Vickie's Blog

Thoughts Along Life's Journey


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When Escape Seems Impossible

In last week’s blog I wrote about Daniel in the lion’s den.  His treatment was unjust.  Daniel was an old man at the time and armed only with the unseen weapon of prayer.  You know the story; Daniel was miraculously kept safe from the lion’s paws.

There are many followers of God throughout the ages who have experienced miracles of deliverance.  However, what about those who have been thrown to the lions and were indeed torn to shreds?  What about Christians who have been burned alive because of their faith?  What about Christians around the world, even today, who are beaten to death, falsely imprisoned, stoned, and beheaded?  There were seemingly no miracles for them.

What about you and me? Perhaps we are not threatened with death, but troubles of this world can make daily living a painful existence.  Why doesn’t God give everyone a miracle of escape, just like He did for Daniel?

I want to encourage you, fellow travelers, when it seems that God is not providing an escape, it only appears that way because of what we see with our eyes rather than what we see with our hearts.  It is a common mistake of Christians to remain focused upon difficulties they are dealing with in their physical worlds.  One can become so fixed on the troubles seen with human eyes and felt with broken hearts, that they fail to see beyond into the unseen world of the spiritual.  You see, while miracles sometimes take place in our physical world to deliver us, they always take place in our spiritual world, where our cries of the heart communes in earnest with Almighty God, thus summoning His assistance.

Daniel looked beyond the physical trial of the lions; he cried for help into the spiritual realm, and there he found all he needed.  You see, even if the lions had devoured him, Daniel would still have been delivered. God Himself would have given him everything he needed to endure with peace.  In his heart, Daniel had already escaped his trial.  He abandoned the fear of his physical world the moment he entered into the spiritual dwelling place of God.  Where God resides there is no more pain, fear fades into peace, and troubles of this world cannot enter.

In times of personal trouble, I often remind myself of the old hymn writers.  Their lives encourage me to press on just as they did.  They knew how to focus upon God in the spiritual realm, leaving the troubles of this world in proper perspective. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thomas Dorsey wrote, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” after his wife and son died during the son’s birth.

William Cowper wrote, “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood,” in the midst of frequent bouts with deep depression.  He attempted suicide more than once.

Major Daniel Whittle wrote, “Showers of Blessings,” after losing his leg in a Civil War battle.

Catherine Hankey wrote, “I Love To Tell The Story,” while bedridden from serious illness.

Annie Johnson Flint wrote, “He Giveth More Grace,” while suffering crippling arthritis.

George Matheson wrote “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go,” while remaining blind for all of his life.

None of the above were defeated in their physical circumstances because they were able to look beyond into the spiritual realm.  There they found their help and deliverance.

The Psalmist, David, said it best in Psalm 61: 2-3, “From the ends of the earth,  I cry to You for help when my heart is overwhelmed.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.”

Remember, for the Christian, there is no such thing as — no means of escape.  In the inner places of your heart, He always delivers us.


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In The Lion’s Den

Have you ever had an experience in life when you were doing your very best, but while some admired your efforts, others were angered?  Perhaps you really were doing a fantastic job.  Perhaps others were learning from your example.  Even so, there were those who looked, saw, and jealousy overtook them.

Perhaps they revealed the color of their hearts through hurtful words or actions.  You knew you were innocent; even so, intent to hurt was hurled in your direction.  What is the best thing to do?  This question could bring about all sorts of discussion.  Some might say to turn the other cheek.  Others might say you’re not meant to be a doormat on which anyone may wipe their feet.   Another thought is to simply try to ignore the hurtful remarks.  Yes, all sorts of discussion may come about due to such a scenario.

There is a true to life Biblical story about this very thing.  It’s recorded in Daniel 6.  Most everyone, Christian or not, will know the story of Daniel in the lion’s den.  Daniel had been captured as a young man by an enemy nation.  He was made a slave, but in time, his character shone bright in its integrity.  Authorities began to notice the honesty and wisdom of this man.  Daniel was given responsibility in the kingdom.

At one point, Daniel was made an administrator to watch over the king’s interests.  Due to his skill and honest work ethic, the king made plans to place him in charge over all the affairs of the empire.  When word of this got out, the lesser administrators, filled with rage and jealousy, devised a plan to put an end to Daniel.  They persuaded the king to sign a decree that for 30 days all prayers would be directed to the king only.  Anyone caught praying to any other god would be killed.

If you don’t know the story, you can probably guess what happened.  Daniel continued living his life as he had always done, praying to God Almighty, kneeling in worship before Him.  The other administrators knew of Daniel’s practice.  They timed their entrance to catch him in the act.  Immediately, they reported the deed to the king.  King Darius realized he had been tricked; he liked Daniel, but not even he could change his own decree.

Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den and a stone was placed over the entrance.  It’s interesting to note that when this happened, Daniel was an old man.  Theologians believe him to have been in his 80’s.  Therefore, it was not likely that Daniel could have  hoped to wrestle himself out of his predicament, or engaged in a rock climbing skill to avoid the paws of the lions.  Even so, Daniel had a weapon, unseen by human eyes, that would save him from peril.  Daniel prayed.  Prayer was a weapon that was familiar to Daniel’s heart.  He was skilled in sending both petitions and praises to God.  There is no doubt that using the weapon of prayer would have been the very first thing that Daniel did.  His body was old, but his heart could engage in any battle through the weaponry of prayer.

Why is it that when you and I face life’s difficulties, unfair treatment, and harsh words from others, that prayer is so often the last resort we turn to, to help us in our troubles?  Perhaps we are not as skilled in the use of prayer as Daniel.  If that is the case, anyone can grasp hold of the weapon of prayer right now: petition God Almighty with your hurts and concerns; then praise Him for His comfort, guidance, wisdom, mercy, and love without end.


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Logs In The Fire

Don’t you love a cozy fire?  Whether it’s sitting around a fire pit outdoors or before an indoor fireplace, there is something about the bright, orange flames and the popping, crackling sound of the logs burning.  It’s soothing to feel its warmth.

Can you imagine what a fire would be like with only one log at a time?  It would quickly fade away into glowing embers and then lose its glimmer altogether.  Isn’t it much better to have several logs burning together?  The fire lasts longer.  The warmth from the fire is stronger.

It’s the same when we engage in fellowship.  We are reminded in Hebrews to assemble together.  We do so to learn from and encourage each other in order to walk strong in our Christian faith.  We were never meant to walk alone.  We were meant to walk in fellowship.

Throughout the New Testament we come upon this concept — fellowship.  So what is it?  First, let’s look at what it is not: it is not merely a group of people getting together; it is not people with likeminded interests.  Those two definitions are of community which is far different than fellowship.  Anyone can be a part of community because of their shared interests.  There are all sorts of clubs  or community events that anyone can join.  Not so in fellowship.

You see, the key component of fellowship is Jesus Christ.  People who unite in fellowship do so only because of the shared grace of Jesus.  Fellowship comes from the Greek word — koinonia.  It implies something far deeper than joining a community event.  It implies a joining together as one because of The One who has washed us all clean by His shed blood on the cross.  Those who believe and accept that Jesus died for them, and who ask for forgiveness of their sins, are the only ones who enter into koinonia.  A community club can be joined and membership given up at any time.  Those who enter koinonia have eternal membership.

It’s the most meaningful and exciting thing in the world to join koinonia — fellowship with each other because of Jesus making us one with Him.   We become a part of the body of Christ, working together to walk in the ways of Jesus, which are not grievous but joyful.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that a body cannot merely be an eye or an ear.  No, all the parts are needed to live properly.  Every member of Jesus must seek to always walk in koinonia.  We must not be a lone log burning in a fire.  We need the shared fellowship with other believers.  We need each others’ encouragement in the ways of God; thereby keeping our fires burning brightly together.

“This is His commandment: We must believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.  Those who obey God’s commandments live in fellowship with Him, and He with them.  And we know He lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us.”  I John 3:23-24

 


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It Can Happen To Anyone

John the Baptist is one of the best known characters in the Bible.  We are fascinated by his clothing of camel hair and his cuisine of locusts and wild honey.  We are amazed that he was the one who baptized Jesus.  We are touched by his love and devotion to Jesus of whom he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  We see in that one statement, John’s humility before God.  We glimpse the faith John had as he spoke boldly to his critics, urging them on to also believe in Jesus who would forgive all sins.  There is no doubt that John knew his calling, and that by great faith, he walked the path God planned for him.

Then we see something interesting happen.  There came a time when John was imprisoned.  He would be beheaded for his faith in Jesus.  He sends some of his followers to Jesus with the question.  It’s recorded in Matthew 11:3, “Are you really the Messiah we’ve been looking  for, or should we keep on looking for someone else?”  

Can’t you feel for John in his situation?  He had been serving God faithfully.  He had courageously endured criticism; nothing stopped him from carrying out God’s will for his life.  He constantly displayed strong faith and devotion to God.  Then his world caves in.  He is imprisoned for that very faith in God that had brought him and countless others such joy.

Have you ever felt that way?  Have you been walking joyfully with God, seizing every opportunity He gives to tell others about His plan of salvation available for the whole world?  Then, in the midst of all this joy, something happens in your physical world that imprisons you in your spiritual world.  Doubt begins to simmer.  Perhaps even anger begins to boil.  Was God really ever helping you?  Is God really with you now in the midst of your prison of gloom?

Notice the response of Jesus in the next verse, “Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen — the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.  And tell him: God blesses those who are not offended by me.”  We learn something here that is so helpful to us all when things go wrong in our lives and doubt tries to set in.  Go back!  Go back and remind yourself of all the things God has done in your life and in the lives of those around you.  Go back; recall the times you have been in emotional low places before, and how God was there all along, being your comfort and peace.  Go back and remind yourself again of the day you asked Jesus into your life; recall the joy.  Recall the faith that filled you.  Reminding ourselves of God’s blessings in the past is always helpful to bring us out of the pit of doubt today.

Pay attention to your focus.  Difficult and hurtful situations come to us all.  No one is exempt.  We can make a choice: focus on the troubles —or — focus on God who has always been everything you need to get you through anything at all.  Upon what we focus is key to our delivery from the doldrums of life.

 


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It Was The Dog Who Reminded Me

I have often shared things that I have been reminded of through our cats.  Today I want to share something that came to mind through our dog, Bud. Bud is big and black, a great defender, (he once got a would-be intruder down and held him by the neck on the ground) loving to his family.

Like most pets, Bud loves the company of his human family.  He wilts when we leave the house and wiggles in delight at our return.  The other day I was sitting in a chair typing on my laptop.  I glanced down at the floor and there was Bud, just staring at me.  His brown eyes were bright, his mouth parted, revealing his set of jagged teeth, tongue hanging out.  “Are you smiling at me, Bud?”  I reached down to pat him on the head, and then returned to my work.  After several moments I glanced down again.  He was still staring, just seeming to soak up the joy of my presence.  This touched me very much.  I set my laptop aside and gave Bud a tummy rub; a love of his.

It was then that I began to think of how it is when I come to God, when I think upon Him for no other reason than to enjoy His presence.  Is God as pleased when I rest in Him as I am of Bud when he wants nothing but to bask in my presence?  Oh, yes!  I Samuel 12:22 tells us, “It has pleased the Lord to make you His very own people.”  Why did He make us His own?  Why did He adopt us, making us His very own children?  He loves us with a passion.

Think of someone you love deeply.  Don’t you love the moments when you can be in each other’s presence?  Isn’t there a joy that leaps in your heart when you walk in the door and there is the someone you love, smiling, eyes shining, happy in the fact that you just came into view?  I realize that not all family relationships are a joy.  I’m not referring to those today.  I’m referring to those in whose presence you joy.  It could be a family member or a dear friend.  The point is, there is joy just in being together.

Never forget how much your heavenly Father adores your presence when you simply come to be with Him, to bask in the beauty of His presence.  There’s a bonus, too, when we develop the habit of being aware of God and living in the beauty of His presence: it keeps our thoughts focused on truth, on the One who is whatever we need when we need it.

When the things of life come crashing down around us, the habit of basking in God’s presence will keep us near to the One who is our help in times of trouble, who is our defender in the presence of enemies, who is our comforter in times of hurt, who is our guide when we need direction.

The things of this world cannot give us perfect wisdom and guidance, lasting peace and courage, quiet joy in the midst of emotional pain.    We are also reminded of that very thing in I Samuel 12: 21,  “Don’t go focusing upon things of this world that cannot help or rescue you — they are useless.”  Things of earth may give temporary peace, but lasting peace and perfect peace comes only through the One who loves us so very much.  What a beautiful reason to want to simply come into His presence just to enjoy Him for being Him.


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A Resolution To Keep

Happy New Year everyone!  There’s a freshness about every new year.  It’s a time when we reflect upon what has taken place in our lives the past year.  Equally, we  look ahead with hope in what the coming year might bring.

Traditionally, each new year is a time when people set for themselves new goals to achieve.  There are the usual resolutions like losing weight, exercising more, saving money, moving, or getting a new job.  Some people make resolutions to be more patient or they resolve to be kinder to everyone in general. Like most people, I have made resolutions in the past.  I always meant to keep them; the trouble is, after a few weeks into the new year, I couldn’t even remember what the goals were that I had set.

In recent years, I came upon something that encouraged me.  It was a goal to set, not just for the new year, but for each day.  It’s been a goal that has been a joy to remember.  It’s been helpful and comforting to me.  It’s this:  Matthew 1:23.  An angel was speaking to Joseph before Jesus was born.  The angel said about Mary, “She will give birth to a Son, and  will call Him Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.'”   My resolution became a daily goal to remind myself that whatever the day would hold, easy or hard to bear, I would get through it because of Immanuel — God is with us.  God is with you.  God is with me.

Maybe you would like to start this New Year with the same resolution, to remember everyday that — God is with you.  When you are joyful, God shares in your happiness.  When you are hurting, God gives you His comfort.  When you are feeling like all hope is gone, don’t forget — God is with you.  When God Almighty is with you, hope is always there.  Perhaps He will lead you in a new direction and you’re scared at what will unfold. Perhaps there are health issues to deal with.  Press on  — God is with you.  What today brings, whatever you think tomorrow may hold, fear not — God is with you.

Just think, from the time of Jesus’ birth, God the Father had it in His plan to send  His only Son into the world to offer salvation to everyone who wanted it; to everyone who would ask His forgiveness of sin.  He chose to make it possible that by the Holy Spirit living inside every son and daughter of God, no one would ever be alone — God would be with them.

Father in heaven, may we never forget the name Immanuel.  Throughout this new year, may we remember each day — God is with us.


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The Love Of A King

A few days ago I watched a Christmas special on TV.  There was lots of singing followed by a Christmas message by pastor and author, Dr. David Jeremiah.  He shared a story he had been told many years ago.  He said it impacted him and broadened his understanding of God.  I was intrigued and listened carefully.  This is the story he shared:

Centuries ago there lived a King in a faraway land.  He was a good king, paying attention to the poor, doing what he could to help them.  One day he noticed a peasant girl.  Her clothes were rags.  His heart went out to her and in time he admitted to himself that he loved this peasant girl.  This was a great dilemma for him.

He longed to have the company of this girl he loved but their worlds, though near in proximity, were far apart in every other way.  What could he do?  As the King, he could command the girl be brought to him.  He could demand she marry him.  He could dress her in the finest of clothing and adorn her with expensive jewels.  He could have the girl; he only need speak the word.  But no, he wouldn’t do that because he knew that was not love.    No, he decided firmly, he would not demand anything of her.  He thought and thought.  Finally, it all became clear to him and he knew what he must do to let this peasant girl know how much he truly loved her.

The King gave up his throne.  He left his riches behind.  He became a peasant and lived among the poor, working hard every day just to earn enough for bread and sometimes porridge.  He befriended the peasant girl.  He showed his love for her and in time she gave her love to him.  They married.  Years later the King revealed that it was he who had been king of the land.  She was astonished.  She asked why he had left all the comfort of his palace?  He replied simply, “Because of love, my dear, I became as you, to feel as you, to experience as you do.  I gladly left the glories of my home to show you how much I love you.”

When Dr. Jeremiah finished the telling of this story I, too, was impacted with a fresh wonder at what Almighty God did all those years ago in sending His one and only Son, Jesus.  Jesus left the wonders of Heaven to become one of us, to live as us, to experience as we do.  He gladly left heaven so we would know how much He loves us.

“So the Word became human and made His home among us.  He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”  John 1:14

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in His will not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Merry Christmas, everyone.  I hope you know Jesus.  The life He gives us is out of this world!

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