What Jehoshaphat Knew

Every person of every generation has to face trouble.  There’s no getting around it.  There’s no special exemption to avoids life’s struggles; however, there’s great news in that we don’t have to muddle through the mud of our dilemmas on our own.  There is a mighty weapon available who will strengthen us, lead us, and bring us through to victory in every battle we face.  The weapon?  The wonderful Holy Spirit who resides within every follower of Jesus Christ.

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is of Jeshoshaphat recorded in II Chronicles 20. He was alerted that a vast army was coming against him and his own smaller army of soldiers.  In our own battles of life, armies of fear and confusion often come against us.  It’s easy to let panic set in.  Jehoshaphat and his army did not waste any time fretting.  The record reveals that they “sought help from the Lord.”  I love this because so often our first thoughts are “what can we do?”  Jehoshaphat’s first thought was “what will God do?”  As the story continues we are told in verse 14, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah…”  Jahaziel shares with the whole army what the Lord had said to him.  The instruction is found in verse 15, “This is what the Lord says to you, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”  Taking hold of that encouraging reminder, the army poised themselves for battle and marched forward.  However, they did not put in the front their best soldiers armed with spears and bows and arrows.  They put forward the musicians to play and sing praises to God.

Doesn’t that sound an unusual thing to have done?  We tell ourselves that such a thing was for Old Testament times.  God worked more mysteriously then, we  mistakingly convince ourselves.  I’m thrilled to tell you, not so!  We know this pattern of facing life’s battles is the same today,  It’s recorded for us in the New Testament book of Ephesians 5:18-19, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.  Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.”  

What does this mean exactly?  Is it a verse about the evils of alcohol?  No, it’s a passage about the power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s a reminder of  just Who is residing within us.  We have a power keg to lead us and empower us with all we need to get through any of life’s difficulties no matter how severe the difficulties become.  When a person is drunk on alcohol, that person is influenced by the content of what they put inside them.  It’s the same with the Holy Spirit.  When we keep in mind Who is living within us, and when we ignite into action His power, we are on the sure road to victorious living.  How to ignite that power?   Go back and look at the instruction in Ephesians,  “..sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs…making music in your hearts to the Lord.”  That’s what Jehoshaphat did: he worshiped first, knowing victory would follow.  He looked immediately to God to show Him the way.

Battles will come.  There’s no escape for any of us to face challenges that at times seem insurmountable.  Never believe the lie of Satan’s darkness that there is no way out.  Never forget the weapon of the wonderful Holy Spirit residing in all who trust Jesus as their own Savior.  Take hold of your weapon.  Engage the Holy Spirit.  Praise and worship God and walk on in victorious living.

 

Putting On Her Socks

What are you squeamish about or what makes your skin crawl?  Everybody has something that makes them go wobbly all over.  For me, it’s touching feet.  I have no idea why but the thought of touching someone’s feet or having anyone touch mine is a horror.  A friend wanted to give me a pedicure as a gift some years ago.  The thought was so abhorrent that I had to come clean and tell her that I would rather remove my own tonsils with a fork.

Then the moment, that all my life I thought I could never handle, presented itself to me.  It was last week while my mother was in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism (doing so much better now).  She swung her legs to the side of the bed as she wanted to go to the bathroom.  I saw her look down at her bedroom shoes.  I moved nearer to her feet.  “My feet are so cold,” she said.  I noticed the socks in her shoes.  She began to lower her arm with great effort to bend down and get her socks.  That’s when it happened; a rush of compassion poured over me.  I heard myself say, “I’ll do that, Mom.”  I reached down, picked up her socks, and pulled them onto her bare feet and up over her ankles.  Then I slipped each bedroom shoe onto her feet.  I helped her stand, get steady, and walked with her to the bathroom.

As I stood outside the door waiting, the verse from Jeremiah 31:3 came to my mind, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; with great tenderness I have drawn you unto myself.”  That’s how Father loves me.  That’s how He loves  you.  He is forever bending down, pulling up our socks of need, helping us to stand steady on shaky legs of weakness.

“How deep the Father’s love for us,  How vast beyond all measure, That He should give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure.”  Lyrics by Stuart Townsend

 

One Minute Scrambled Eggs — The Next?

It happened this past Monday morning.  My mother and I were enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs with toast and coffee.  We were eating with speed as I had made an appointment for her to see a doctor because over the weekend she had developed a fiery red throat with white patches.  We both wondered if it could be strep.  The first disappointment came when the doctor she particularly likes was not on duty that day.  She felt thwarted again.  It’s been a tough year as she has disappointingly had a long bout of illness off an on.  Therefore, getting the sore throat, along with an appointment with a doctor she had never seen, was another nail of frustration hammered into an already nail-scarred door of “what next.”

Upon entering the doctor’s office he immediately asked if my mother’s breathing was always that labored.  She answered that she guessed it was asthma or allergy.  “You look grey,” the doctor stated as he grabbed his stethoscope.  After several moments of listening front and back and front again, he said to me that he would call an ambulance but as the hospital was so near I could probably get to Emergency quicker myself.

We got in the car and away I went.  The staff were waiting for us.  Quickly and efficiently my mother was hooked up with an EKG and monitoring of all sorts began.  The doctors discovered a pulmonary embolism.  “It’s big, big ,big,” the doctor said to me.  He then told me that if she hadn’t come to Emergency it was doubtful she would have lasted to the weekend.

She was sent to the Emergency Care Ward, hooked up to oxygen, and a regime of tests began.  The right side of her heart is strained as it over compensated to assist the lungs working hard to breathe while the blood clot was blocking free passage of air.  I was praying and sending out requests to everyone I knew to please join in lifting my mother’s needs to Father.

As the day faded into night, activity lessened around my mother.  I watched her lay there, pale, an oxygen tube attached around her face, very still, exhausted, eyes dull.  “Mom,” I said as I sat close to her, “we can surely thank God that you got that sore throat. It took you to the doctor.  We can surely be thankful that your regular doctor wasn’t in because this new one saw right away that something major was going on.  He got you to Emergency.  We can be thankful for a wise and efficient emergency team.  They saved your life.  It’s actually been a very good day.”  She smiled, nodded, and said, “We can surely be thankful.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster,  to give you a future ad a hope.'”  Jeremiah 29:11

 

Out Of This World

I read a snippet of an article this week which caught my attention.  Desiring to share it on my blog I searched for the name of the author who wrote the piece but it was no where to be found.  So, with that information, that the following analogy is not from me, I share the following:  “Imagine planning the trip of a lifetime.  You board the flight to proceed to your destination.  You are filled with excitement until you hear the following announcement. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we hope you are enjoying your flight.  We have no destination; therefore, we will fly until we run out of fuel and plunge into the ocean.'” The writer of this article went on to imagine how one would feel being caught in such a situation, comparing it to how we all live life.  We all need to know our life’s destination; not just for our numbered days on earth, but most importantly for eternity.  That was the point that the writer of the above was emphasizing.

It really made me think about those I care about who still have made no decision to invite Jesus Christ into their lives.  It’s like attempting to pilot a plane when you’ve had no flight training whatsoever.  You will surely crash land.  It will be catastrophic.  Such a destiny awaits those who have no spiritual flight plan on earth.  Surely there is more to life than the here and now.  Surely there is something that will take us into eternity.

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:19, “If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”  While it’s so true that knowing Jesus in a personal relationship affords us daily access to His guidance, peace and joy no matter what comes to us, it’s also wonderfully true that there is a life beyond that is literally out of this world!

John wrote in Revelation 21:1 & 5, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared.  And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!”  John goes on to tell us that when we get to heaven there will be no more tears and no more death.  Isn’t that amazing?

Life on earth today, with our family and friends, can be so good but it’s only temporary.  If all we can count on is some hopeful days while we are alive now, then what is there to look forward to?  Nothing at all.  But if we are living today with the very Spirit of God residing in us, which comes to anyone who believes that Jesus died for them, will forgive them of everything, and make them a new person, then we have that glorious hope that when we breathe our last breath on earth, we inhale our first breath in heaven which will know no end.  It is eternal.

If I am the pilot of my life, there is no good end in sight; but if Jesus is both the navigator and the pilot, I have nothing to fear and everything wonderful to anticipate.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son to die for us, so that all who believe in Him, should not die without hope, but should live with Him for eternity.”  John 3:16

A Flippant Encouragement?

It was a dangerous time in the city of Thessalonica when the Apostle Paul and Silas travelled there.  They first went to the Jewish Synagogue.  Then they went out into the market places.  Their reason?  To tell others the truth of Jesus Christ who had been killed by crucifixion and then rose up from the dead.  Paul and Silas were passionate about the message of who Jesus is, why He came, and how He could radically change a life.

They had only been there for three weeks when a bunch of thugs got together and stirred up a riot against them.  It was known they had been staying in the home of someone named Jason.  The thugs went there demanding to have Paul and Silas given to them, but Paul and Silas weren’t there.  The people who had believed their message of love and hope had hidden them away; then in the night they helped them to escape to safety.

Naturally Paul and Silas were very concerned at the danger the new believers were in for pledging their allegiance to Jesus.  Therefore, with great desire to encourage these baby Christians, Paul wrote a letter to them.  Today we call the letter I Thessalonians.  In chapter 5 and verses 16-18, Paul writes something that is rather strange, given the difficult and dangerous situation in which the believers found themselves.  Paul encouraged them with the following words: “Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Does that piece of advice not sound just a bit flippant to you?  I could not understand this for years.  I believed it was right, but I could make no sense as to the value of it.  I tried to put myself in the shoes of the people of Thessalonica.  I told myself that if I were having a great problem in my life, and some well meaning person said to me what Paul said to them, that would not be a great help to me.  In fact, it might just irritate me.  It’s like that song of some years ago, “Don’t worry; be happy.”  How is that advice supposed to help?

Such an irritation would have come to me because I greatly lacked in my understanding. You see, Paul wasn’t being flippant.  He was revealing to them an important truth.  I’m sure the Holy Spirit within them guided the people into understanding just as He guides and teaches you and me today.

Paul was, in fact, doing something amazing.   He was teaching them to address a natural problem with a supernatural solution.  How radical!  He was encouraging them with the truth that whatever happens to us in our natural world, we have access to supernatural power.  We can be overcome with great sadness and discouragement due to natural circumstances in our lives.  Paul was telling them that they now have hope like never before.  They now have supernatural access to their Heavenly Father who has everything they need to get through anything at all.

That wonderful message is the same today.  We can be downtrodden, grief stricken, crushed with feelings of fear and worry, but we need never be defeated.  We have a supernatural access to get us through any natural pain.  That is indeed God’s will for us because He wants to see us as over comers, capable through His power to be strong in any situation life throws at us.

What Do We Own?

I once knew a woman who said to me of herself, “I am a very wealthy woman, yet I own nothing at all.”  She recognized that God had blessed her with a heart to give of His riches to others whom He chose.  She said she was a steward of God’s finances.  She is now with the Lord but her gift of giving lives on.

The world has a very different view about ownership.  Communism believes that the government owns everything and will share it out among everyone.  Capitalism believes that the individual owns what they earn and they don’t have to share it with anyone. The world’s philosophy is very much an — everyone for his or her own self.

Christianity is unique.  It teaches that God owns everything and will give each of us what we need as He sees best.  God teaches that we are to look for reasons to bless someone in need; to make a relevant difference for the good of others, even it at times it means our own personal discomfort.

There is an interesting passage in Psalm 50:10-12 & 14, “For all the animals of the forest are mine and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.  Every bird of the mountains, and all the animals of the field belong to me.  If I were hungry, I would not mention it to you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.”  Whether we recognize it or not, everything we have is because God let us have it.

He blesses us with our physical needs but at all times He is showing us that the most important things to possess is that which we cannot see with our physical eyes.  The riches of our Father are priceless; jewels of peace, wisdom, and joy set in eternal crowns that cannot rust or decay.

What do we own?  On earth, absolutely nothing that will last, but available in heaven, a fountain of wealth that never runs dry.

Knowing Your Identity

In this world we live in, proper identification of who you are is a must.   Picture ID’s are often required in banks, hotels, and other places of business.  Proving who you are is a must to keeping hold of your finances, your job opportunities, and your security.  Knowing who we are and proving who we are is key to stability in all our worldly affairs.

It is even more important in our spiritual world.  Our arch enemy, Satan, is always attempting to bring us down.  He tempts us, tells us lies about ourselves and others around us, and seeks to confuse us as to who we really are.  You see, if we keep our minds concentrated on the truth, that the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is the same Holy Spirit who inhabits our being, then that is cause for Satan and his kingdom to tremble.  We have nothing to fear; Satan does, when we know who we are.

Apostle Paul wrote in Galations 2:20, “My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  When you and I remember our identification in Christ, then we also know from whom comes our power to conquer anything, to stand strong against temptations that would cause us harm, to move in peace when the world is swirling in storms of confusion, and grappling with all manner of madness that we see daily on any news channel.  When we know who we are; that our lives are hidden with Christ in God, then we walk forward in God’s strength.  We reason with God’s wisdom.  We make decisions with God’s guidance.  We hold our heads up courageously, no matter the name calling others may slander us with, all because we know who we are — children of the Most High.  Sons and daughters with a most amazing heavenly inheritance.

When we know who we are, there is no emotional onslaught that we cannot walk through in absolute victory because we know that “with God nothing shall be impossible.”   Luke 1:37.

Therefore, be courageous.  Be victorious.  Know who you are.

Dipping In The Treasure Chest

I was watching the news this week, being saddened by all the crazy politics around the world, by the bickering, but mostly by the total lack of understanding concerning the holiness of God and of His amazing love for us.  He only gives us His plans to follow because they are the only plans without mistake. When we ignore His guidance, we take ourselves off the road of peace and joy and fulfilled meaning.

We all face so many challenges in life; some are merely degrees of difficulty to wade through, but others are utterly distressful.  We feel lost, like the turmoil will never fade away.  It’s at those moments that we must remember the treasure trove that God has given to us who belong to Him.

You see, when Jesus died on that cross to take away the ugliness of our sin, He also died to give us something beautiful in its place.  The Apostle Paul refers to this in Ephesians 3:16, “I pray that from His (God’s) glorious, unlimited riches, He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.”  Meditate upon that truth.  What is God saying?  He is reminding us that because we belong to Him through receiving Jesus Christ into our lives, He has provided us with everything we need to get through anything at all.

When our peace is shattered, we dip into the treasure chest of His promises.  Our inner spirit is calmed when we read of His peace that will see us through any trouble.  Our tears are dried when we remember that He is already in our next moment, making the crooked places straight.  Our fears are replaced with hope when we know that He holds our tomorrow in His hands.

When we forget to dip into that holy treasure chest available to each, fear, dismay, and depression is sure to prevail, but by grabbing hold of the riches of God, we are indeed “empowered with His own inner strength.”  What an amazing God to give us such riches that no amount of money in this world can buy.

As White As Snow

I kept looking out the window to see if  it was snowing.  Finally, at 10:00pm last night, I looked out and the world was white.  Beautiful!  I took our dog, Jack, outside.  It was like daylight because of the reflection of snow.  Everywhere we looked, it was fresh, undisturbed, falling in gentle flakes.

This morning at first light Jack and I were out again but this time it was a different scene.  Cars had already begun making the snow dirty.  The sidewalks were filled with squashy footprints.  The beauty of the night before was gone.  As we traipsed along in the wet slush the excitement of the fresh snow was gone.

What I was seeing is a picture of what takes place in our spiritual worlds.  When we come to Jesus, asking Him to forgive us and make us new, He does that very thing.  We are told in Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are as scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.” (says the Lord)  God’s love and redemption is amazing!  He forgives absolutely and He makes new absolutely.  God never does anything half-way.

Then, the temptations of the world come across all our paths.  Too often we succumb to those things that soil our hearts.  The beauty of our newness in Christ fades like trampled on snow.  Joy diminishes.  Peace crumbles.  The beauty that once was is now soiled.

Great news — we don’t have to remain as snow made dirty by the tracks of this world.  At any time we may call out to the One who loves us unconditionally.  Jesus promises us that every time we come with a sincere heart, He washes away the sin and makes us clean like snow again; just as if we had never sinned at all.  We stand pure in His sight when we are washed in His forgiveness.

Oh, what a loving and holy Father!  Nothing compares to His love and forgiveness.

70% Burned — Please Pray

When I heard the story, I shuddered.  A man unconscious and trapped in his pick-up truck was on fire.  He was being burned alive.  A stranger arrives on the scene.  Seemingly, with no regard for his own safety, he opens the driver’s door and pulls the man out, burning himself in the process.

The man who was burning in the driver’s seat was once a little boy in my mother’s children’s church.  He and his siblings were always the cutest things, capturing our hearts, stirring a deep love within our own hearts that remains to this day.  Therefore, with a concerned love for Jim, his wife and children, and his extended family and friends, I ask that those of you reading this would take a moment to pray for Jim.

He is in a specialized burns unit.  Pain is intense.  Skin grafting and therapy will take months of endurance.  I’m so thankful to be able to say that his family know the strength that only God can give.  They are clinging to it with a strong faith.  Please pray for them that their faith does not waver, that they sense the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit with them, comforting them in all their questioning and fearful moments.

Friends have rallied around them, writing words of encouragements with reminders of God’s love for them and offering practical helps.  Being brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom is a beautiful thing.  It makes us family.  Family helps us to remember to take Father’s own strength when we know we are weak.  Family reminds us to keep on clinging to the hope that Father promises, to bask in God’s peace that surprisingly comes in the direst of situations.

We could all tell wonderful stories of how friends have comforted us and stirred courage within to go on when we thought we couldn’t take another step.  Friends are so important to our effective walk with God because they remind us of Father’s promises of His presence always with us, of His love that never fails, of His strength that holds us in our weakness.

The Apostle Peter understood the great effectiveness of the encouragement that comes from friends.  That is why he wrote the following:

“I will always remind you of these things — even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.  And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live.”  II Peter 1:12-13

Thank you, Father, for our praying friends.