our strength–there we find His.

 

The parched ground shall become a pool.  Isaiah 35:7

We always have a vision of something before it actually becomes real to us. When we realize that the vision is real, but is not yet real in us, Satan comes to us with his temptations, and we are inclined to say that there is no point in even trying to continue. Instead of the vision becoming real to us, we have entered into a valley of humiliation.

Life is not as idle ore,
But iron dug from central gloom,
And battered by the shocks of doom
To shape and use.

God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.

The vision that God gives is not some unattainable castle in the sky, but a vision of what God wants you to be down here. Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.

Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost For His Highest”

Original Content: Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Means Of Measure

Tape Measure by D Bickel--Public Domain Pictures


For I am the LORD, I change not.  
Malachi 3:6 (KJV)

“Does the church need to change with the times? Not if the church holds the truth; the unchanging truth of God needs to be applied to man’s changing times as the measure or yardstick whereby men and events are to be judged. Where truth is declared to be man’s standard, change then is progress towards the truth, it is purposeful growth. Without the truth, change is no longer progress, it is merely change.

Today our world is changing, but it is not progressing. There is much evidence that it is in many ways declining. The reason is that our change has no standard of truth to it, because the Word of God is no longer applied to man and nations as the yardstick and standard.” 

J.R. Rushdoony

A Word In Season Vol. 2
“The Unchanging Word” pg. 127
© 2011 Mark R. Rushdoony

Feeding On The Bread Of Envy

Airplane by Paul Cooper--Public Domain Pictures

A tranquil mind gives health to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30 (CJB)

En•vy (noun): A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck. (Oxford English Dictionary Online)

“As a moth gnaws a garment, so does envy consume a man.”–Saint John Chrysostam

As part of my daily pre-dawn devotions, I not only read Scripture, but also rather eclectic devotional material. One recent day’s offering was an essay by R.J. Rushdoony where he discussed how we “feed on the bread of envy” in our culture and the spiritual consequences of that decision.

I am reminded of this essay each time I stand in line waiting to board an airplane, which for many months has been, on average, a once or twice-weekly occurrence. If you have done any amount of flying, you know airplanes are boarded in a specific order: those with disabilities or traveling with small children and needing extra time down the jetway; First Class passengers; those with Priority Access (Frequent Flyer status); finally the rest (sequentially) by assigned group, until everyone has crammed themselves and their carry-on luggage into that flying metal tube which will function as their “home” for the next couple of hours.

Listening to conversations of those who are impatient to get on board can be a real eye-opener, especially the “belly aching–grumbling–dripping with envy” comments about those fortunate enough to sit in First Class. Gets a bit comical sometimes.

Rushdoony is right–we live in a culture which feeds on the bread of envy. From advertisers and corporations whose goal it is to convince us we need all those things we don’t have, to a government which actively pits those who “have not” against those who “have” while manipulating the entire game behind the scenes, we are constantly encouraged to be dissatisfied with what we have, wanting what others do. Add to that a dash of what we “deserve,” have a “right” to, and are “owed,” the rest of the world sees us for what we are–spoiled and ungrateful for all we have been given.

Married to a man who for 25 of our 35 years together was a “road warrior,” I probably have a slightly different perspective on those who sit in First Class or who have Priority Access. I know that for most of these passengers, they aren’t there because they have money to burn. They usually sit in these seats because they work for a company which requires constant travel. Most of them upgrade to First Class using frequent flyer miles. Travel like this is brutal. The small bit of comfort available in First Class or that extra smidgen of peace and quiet when boarding early, is a welcome respite in the “glamorous” world of the corporate traveler filled with sterile hotels and lumpy pillows, mediocre restaurant meals, multi-hour layovers in airports crammed to the gills with grumpy people, missed flights, running between gates, and nights away from home.

So, why is this important to me?

Last week I became, in the eyes of at least some of my fellow passengers, one of the “haves.” No longer a “have not,” I have finally flown enough segments to achieve “Priority Access” status.  Even though I am now potentially an object of other’s envy and scorn, I will board each plane knowing just how many flights and nights away from home it took for me to get there.

So, instead of feeling smug at my good fortune, I will thank Almighty God for this blessing, who I pray will continue to direct each pilot, choose each flight, guard each plane, and keep me safe by His grace.

And I will silently sing His PRAISE each step–

Down every jetway

And back again.

He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Deuteronomy 10:21 (NASB)

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together. Psalm 32:1-3 (NASB)

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons

Julian Alden Weir-Autumn Rain

A good reminder today or any day.

First World Revival

Sorrow is never so convenient as to come in the season we wish, for we wish that it is in the season that never comes. We can not choose which storms of grief we bear or when these winds of mourning will blow over our fields but we can choose how we ride them out. This is our wonderful gift to God, that is, to let out a wounded song of praise in the midst of blistering pain. This pitiful whimper is perhaps our greatest earthy look at the Majesty of God. For under the breakers of God’s sovereignty we lift our hands in surrender, not to an understanding, but to a trusting of God in its absence.

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Songs Born Of Fire

 

Fireplace In Sweden

The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah commanded them to offer the burnt offering on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord also began, with the trumpets and with the instruments of David king of Israel. So all the assembly worshiped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. 2 Chronicles 29:26-28 (NKJV)

Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him. Psalm 28:6-7 (NKJV)

For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him.
You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:6-7 (NKJV)

And in that day you will say:
“O Lord, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’”
Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:1-3 (NKJV)

As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, “Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.” So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” Isaiah 33:30-33 (NKJV)

And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!” Daniel 3:27-28 (NKJV)

 

 

 

Love And Honor

Enhanced Rainbow by Barb Ver Sluis--Public Domain Pictures

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” Revelation 19:9a (NKJV)

Today would have been Charles’ and my 36th wedding anniversary. While a difficult day in many ways, it is also a day for great rejoicing. Charles dwells in the presence of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, joining in worship to One Who is Worthy of all praise. How can I possibly grieve for long knowing that?

I have much to be grateful for–35 years loved by a man who diligently sought the Lord, loved His Word, and faithfully served Him to the best of his ability. Charles would have been the first to tell you how far he fell short of Christ’s perfect example on any given day, and yet he influenced many lives with the truth of the gospel.

So, today I honor you Charles, for who you were, for your hopes and dreams, and for all who were changed because you poured your heart and soul into their lives. You were deeply loved by far more than you knew.

I know I would never be the woman I am today had it not been for your love, your support, and unshakeable faith in me.

I am grateful for each and every day God so graciously allowed us.

You are profoundly missed by so many. . .

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Risk Averse

Trust--Photobucket

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:15-19 (NKJV)

Like many, I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me.”  I used to sing, “Jesus loves you, this I know,” to Hannah every night as part of her bedtime routine. I have always known that Jesus loved me, but until recently, I did not really KNOW. Let me explain.

Those of us who know Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior have, at least, an intellectual understanding we are loved, that God came to earth robed in flesh, lived a sinless life, paid the ultimate price to redeem us back to Himself–all because of His great love for us. In order to be born again into His Kingdom, we must accept that in faith, repent, turn from our sin, receive His Spirit, and begin to live for Him.

For decades I have known this, but had no real revelation of it. I lived my life, practically speaking, like Jesus Christ died for others and I somehow slid in the back door by grabbing someone else’s “coat tails;” my sins far worse than anyone else’s. Pretty arrogant that.

In the past, I have prayed and even begged God for a revelation of His love, without any success. About a month and a half ago, this all changed. For a few brief seconds, God allowed me to see into the eternal, giving me a glimpse of His great love. It was enough to change me forever.

Like many others, I have lived my life “risk averse.” I learned early on to distrust people, initially the result of bullying and humiliation at the hands of my peers (and, sadly, a couple of teachers). Mixed into that a few failed relationships, betrayal by some close friends, and internalizing the stoicism from my Scandinavian and Germanic up-bringing, keeping part my heart locked up, has been a way of life for me. Much safer that way–less risk, less potential pain.

In addition, we live in a “risk averse” culture which quietly seeps into our thinking and teaches that if we place our trust in those with authority, they will, through government intervention (or a myriad of other ways), “help us” achieve a risk-free life of peace, safety, and security. Of course, this won’t ever work, no matter what they legislate or how many police they provide. Only placing our trust in Jesus Christ can ever give us that kind of peace and security.

Having been given a revelation of God’s love, I find I am beginning to love others more freely and extravagantly; less afraid of being hurt, more willing to take the risk and trust.

The cartoon below came to my attention from my daughter and son-in-law. The quote of C.S. Lewis’ is one of my favorites. Like many of us, Hannah and Matt went through deep heartache. Having made the decision to risk their hearts again, God has given them great joy.  Four weeks ago today, God knit their lives together in marriage.

So while dealing with my “trust issues” is clearly a work in progress, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek, this new-found revelation of God’s love is helping me to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

And that gives me hope and a future.

acd6bf8cc8ce170157270dca3647314fdfe90b379f4bc1558f8edff14b81a19c

A Father’s Legacy

Time On Book by Bartosz--Public Domain Pictures

“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NKJV)

Both my grandfathers are gone, my father also, just over two years ago now, and Hannah’s father, not yet a year. Each of these men, while no longer with us, left an eternal legacy. Godly men, they modeled for their families, their churches, their places of employment, and their communities, what it meant to be a man whose life was forever changed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They walked, to the best of their ability, with their LORD and Savior. They lived to honor Him, diligently teaching their children the sure foundations of faith.

Popular culture has marginalized and trivialized men in general; fathers in particular. From sit-coms’ portrayal of men and fathers as witless dolts who can’t find their way to the garage without the help of their wives (or children), advertisers “second the motion” with more of the same. At what point did men become non-essential to our families and our culture?

God created male and female for a reason–each with an important role to play in the family and in the Kingdom of God. This is profound truth:

“Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NKJV)

Children need both father and mother who love and serve the LORD–a threefold cord. God meant for us to complement each other’s strengths, helping to overcome one another’s weaknesses (with God’s grace)—better together than apart for advancing God’s Kingdom. Marriage between a godly man and a godly woman provides an unshakeable bedrock for raising Kingdom children.

Today I honor all godly men, whether you are fathers to natural-born or spiritual children. We can never thank you enough for what you have poured into our lives. We are grateful for your:

Courage

Diligence

Steadfastness

Perseverance

Faithfulness

Strength

Sacrifices

Leadership

Wisdom

Vision

Unselfishness

Thoughtfulness,

Kindness

And for the daily gifts of love you so generously give.

You leave a legacy in our world which will not be forgotten.

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

 

Moments Of Truth

Texas Bluebonnets--Photobucket

Below, a few moments of truth to think on today:

“From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth; from the laziness that is content with half-truth; from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, oh, God of truth, deliver us.”–Author Unknown (thanks to my friend, Charles White, for this quote)

“There is enough in God to fill our treasures, to replenish every hungry soul, to supply all our wants, to answer all our desires, to make us completely happy.”–Matthew Henry

“Men and women are at their noblest and best when they are on their knees before God in prayer. To pray is not only to be truly godly; it is also to be truly human. For here are human beings, made by God like God and for God, spending time in fellowship with God. So prayer is an authentic activity in itself, irrespective of any benefits it may bring us. Yet it is also one of the most effective of all means of grace. I doubt if anybody has ever become at all Christlike who has not been diligent in prayer.”–John Stott

The Guardrail

To say prayers in a decent, delicate way is not heavy work. But to pray really, to pray till hell feels the ponderous stroke, to pray till the iron gates of difficulty are opened, till the mountains of obstacles are removed, till the mists are exhaled and the clouds are lifted, and the sunshine of a cloudless day brightens-this is hard work, but it is God’s work, and man’s best labor.”–E.M. Bounds

Fall upon your knees, break forth into a thankful triumph of praise; let your hearts be ten-stringed instruments, to sound forth the memorial of God’s mercy. None so deep in debt to free grace as you, and none should be so high mounted upon the pinnacle of thanksgiving. Say as the sweet singer; ‘I will extol thee, my God, O King; every day will I bless thee, and I will praise thy name for ever’ (Psalm 145:1,2). Those who are patterns of mercy should be trumpets of praise.”–Thomas Watson, All Things for Good

Walk In Truth


“It’s so easy to fear, which is really a form of death. I asked God one time why He put death first in Proverbs 18:21 – ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue.’ He told me because it’s easy to speak death, but it takes work to speak life. To build up, not tear down. Encourage, not belittle. It takes investment of time, of self. It’s easy to do what comes naturally to the natural man: d
eath. fear. doubt.”  –Kari (karigraceplace.wordpress.com)

“I would rather be God’s servant than man’s king.”–Charles L. Johnson

“You cannot dissuade a person from a position with reason and facts if reason and facts did not determine the position in the first place.”-Author Unknown

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”–Corrie Ten Boom

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”–Author Unknown

And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.”Revelation 11:15b-17

Prayer Of The Intercessor

Clouds Stormy and Bright by Bobbi Jones Jones--Public Domain Pictures

“Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.” Isaiah 59:15b-17 (NKJV)

Intercession-n. [L. intercessio an intervention, a becoming surety: cf. F. intercession. See Intercede.]

The act of interceding; mediation; interposition between parties at variance, with a view to reconciliation; prayer, petition, or entreaty in favor of, or (less often) against, another or others.
But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which can not be uttered. Rom. viii. 26.
(Webster’s 1828 Dictionary-1913 definition)

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 (NKJV)

During a recent conversation with my daughter, we talked much about prayer–how God answers and how God moves. Both of us have had a number of experiences with intercessory prayer and results which didn’t always turn out as anticipated.

We talked about one incident where the Holy Spirit moved on me to intercede in prayer for someone we both knew. He was going through a particularly difficult time and was struggling to hold on to the victory he knew was in Christ for that situation. I remember that day so vividly. I was standing in my kitchen ironing and praying about the situation (along with a few other issues). For some reason God seems to speak to me while I am doing the mundane things of life: ironing, vacuuming, washing dishes, taking a shower. This day was no different. God and I were having one of our “conversations,” when prayer rose from deep within my spirit. As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew this was a prayer which had transacted business in the spiritual realm. Sure enough, about three months later, that prayer came to pass, although not exactly in the way I had expected.

I have had this kind of experience before: so many years, so many prayers, but only a handful like the one mentioned above. God works in profound ways as a result of intercessory prayer; the Old and New Testaments full of examples of men and women who understood the power of prayer. Why is prayer like this not more frequent for us as believers today?

Do we just pray perfunctorily so we can check one more item off our Christian “to do” list?

Do we actually pray like we believe prayer has power and is heard in the very throne room of heaven?

How seriously do we take our commitment to intercede when we are asked to pray for others or see an obvious need?

Jesus Christ laid down His life for us on the cross at Calvary. He knew what it would cost and yet His great love moved Him to pay that price anyway. He now acts as our continuous intercessor.

It is an honor and privilege for us to follow His example, laying down our lives by loving others enough to intercede in prayer,

No matter what the cost,

No matter what the result.

“But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.” Hebrews 7:24-28 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

1 + 1 = 1

 

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“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 (NKJV)

God not only graciously blessed me with a daughter, He has added to me a son.

Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Blake Jackson
May 24, 2014

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26

 

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Not For Cream Puffs

Covered Wagon-Ox Team--PhotobucketNow may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

Sometimes weekends just don’t turn out as you expect. God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, occasionally drops a bombshell in your general vicinity and jerks the slack out of your rope, leaving you dangling desperately over the edge of a cliff searching for a toehold.

I was blessed with an e-mail on Saturday from a fellow blogger about a recent decision I had made. He paid me what I considered to be a compliment of the highest order with a description that still has me laughing. Here is what he said:

Like Charles tells you, “Susan, we’re gonna blow this pop stand and head west in this here covered wagon with all our stuff and I need you to help me out with a few things, you know, like crossing the Great Divide and fighting Indians and stuff and taking care of the kid and some other work, and ride shotgun, fight blizzards… Think you can handle it?”

And Susan says, “Hey no problem cream puff. Is that all you got? I’ll have my work done before sun-up. Wake me when it gets interesting okay?

Knowing that for the first two-thirds of my almost sixty years, I have been afraid of my shadow (and everyone else’s), having someone I respect write this, was a huge confidence builder. His example of a pioneering woman heading west, tickled me. This is the kind of woman I always hoped I could become.

There are those who believe that all fear is based in the fear of death and dying. Even Christians with hope of Heaven have this fear and I was no different. I wasn’t afraid of the end result; mostly afraid of the process itself. Having spent my entire nursing career watching people die, sometimes by inches, it was the process and pain of dying which terrified me.

Well, at least it did until Charles died. He certainly wasn’t the first person I saw die and he likely won’t be the last. It would probably surprise no one that in the months since Charles has been gone, there have been moments when death seemed preferable to continuing life: the pain, the practical challenges and logistics, the work of holding on to faith and hope, often proved exhausting.

Yesterday morning, I was contemplating an article my daughter, Hannah, had posted on Facebook about determining the call of God on your life. I pretty much know what God’s call on my life is. It hasn’t changed any since Charles died, I just haven’t been able to figure out how to continue to walk in it without him since he was an integral part of that call.

So, I am sitting in the quiet of my corporate apartment in St. Louis, thinking about that call when God said to me: “You aren’t afraid of dying. . . you’re afraid of living.”

Well, thank you very much, Sir!

Of course, this isn’t an entirely new concept. Fear has kept me from doing a great many things over the years. It would seem that God is trying to tell me this no longer cuts it as an excuse (never really did though, did it?).

The 100% “sold-out-to-Jesus” Christian life, isn’t for cream puffs. If we are whole-heartedly committed to walking into, and completing, the call of God on our lives, we can’t let fear dictate our decisions or our actions. We don’t decide the call on our lives anymore than we are required to complete it in our own strength. God’s grace is the rebar and concrete in our foundation. What He builds will stand, even if we stumble in the process. Or, as I said to one friend recently: even when life throws us a curve ball, we know God is holding the catcher’s mitt.

So, while I have come a long way, it would seem I have a ways yet to go.

Westward, ho!

 

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

 

 

 

Awakening Respect

Still Life--Flowers; Photobucket

THE BATTLE FOR PURITY

Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.

Christian purity requires a purification of the social climate. It requires of the communications media that their presentations show concern for respect and restraint. Purity of heart brings freedom from widespread eroticism and avoids entertainment inclined to voyeurism and illusion.

So called moral permissiveness rests on an erroneous conception of human freedom; the necessary precondition for the development of true freedom is to let oneself be educated in the moral law. Those in charge of education can reasonably be expected to give young people instruction respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man.

The Good News of Christ continually renews the life and culture of fallen man; it combats and removes the error and evil which flow from the ever-present attraction of sin. It never ceases to purify and elevate the morality of peoples. It takes the spiritual qualities and endowments of every age and nation, and with supernatural riches it causes them to blossom, as it were, from within; it fortifies, completes, and restores them in Christ.

The Cathechism of the Catholic Church: 2521; 2522; 2523; 2524; 2526; 2527

This Quieter Love

Hydrangeas“Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriage) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God… “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”C.S. Lewis from “Mere Christianity”

This quote from C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites for all the profound wisdom contained in a few short sentences. C. S. Lewis’ writing is like that–the farther in you go, the deeper it gets–layer after layer.

Before I married, like most young ladies, I had a head full of “romantic mush” where men and marriage were concerned. Most aspects of the actual marriage experience were nothing like I imagined or had read about. Good thing. . . it was far better.

I was fortunate to have had examples of good marriages in my formative years. My parents and both sets of grandparents had strong, loving marriages of long duration. My father’s love and respect for my mother was always evident (as was hers for him). He spoke with great regard of her intellect, courage, faith, and character. My mother and father modeled for me, every day of their married lives, the concept of sacrificial love. Even after almost thirty-five years of marriage, it was clear to everyone who knew them just how much they loved and respected each other. His care for her, and her concern for his well-being during the final months of her life, remain a vivid memory of the expression and power of that love.

The way they lived out their marriage is one of the most precious gifts my parents ever gave to me. Their fidelity to one another through the years God gave them together, is a heritage that should not be forgotten or taken lightly. It is a heritage that I am passionate about passing down to my daughter.

Any successful marriage is a miracle in and of itself. In a world where more and more people choose to cohabit, marriage has become somewhat of an outdated concept. For those who do choose to marry, the success rate is often rather disappointing. It is not uncommon, when people find out how long I was married, to look at me as if I was some kind of “freak of nature,” and then to ask me how I could ever stay married to the same man for so long without getting bored or tired of him.

I wish that I could say I always come back with exceptionally brilliant answers to that question, but I don’t. The simple truth is, it is not because I was a particularly exemplary wife or because I am extraordinarily beautiful, or witty, or intelligent, or unselfish, or even talented. God blessed me by choosing a man who He knew would be best for me. When I went with His choice, the rest was much easier. The remainder is a result of the grace of God and our deliberate choice to keep the covenant of our marriage vows, no matter what challenges we faced. God blessed that committment with a deep, quiet, and enduring love.

After twelve years of marriage, God blessed us with a child. Many friends and family were quite generous with their advice about what experiences lay ahead of us as parents. They were quick to tell us our views of parenting would never work and we would “find out how it really is when you have one of your own.” They were wrong. I can honestly say there was only one aspect of motherhood which surprised me. I was not expecting the intensity and power of the love which swept over me as I held that little red-headed bundle. I finally understood what people were talking about when they spoke about the ferocious love of a mother.

I will always be a mother, but my years as an active parent have come to an end. My daughter has grown into a fine young woman who is wise and capable beyond her twenty-three years. No mother could be more pleased with the fruit that is evident in her life as a result of the character that God has been developing in her.

Every mother has hopes and desires for her children and I am no different. Hannah is now making decisions that will affect the rest of her life. From my perspective, she is well able to make them. She has a heart for the things of God and is committed to walking in His ways and into His call. My hopes and desires for her are quite simple: that she continues to grow in her walk with the Lord, that her life be filled with love and laughter, and that God gives to her a young man who is worthy to share that life. I pray that he will be a young man who will complement her strengths with those of his own; that he will love the Lord and serve Him with all his heart; that he will be spiritually mature, possess integrity, a godly character, and share her heart for the Kingdom; that he will love her, honor her, cherish her, and laugh with her; that he will find endless delight in the many facets of all God has created her to be; and that he will be faithful to honor their marriage covenant for all the years of their life together.

It has occurred to me that what I really want for my daughter is what God so graciously gave to me: a man just like her father.

I would not want her to settle for anything less.

‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one fleshso then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Mark 10:7-9 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Gratitude = Praise

Refiner's Fire--Photobucket“A refining pot is for silver, and a furnace for gold, and a man according to his praise.” Proverbs 27:21 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Many years ago, during a Sunday morning worship service, our pastor knew of the difficulties we were going through. The Lord moved on his heart to speak. God said to us: “You choose.”

Fast forward about two decades later: different difficulty, same God. This time He said to me during a time of quiet meditation and prayer: “War through worship.”

How we meet the challenges and catastrophes in our lives is up to us. We make a choice. Do we focus on the overwhelming circumstances we are in, the odds which seemingly can’t be overcome, our helplessness and hopelessness, or do we focus on the One Who is Sovereign over all, the One Who loves us with an everlasting love?

When we worry, fret, fuss, and whine, we are focusing on ourselves. By choosing to praise and worship Him, we demonstrate that we have placed our trust in the only One Who can get us out of the colossal mess we are in.

I vividly remember a time, not that many years ago, when our house was about to be foreclosed (for the second time), our daughter’s college tuition was seriously past due and they told us (rightly so) that if it wasn’t paid she would have to withdraw, and we were receiving almost daily phone calls from creditors. It was an absolutely terrifying time in the life of our family. Many nights I lay awake, not able to sleep for the fear that threatened to drag me into a place I desperately didn’t want to go. The only way I could get to sleep was to thank God for everything He had so richly blessed me with: every breath I took, every one I loved and who loved me in return, a bed to sleep in, hot water to bathe in, clothes to wear, food to eat, promise after promise in His Word, and last but certainly not least, a Savior.

I made a choice then that continues to carry me. I chose to have a grateful heart. I chose to place my faith in the God Who loves and cares for me. I chose to war through worship. Was it easy? Absolutely not! It took every ounce of pure grit and will I could muster. Sometimes, just making it through to the end of the day was a major victory. You know what I found? God graciously gave me another day to choose whether or not to praise Him. What a gift!

Since my husband died, people have been so incredibly good, kind, and generous to me, but I have seen the questions behind some of their eyes: “Why isn’t she falling apart? Why does she seem so calm? That just isn’t normal!” They are right, it isn’t “normal.” God has supernaturally carried and strengthened me these past five months.

You see, God was there when Charles started to feel unwell. God was there when I drove him to the Emergency Room, knowing he was in serious trouble, as we hit red light after red light. God was there when I frantically pushed him in a wheelchair into the E.R. and couldn’t get them to understand or believe how sick he was. God was there when they shocked his heart time after time after time after time trying to get it to beat normally again. God was there when I finally told them to stop–knowing Charles wouldn’t have wanted that to go on any longer. God was even there as I sat in that cold, stark room with him at the end, staring at all the evidence of what modern medicine could not do.

I could sit there with what was left of this man I had loved so deeply because I knew where he was and was grateful for it. If I had focused on what had just been lost, I would have been lost. Instead, I chose to be grateful for all that Charles had just inherited. I chose.

Now lest you think I am taking credit for all of this, I am not. I know exactly where the strength came from to meet the challenges of that night (and every other night of my almost sixty years). Without the grace and mercy of God, I would have fallen apart. I only know this: I did my part by choosing to have a heart of gratitude for the thirty-five years I was given, not anger over the years which would not be. God has miraculously carried me from the moment of that decision.

I know this without any doubt: gratitude = praise; praise = worship; worship = victory. No demon from hell can stand in the presence of praise to our great God.

But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.
Psalm 22:3-5 (NKJV)

No matter what you are facing today, it ultimately comes down to this:

You too must choose.

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Desert Song

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides.

And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flame.

I will bring praise, I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice, I will declare
God is my victory and He is here.

This is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand.

I will bring praise, I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice, I will declare
God is my victory and He is here.

All of my life, in every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship.

I will bring praise, I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice, I will declare
God is my victory and He is here
You are, You are here my Lord.

And this is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow.

Songwriter–Brooke Gabrielle Fraser
Published by Integrity’s Hosanna! Music

How To Make God Laugh

Forest By George Hodan--Public Domain Pictures

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”― Woody Allen

This past Friday, I closed escrow on my house. It was a bittersweet day. While I will not miss the monthly financial drain, it was the final good-bye to the life I lived there with my husband, Charles. I loved that house. After twenty-eight moves in thirty-five years of married life, we bought it believing it would be our last. We had plans, we had dreams, and spent the past five wonderful years there. Our house was filled with peace, love, and laughter–and it was difficult to say good-bye to all it represented. But God’s plans don’t always coincide with our own, as I have recently been reminded.

I had lunch with my daughter, Hannah, on Saturday. We were talking about the sale of the house and how much the house had meant to both of us. I asked her if she realized the closing of the house was five months to the day from when her father died–she had not. To be fair, I hadn’t either, until the Lord reminded me of it on the flight back home from St. Louis. I am not entirely sure of the significance of God’s timing, but I know there is no such thing as coincidence in the life of any Christian. And while I do not know much of Biblical numerics, “coincidentally,” the number five means, “grace and God’s goodness.”

This discussion led to remembering a conversation Hannah and I had the day of Charles’ funeral. I had gotten up very early that morning, not having slept too well the night before. As I was drinking my second cup of coffee and talking to God about the strength I knew I was going to need that day, He said something to me I was not expecting: “You will remarry.” I have to confess I was not entirely amused with His timing on that piece of information.

A few hours later, Hannah came down for breakfast and as she was pouring herself a bowl of cereal, an odd look came across her face. She turned to me and asked, “Mom, do you think you would ever remarry?” My first thoughts ran something along the line of, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, I haven’t even had the funeral yet!” However, I answered her, “Not today,” at which point, we both laughed and shed a few tears.

It wasn’t until Saturday’s lunch, she told me she had wanted to ask that question a couple of days before the funeral–God had spoken to her about it. Obviously, God restrained her from asking the question until I was ready to hear it and He had spoken to me about it.

I do not understand the many mysteries of God or His always perfect timing. I can only say that I trust Him and am extremely grateful He didn’t speak to me that day as He did to some of His servants in the Old Testament:

♦He told Hosea to marry a prostitute (that must have gone over well with Mom and Dad!). “When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.'”  Hosea 1:2 (NKJV)

♦He told Isaiah to go naked for three years (now there’s a visual you probably don’t want!). “At the same time the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, ‘Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.’ And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Then the Lord said, ‘Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia,  so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.'” Isaiah 20:2-4 (NKJV)

♦He told Ezekiel to bake his bread over cow dung (that would never make it to The Food Network as an up and coming culinary trend!). “Then He said to me, “See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it.” Ezekiel 4:15 (NKJV)

All in all, I feel myself quite fortunate. Who knows what God could have required in this next chapter of my life?

So, I have no idea what is in store for me, but if God has His Hand in it, it’s bound to be good.

And that’s shoutin’ ground. . .

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson

All rights reserved

Some Are Sent, Some Just Went

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’  Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 25:14-30 (NKJV)

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29 (NKJV)

Like the parable above, God has given each one of us “talents.”  He ordained before we were born what place we would belong and what purpose we should accomplish. It must be one of our primary goals to determine to fulfill that purpose to the best of our ability.

It is not uncommon for parents to tell their children: “Oh Johnny, you are so talented, so smart, so (fill in the blank). You can be anything you want to be.” This simply isn’t true. In fact, we do our children a great disservice by telling them this. God has given them abilities, talents, and intellect for a reason. He has a specific purpose for each one and that purpose may not be what is immediately apparent.

Take, for example, a child who is gifted athletically or musically. It would be easy to assume that these talents and abilities are equal to God’s call and purpose, but they may not be. They will certainly play a part in God’s call and purpose, but may not be the sum total of it. Our giftings, interests, talents, skills, and abilities are clues to what God intends, but we must not presume that we understand where we are to go with them until we ask Him.

Even understanding our call does not necessarily mean we will accomplish it. It is too easy to become side-tracked over the years. We find excuses so we don’t have to do what we know we are supposed to. We put up road blocks to sabotage ourselves so that we have “legitimate reasons” why we can’t succeed. We are afraid; we are lazy; we allow ourselves to become distracted; we don’t count the cost; we lightly esteem the call.

God is not going to be impressed with our excuses.

All of us have been called into full-time ministry. Only some will become pastors or missionaries. The rest of us will serve Him in whatever sector of life He places us. One position is not more important than the other. They are interconnected with a common purpose; all an integral part of the body of Christ; all are necessary.

It is easy to mistake the call of God for full-time service as one that requires going to the mission field or attending seminary with the goal of becoming a pastor. We may understand that our purpose is full-time service to the Lord, but we assume a very narrow field of service: some are sent, some just went.

Wherever and however God calls us to serve, He gives us the talents and abilities to complete His Will. I don’t know why God gives some “five talents,” others “two talents,” and still others “one talent.”  You don’t have to look very far to see that this is a true statement. No matter how much God has given us, we can easily find someone who is more talented, more intelligent, or more gifted. I believe what God is telling us through the parable of the talents is that, no matter how much He has given us, He expects us to make the most of it in His service.

It is easy to envy those who we perceive to have ”greater talents.” We wonder why God didn’t give us those abilities or more. And yet, Luke 12: 48b tells us: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Would we be willing to handle the added responsibility that goes with them? Would we want to be held to a higher standard?

The call which God places on our lives determines the path we must walk to get there. The greater the call, the greater the likelihood we will be “refined by fire,” so that when God allows us to walk into our call, we will not be destroyed by the temptations associated with it.

God loves us too much to allow us to stay where we are in our lives. His great desire is to see us succeed in the purposes He has pre-ordained. He gives us the tools we need to bring it to pass. The talents which He has given us are a gift. We did nothing to deserve them; we can do nothing to earn them. We can only develop them, with His help.

Everyone comes to a certain stage in life when we look back at what we have accomplished, aware of regrets and lost opportunities; aware that the time remaining is much shorter than it used to be.  Some call this a “mid-life crisis.”  I call it a time of introspection, examination, and refocusing. Maturity of years should bring with it some wisdom.

It is time to ask ourselves: What have we settled for because we were unwilling to do what God required? What have we been using as a shield to protect us because we have been afraid of failure? What dreams has God placed in our hearts that we have allowed to die? Have we been a faithful servant with what we have so generously been given?

God is a restorer of lost dreams. He has a plan for their fulfillment, even if we don’t see how. He is intensely interested that we succeed in accomplishing those purposes which He has sovereignly ordained.

It is time to fulfill the meaning of our name.

God has determined that we have been born for such a time as this.

Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: ‘All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.’ So they told Mordecai Esther’s words. And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: ‘Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!’” Esther 4:10-16 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Tried, Tested, Transformed

In Hawaii“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

It has now been four months since Charles went home to be with the Lord. God’s grace and mercy have been my constant companions.

For the past five years, my husband and I have had the habit of watching DVD series each evening from pastors and teachers who helped us grow in our faith. In fact, it was that daily “feeding on the Word” which helped carry us through many dark and difficult days (of which I have previously written).

We both believed (quite definitively) the next series we needed to listen to was one called “Transformed.” That particular Saturday evening was to be the first DVD in the series. In fact, we were only about six minutes into the message when my husband began to feel unwell. In an hour’s time, he was gone–quite literally transformed from this life into eternity.

Last year, about mid-year, I had sensed strongly in my spirit that big changes were in the wind. I assumed we had another move coming. At that point, I had moved twenty-eight times in thirty-five years of married life–what was one more? I had packing and un-packing pretty much down to a science. This would be no different, I figured. I was even a bit excited about the coming changes.

Of course, it is always dangerous to “assume” you understand what the Lord has in mind when He gives you a bit of insight into what He is about to do. My husband and I were tried, tested, and transformed that day–both of us in ways we never anticipated.

So, for those who have prayed for me, helped me, and walked with me through these past four months, I will never be able to thank you for all you have done. My gratitude knows no bounds.

For those who know me personally, you know at least I got one part right–I did move. I moved to Jackson, Mississippi, closer to my daughter, who is in graduate school at Belhaven University, and have taken a job with weekly travel to St. Louis, Missouri.

Even though God’s process of transformation continues, I can boldly declare these words penned in 1873 by Horatio G. Spafford:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot,
Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Original Content: Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

Happy Birthday, My Daughter

hannah-ava-hill-photography

“And she said, ‘O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.’ So they worshiped the Lord there.” 1 Samuel 1:26-28 (NKJV)

Today marks my daughter’s twenty-third birthday. No mother could rejoice more over the godly woman she has become. Watching Hannah grow in the Lord, dedicate her life to His purposes, and commit herself wholeheartedly to His plans for her life is a treasure without price.

Happy birthday, my beautiful daughter.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

Listen, Can You Hear It?

Christmas Lantern by Petr KratochvilThe following story comes from a blog which I have followed and enjoyed for several years, “From A Far Country.” Angus Lewis writes wonderful stories.

Today, during your many Christmas festivities, take a few moments to just sit still. Listen, can you hear it?

Listen

A Children’s Story for Grownups

By Angus Lewis

The Man picked an ornament from the cardboard box and held it up to the light. It was a round silver ball but it was not bright and sparkly like the newer ornaments. It was dull from rubbing against tree limbs, from bouncing around in cardboard boxes, from years of repeated handling.

He worked his way carefully between the couch and the tree to the back, the side of the tree that faced the wall. He slid a hook through the loop at the top of the Ornament and looked up, searching for the right place to hang it. There, a likely looking space near the top. He reached as high as he could and hung the Ornament in its place. Then he gently edged his way out from behind the tree to get another ornament.

The Ornament swung gently from its hook as the tree shivered from the Man’s contact.

The Ornament looked around to get his bearings. He was at the back again.  That’s the way it had been the last few years.  The newer, brighter ornaments got the best spots, up high and at the front.  He didn’t mind.  At least he was not down close to the floor.

There was nothing to see back here.  He liked the front because you could see things.  You could see people walking by, people with children, people with their dogs, people enjoying the crisp weather, enjoying each other, enjoying the Season.  Sometimes it snowed.  That was the best, the white flakes drifting silently down, covering everything in a soft, pure blanket of white.  But there was nothing like that to see from the back of the tree.

Still, it was peaceful back here.  He could hear the constant buzz of conversation from the other side of the tree.  He had never been like that.  He enjoyed the peace and quiet.

The Ornament was stirred from his silent meditation by a sudden shaking of the tree.  It wasn’t just a shiver or a shudder.  The tree was shaking from fright.  What could it be?  The Ornament looked around.  Nothing.  He looked up at the tree topper.  No problem there.  He looked down.  There it was.  He should have known.  The Cat was climbing the tree.  Every year the Man and the Woman decided the Cat had learned her lesson and could be trusted around the tree.  Every year she got caught climbing the tree and got pitched into the garage for the rest of the Season.

The Cat was at eye level now, looking straight at him. There was no telling what this animal would do. She started toward the Ornament, evil intentions in her eyes. The Ornament tried to make himself smaller.  It was no use. The Cat was coming for him.

But the Cat slipped by without as much as a glance. The Ornament looked over his shoulder. There it was, a bright red ornament, flashing with glitter and sequins, chattering away with his friends. The Cat had picked her target.

She was almost past him now. The Ornament was almost out of danger. Then the tail got him. Flicking this way and that, alive with the excitement of the hunt, the very tip of the tail caught the Ornament’s hook and lifted it clear of his limb. The Ornament began to tumble down through the tree, bouncing from limb to limb. The Ornament could see the hard floor rapidly approaching. This was the end of him, he was sure.

The Ornament bounced off the last limb. He closed his eyes, waiting for the crash. It never came. He opened his eyes. He had snagged in a collection of electrical cords not six inches from the floor. He was safe.

“What’s this?” It was the Man. He had discovered the remains of an ornament under the tree.

The Woman looked where he was pointing. “Oh. That’s one of the new ones. So bright and sparkly. What a shame.”

“How do you think it happened?”

“I know good and well how it happened. It was the Cat.”

“You think so? I was hoping she would have learned her lesson.”

“It was the Cat alright. Looks like it’s the garage for her again this year.  Once I get my hands on her.”

“Here’s another one. Not broken, though. It got caught in the wires down here.” The Man pulled the ornament out from under the tree and showed it to the Woman. She took it and turned it over in her hands, looking at it from all directions.

“That’s one of the older balls.” She looked up at the tree. “Where are the rest of them?”

“They’re around in back, facing the wall.”

“Why is that?”

“I put the older decorations in the back where nobody could see them. You don’t want these dull old things in the front.”

The Woman folded her arms and looked thoughtfully at the tree. “You know, I’ve been thinking there’s something I don’t like about the way the tree looks but I couldn’t put my finger on it.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with it. What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s too noisy.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“All of these bright sparkly ornaments shouting for attention. It’s too much.  We need some of those older, quieter ones around front to give balance, to quiet things down. See that red ball in the center near the top? Take it down and put that one in its place.”

He reached for the ornament the Woman had indicated. “I guess this means another round of decorating.”

“You’re so perceptive.”

The Man reached up high with the salvaged decoration and hung it where the red one had been.

The Ornament settled his weight onto the support of his hook and looked around. It was a bright sunny day outside. People were out walking their dogs, pushing baby carriages, shouting greetings to one another. The Ornament smiled contentedly.

The Ornament was happy. The volume of the conversations around him had been reduced to a more tolerable level once some of the more vocal ornaments had been moved to the back of the tree. And he got to enjoy the excitement of the Season, the decorations on the mantle, the clutter of brightly wrapped gifts under the tree, the comings and goings of visitors.  One couple brought a baby. They held her up to get a good look at the tree. The Ornament could see the joy in her eyes as she waved her arms and kicked her legs with excitement.

It was Christmas Eve, near midnight. The Man and the Woman had been in bed for a long time.  It had started to snow around sundown. The wind was blowing, piling the snow up into big drifts and making a frigid howling sound as it wrapped itself around the corners of the house. The Ornament hung on his hook, listening. Even at this late hour the hum of conversation continued around him. But there was something.  He heard something else, something besides the conversation, something besides the wind.

“Shhh. Listen.” It came out loud, louder than he had expected. The conversation stopped.

A bright green ornament next to him spoke. “I don’t hear anything but the wind.”

The statement was repeated from various parts of the tree.

“It’s nothing.”

“Just the wind.”

“Nothing but the wind.” The volume of conversation began to climb again.

“Hush.” This time it was a command and the other quiet ornaments echoed it.

“Shhh.”

“Hush.”

“Quiet.”

“Listen. I hear something, something besides the wind.  Can you hear it?  It’s singing.”

The tree fell silent, listening. And, one by one, they all tuned in to the whisper that the Ornament had first heard.

Glory to God

Glory to God

Glory to God in the Highest

Peace on earth

And good will to men

And if you will be still and listen, you can hear it too. There, just under the wind. There. Can you hear it?  Down through the centuries from that hillside in Israel you can hear the angels sing.

Glory to God

Glory to God

Glory to God in the Highest

Peace on earth

And good will to men

Copyright © 2013 by Angus B. Lewis
All rights reserved

Used with permission

Unwrapping The Package

Gift by Anna Langova--Public Domain Pictures

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)

Below is the latest offering from my daughter’s blog, “My Soul Found Rest.” In so many ways, we have trivialized the meaning of this season with our parties, packages, and programs. Lest we forget the plan of Almighty God and the reason for all our merriment-we have a Savior and His name is Christ the Lord.

Milk Not Meat

In one of the classes I took for undergraduate work, we were required to read chapters for a certain textbook (I won’t mention which one) and write short essays on them about what we’ve learned. As a disclaimer, I’ll just say that there were some things that I really liked and that I found really helpful. But in general, I found myself frustrated and discontent with the lack of detail contained in the chapter. The time I spent reading the chapter could have actually been spent reading the Bible! I traded in twenty minutes I could have spent soaking in the rich detail of the gospels for a warmed-over summary of them that somehow manages to give the entire story of Jesus’ life in about fifteen pages in a boring and rote manner. The information found therein is such as might be in Christianity 101A… anyone who’s been a Christian for more than six months probably does and should know the information in this chapter. This is a Christian college—so what’s wrong with this picture? I think we would be far better off actually reading the Word of God and chewing on it for what it is than trying to spoonfeed ourselves ready-made baby food. We don’t grow that way. Did I learn anything from the chapter? Yes! But all it made me want to do was go deeper. I don’t want easy Christianity. I don’t want something that can be neatly packaged up and that’s it. The beauty of Christianity is that it can be beautifully wrapped up and handed to someone as a neat package—but once you unwrap the package, there’s another layer. And another. And another. And all the while you still have the same information, but it is infinitely deep, because we have an infinite God.

I long for a class in which we’re required to actually grow in our faith, not stock up nice little facts we’ve probably learned already (if not through the Word, then at least in Sunday school!) to spit out again when called for. I long for a class in which the textbook requires actual thought and doesn’t have fill-in-the-blank questions at the end of each chapter so that I can remember the year Jesus died and the exact place He was baptized. Is that all that interesting and important? Sure! But wouldn’t we be a lot better off knowing our Bibles so well that we know the chapter and verse where that information is found anyway?

Walking with God requires you to go beyond the facts. It requires understanding. And commitment. God is infinite. No matter how committed we are and how much we study we’ll never get to the bottom of Him. We’ll never run out of things to learn about Him. Being with Him never gets old or stuffy or boring. So let’s have a little more in our study beyond the basics. There is a time for milk, but we can’t stay baby Christians forever. Let’s eat meat. There’s plenty of it.

Copywrite 2013 ©My Soul Found Rest

Used with permission

It’s Complicated

Below is an essay from my daughter’s blog, “My Soul Found Rest.” When she first sent me the rough draft to look over, I was emotionally moved by what she wrote. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have never read Wendell Berry; had not even heard of him before my daughter told me that he was the focus of that semester’s Honors College at Belhaven University. I know, this admission shows me to be a severely under-educated individual; there is clearly no limit to the number of things I do not know.

My daughter’s life has, like the rest of ours, had its share of “complications.” It has been part of my job as her mother to help her navigate some of the rough rapids on the river of her life. Occasionally, she has been summarily dumped out of the boat and into the water, leaving her hurt and floundering. Each time though, she has climbed back into the boat and kept on paddling.

It has been a privilege to watch my daughter grow in her faith.  She has met the complications in her life by doing what we all should do: turn to the Lord first.  She truly believes that life has a “happy ending,” not because she has a false ”Pollyanna-like” attitude, but because she has chosen to place her faith in the surety of her God and His Word to her. She knows that no matter what this life brings, her Father continues to uphold her in His Righteous Right Hand; her goal is Heaven. She has been learning that she doesn’t have to fear the future, she can trust God to use those events in her life that have left her bruised, for His purposes and the maturing of her faith.  And, while her life has had no shortage of “bumps in the road,” she has learned, as have I, that there is only one place we can go to find help.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68 (ESV)

I trust that you will be encouraged by this essay. It is easy to get bogged down in the trials and tribulations of our lives. We lose our focus; we forget that God is Sovereign; we begin to fear that we are on a path that has no good end. Just as in the Wendell Berry story referenced below, our Father comes and straightens out the mess we make of our lives and He does so with a deft and gentle Hand. His mercy, His grace, His love are always ready to lift us out of the quagmire, setting our feet on solid ground.

It’s Complicated

This was my first honors essay of the semester. The short story referenced is from Wendell Berry’s That Distant Land, a collection of his short stories.

In his short story, “Don’t Send a Boy to Do a Man’s Work,” Wendell Berry describes the consequences of complications. The main character in the story, a twelve-year-old boy named Athey Keith, has been left in charge of overseeing a hog-killing while his father, Carter Keith, is out-of-town. Carter Keith has laid specific plans and enlisted the help of knowledgeable men to make sure the work gets done efficiently and well. However, several complications arise during the hog-killing, which turn the Keiths’ well-laid plans upside down and cause the story to turn in an unexpected direction. The rest of the story hinges on how Athey and the other men deal with the complications.

Complications are hardly an uncommon event in our day-to-day lives. The dictionary built into my computer defines “complicate” as such: “[to] make (something) more difficult or confusing by causing it to be more complex.” Complications, or problems, as we more often call them, seem to arise with impeccable timing whenever we least desire them. Yet it seems that although complications may be sometimes unwelcome and turn our story in unexpected directions, our stories, once finished, become clearer and more illuminating as we reach the end of the book.

The plot’s driving force in Berry’s short story is the three complications and how Athey and the other men handle them. While Athey would certainly have had a much more productive hog-killing and a less harrowing day without any such complications, such a plot (or lack thereof) would not have made much of a story. Stories are driven by conflict.

When I was part of a fiction-writing group in high school, my teacher (a fiction author) had to remind me over and over again that I needed more conflict in my story. What I was writing would have been nice to live, but it was boring to read. There was no impetus to drive the plot forward. I resented her correction, because I wanted to write stories like I wanted to live, sweet, delightful, and all with happy endings. That’s still how I would like to live my life. But I am old enough now to begin to realize that my life is not going to go in a carefully plotted way to reach its happy ending. It’s going to take its twists and turns, and complications (whether small or large) are going to arise.

If I believe the promises of Scripture, that God works in all things for the good of those that are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), then I can navigate the bumps in the road with confidence. But questions still remain, and I am sure that I am not the first person to raise questions such as, “Is there any way to avoid complications? If I can, should I? Do all complications arise from sin? Even if they do, can they still turn out all right in the end (and preferably before the end too)?”

Athey could not have avoided the particular problems that came his way, all of which began with other people. He could not foresee them, nor could he escape them. The only thing he could do was be prepared for them, in the sense that he could be ready to deal with any problems that might occur. But when the complications came, he was not ready. The somewhat cocky young boy that he was, his pride and fear caused him to react in a way that allowed the originally small problems to become big ones.

I don’t think there were any complications in the Garden of Eden. Life there must have been like the story I tried to write—boring to read, but wonderful to live. Like in Berry’s story, the first Biblical complication came from another person. The complications Athey had to deal with all began with other people, but his fear caused him to react in a way that exacerbated the problem instead of solving it. Neither did Adam and Eve begin the first complication in this world, but they chose to yield to it instead of standing up and resisting. This first complication resulted in the fall of man from perfection, and now the human story is, well, complicated. At times it’s positively messy.

I don’t think there’s any way to avoid complications altogether. If there were, someone surely would have found a way by now! We can’t force others into our perfectly molded stories for ourselves—they’re going to bring complications, and sometimes we aren’t going to like the results. But neither our stories nor Berry’s story ends with failures to handle problems correctly. Fortunately for young Athey, his father came back—to a mess, it’s true, but he was quite up to handling the challenge and soon put things back to rights.

The human story doesn’t end with failure either. Although Adam and Eve didn’t have the power to put to right the wrong that they had done—that took someone with the proper authority—our Father sent His Son to earth to handle the challenge and put things back to rights. Unlike Carter Keith, He never has to go on a business trip, leaving us in charge. If Keith had been present at the hog-killing, the complications that arose would have been handled differently, and the resulting problems avoided. Likewise, because the Lord is present, we have the ability to handle the complications that come our way correctly. Not that we always will (in fact, many times we won’t), but we can, through His power. What is more, we have the guarantee that our stories will have happy endings. There might be cliffhangers after some chapters, and plot twists, and some pages might have tears on them. But in the end, we will close the book with a sigh of relief and meet our Author, the finisher of our faith.

Author: My Soul Found Rest (Used with permission)

Original Content: Copyright © 2013 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

The Portion Of My Inheritance

cljThis past Saturday evening, God unexpectedly called home my best friend and husband of 35 years. Hannah and I have been greatly blessed with so many who have prayed for us and are overwhelmed (and humbled) by the love and support we have known since Saturday evening. We have sensed God’s presence, comfort, and His great peace. There is no greater blessing than that and knowing our separation from Charles is only temporary. The reunion will be eternal.

Thank you to all who loved him as we did. He left an everlasting legacy in our hearts.

In Christ,

Susan

Psalm 16 (NKJV)

Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You.”
As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”

Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god;
Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer,
Nor take up their names on my lips.

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope. 
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)

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