This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


I like to plan. When I taught school, I had yearly plans for each class before the school year started, sketching out which units I would cover and how long I would spend on each. When I teach Sunday school, I have each week's topic planned before the course starts. At work I have a planned schedule for each day. At home I follow careful budgets. Each week I write down my grocery list before going to the store. I like to know about activities ahead of time so I can look forward to them and prepare for them.

Life does not always allow for such precise plans.  Sometimes life takes one by surprise, spinning out of expected patterns and leaving the comfortable realm of predictability. Sometimes life doesn't even reveal whether chaos or stability are likely to prevail. For the moment, life holds steady, but it flashes warning signs that upheaval might be coming; whether that upheaval will materialize or not is quite unknown.

I currently find myself in the last of those possibilities. Life might continue on its familiar path, but a strong possibility of significant upheaval also looms. While that upheaval is not guaranteed, and may be only temporary if it does happen, I nevertheless face the reasonable prospect of an uncomfortable and challenging season of life.

Since the warning alarm a few days ago, my mind has processed some unwelcome vocabulary. Overwhelmed. Faint. Drowning. Floundering. Fearful. Tense. Daunting. Helpless. Crushed. Frail. Discouraged. Impossible. At times my thoughts have spun wildly, resisting control. I have tried to come up with solutions and figure out the possibilities. I've gone through denial, ignoring, wishful thinking, and hopes.

This has created chaos - a noisy and busy mind. In the midst of that, I have been aware that it is not where I want to be. I want peace and victory. I want to rest. I want to trust God. I suppose it is natural - human, for sure - to need time to adjust. If a rock is thrown into a pond or a bucket is kicked, the water does not still immediately. I yearn, however, for that stillness to come quickly.

Many things can help to bring peace and calmness. Prayer, God's promises, His Word, knowing my God, the maturity brought through previous storms. All of these things help. Something else has helped to calm me as well. It is my Ebenezer.

In the days of Samuel, the children of Israel were in a time of spiritual renewal. As they came together to confess sins and worship God, the Philistines chose to attack. The children of Israel were afraid. They asked Samuel to pray and ask God to save them. God answered Samuel's prayer in a mighty way. "The Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel" (I Samuel 7:10). A great victory followed, and Samuel marked the victory with a memorial. "Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the Lord has helped us'" (I Samuel 7:12). This was just one of many times that Israel set up a visible marker to remind them of something God had done for them.

A number of years ago I created an Ebenezer - a visual testament to God's provision. I had been abruptly let go from my job mid-school year, leading to total upheaval. In addition to losing my job, I lost my ministry, my church family, my friends, important spiritual support, my home, and my familiar life. I moved several states away to the challenge of living with my parents, while remaining unemployed or semi-employed for twenty months. My search for a new ministry led me through multiple possibilities that seemed exciting and definite, but each in turn crashed in disappointment.

It seemed that those months would never end. I didn't see how I could make it through. I made a miniature calendar with a box for each day, lasting until when I thought I would have a new teaching position. Each day I colored in a box, changing colors each month. When my unemployment extended an extra year, I made more cards to track the additional months. Finally, I colored one tiny box in a bold contrasting color - the day I got my new job and my life finally moved on.

When I emerged from that experience, I thought to myself, "After what God has done for me, I never have reason to doubt Him again." I have kept those calendar cards on my refrigerator. I notice them from time to time, but I rarely focus on them. This week, however, I was thankful for them. They have been a reminder that has helped to redirect my thoughts.

Those calendar cards have reminded me of many important truths. God knows what He is doing. He will take care of me. He has amazing power to orchestrate people and events. No situation is out of His control. He can and will do exactly as He has planned. He can give me enough grace. He can give me strength. He can help me do what seems impossible. He can carry me through. He can take things that look really bad, and He can use them to accomplish things that are really good.

I don't know what will happen through the rest of this year, but even if the worst scenario that I can imagine should develop, that will not change who God is. It will not diminish His love, limit His power, nullify His wisdom, or trump His control. God will do what is right, and He will help me. That doesn't mean life will be easy, fun, comfortable, or preferred, but it does mean I can trust Him. He has already proven that to me.

"Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies" (Psalm 36:5).

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Things to Say in a Funk

A funk. The blues. The doldrums. At one time or another, everyone experiences a mood that is simply not pleasant. Low points that extend beyond the normal ups and downs of life can come for a number of reasons: great disappointments, persistent frustration, continuing stress, uncomfortable uncertainty, or ongoing discouragement.

Recently I had another birthday. I wasn't expecting any major celebration, but until almost the last minute, I didn't have even the prospects of plans. There was some disappointment and discouragement in that unwelcome absence of anticipation. As it turns out, some friends spent the evening with me, which redeemed the day, but after I got home and the following day, I found myself extra discouraged.

As I evaluated why, I realized that my despondent mood didn't actually have much to do with the birthday itself. Rather, I was discouraged because I had reached another milestone in life without seeing desired changes. I was another year older and still alone. More disturbing was that I was another year older and my health had still not turned around.

As soon as my mind came to those conclusions, I knew I had discovered the source of my discouragement. I also knew that the needed response was for me to say some things to God. While someone may not immediately recognize it as such, being in a funk is usually closely related to one's thoughts and attitudes toward God. I was unhappy with what He was doing and allowing in my life. Instead of retaining those negative thoughts, I had to say four things.

1. I thank You.
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name" (Psalm 100:4).
"Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).
"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (I Thessalonians 5:18).

There is never a time when it is not proper to give God thanks. There is never a situation for which it is not proper to give God thanks. God gives to His children only what is for their good and only what will accomplish His good work. Humanly speaking, individuals may not see that good or even be able to imagine it, but everything that God does or fails to do is worthy of thanks.

2. I praise You.
"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15).
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2-3).
"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials" (I Peter 1:6).

There is never a time when it is not proper to praise God. He is always in control. He is always doing His work. He is always good. He is always faithful. He is always working to accomplish His work in the world and in the lives of individuals. His amazing character and works are worthy of praise.

3. I trust You.
"Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it" (Psalm 37:5).
"You are good and do good" (Psalm 119:68).
"Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything" (Psalm 119:128).
"The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, 'Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand'" (Isaiah 14:24).
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

There is never a time when a believer cannot trust God. God knows exactly what He is doing. God always does what is right. God can orchestrate plans that man cannot comprehend. God can bring to fruition everything that He has planned. With a God so wise, so powerful, and so loving, there is no reason for man not to trust Him.

4. I yield to You.
"And Mary said, 'Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word'" (Luke 1:38).
"On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it?" (Romans 9:20).
"Submit therefore to God" (James 4:7).
"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time" (I Peter 5:6).

There is never a time when it is not necessary to yield to God. Man does not have the wisdom or power of God. Man doesn't know what is right and would make the wrong choices on his own. Instead of stubbornly resisting and insisting on his own way, a Christian must yield to the One who truly knows what is best and who solely can accomplish His plans.

These four statements help to put life in perspective. They help someone to put himself in correct relation to God. They help a Christian to focus on proper, stabilizing thoughts instead of improper, variable feelings. Even if future birthdays go completely unnoticed, even if I am always alone, and even if my health never improves, I must deal with those disappointments by telling God, "I thank You, I praise You, I trust You, and I yield to You."

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Under His Wings

William Cushing wrote a wonderful hymn, "Under His Wings," which centers around a precious picture that God Himself revealed in the Bible. God compares Himself to a mother bird who gently holds her chicks close, providing them with protection, comfort, stability, and undying love.

Under His wings, God provides protection.
Under His wings, I am safely abiding,
Tho' the night deepens and tempests are wild;
Still I can trust Him - I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me and I am His child.

"Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by (Psalm 57:1).

"He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark" (Psalm 91:4).

God's protection knows no boundaries. Consider some of the situations under which He affirms His ability to protect.

·         the ends of the earth and the farthest sea (Psalm 65:5)
·         terror, arrows, pestilence, destruction (Psalm 91:5-6)
·         night and day, coming and going, now and forever (Psalm 121:6&8)
·         raging waters (Psalm 124:4-5)
·         the remotest part of the sea (Psalm 139:9)
·         the overwhelming darkness of night (Psalm 139:12)
·         waters, rivers, fire, and flame (Isaiah 43:2)

Under His wings, God provides comfort.
Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort and there I am blest.

"For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy" (Psalm 63:7).

"But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall" (Malachi 4:2).

God can help and comfort and heal like no one else can. He often describes this comforting quality.

·         as a solicitous shepherd (Psalm 23:4)
·         like a compassionate father (Psalm 103:13)
·         like the mother of a newborn (Isaiah 49:15)
·         as the Great Physician (Mark 2:17)
·         as the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (II Corinthians 1:3-4)
·         as One who gives peace beyond human comprehension (Philippians 4:7)
·         as a sympathizing High Priest (Hebrews 4:15)

Under His wings, God provides stability.
Under His wings, O what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life's trials are o'er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus I'm safe evermore.

"May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge" (Ruth 2:12).

"Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings" (Psalm 17:8).

God is the only one with power to hold people throughout their entire lives, and He is certainly the only one who can keep them for eternity.

·         He keeps His children before they are born (Psalm 139:15-16)
·         He keeps His children from birth (Psalm 71:6)
·         He keeps His children from their youth (Psalm 71:5)
·         He keeps His children in the trials of life (Psalm 25:20)
·         He keeps beyond the limited capacity of man (Psalm 127:1)
·         He keeps His children when they are old (Psalm 71:18)
·         He keeps His children for eternity (John 10:28-29)

Under His wings, God provides undying love.
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

"How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings" (Psalm 36:7).

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Matthew 23:27).

God's love is unmatched to a degree that man cannot comprehend. His love is incredible.

·         God defines Himself as being love (I John 4:7-8)
·         There is no greater love than self-sacrifice (John 15:13)
·         Jesus died for those who were His enemies (Romans 5:8)
·         God's love is not based on any human merit (Titus 3:4-5)
·         God openly declares His love (John 14:21&23 and 16:27)
·         God's love is beyond comprehension (Ephesians 3:17-19)
·         Nothing can separate believers from God's love (Romans 8:35-39)
·         God loved first (I John 4:19)
·         God's love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3)
·         God wants believers to abide constantly in His love (John 15:9-10)

When one realizes the tremendous blessing of abiding under the protecting, comforting, stabilizing, loving wings of God, his heart should respond by earnestly desiring to remain in that position. There is no better place!

"Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings" (Psalm 61:4).

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Serious Communication

Recently I have been reading the devotional book I authored for people with chronic illnesses. I do profit from reviewing those truths that were driven into my heart at an earlier time; I have a tendency, however, to read my writings through the eyes of another reader. That is, I wonder how others will be helped by the truth or anticipate that someone else would be challenged by it. One day this week, I was particularly challenged by the appropriateness of the truth for me personally. I read a couple of selections that were especially pertinent and required my consideration. This led me to talk to God about my heart and about my desired response before Him.

Communication is important in every relationship. Sometimes we conveniently assume the other person knows what we are thinking and feeling. We forget that reinforcement and reminders are needed. If we haven't said something in a while, it is easy for the other person to forget it, wonder if it is still true, or question whether it is still true to the same extent and fervency.

Sometimes it is uncomfortable to verbalize certain things aloud. The very things that are hardest to say, however, are often what most need to be said. The verbalization provides reassurance, comfort, confirmation, or clarity for the hearer. Formulating the thought enhances lucidity for the speaker, and actually stating the words reveals his level of seriousness. There is value in common, ordinary conversation about the details of life, but there is much more value in deeper, more personal conversation. Shallow conversation helps the relationship to function practically, but serious conversation deepens and strengthens the relationship. It demonstrates that something significant and meaningful exists.

We need to talk to God about our struggles and difficulty in the challenges of life. We need to express our frustration, discouragement, confusion, and desperation. We need to ask Him for His strength, guidance, and encouragement. We need to tell Him that we are looking to Him for the answers.
"Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold" (Psalm 69:1). "O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; make Your way straight before me" (Psalm 5:8).

We need to talk to God about what we want Him to do in us. We cannot accomplish spiritual growth on our own, so we need God's help. We need to talk to Him about our desires and ambitions, about what we want to be true in us although it has not happened yet. We need to recognize the areas in which we are weak and specifically ask God for help.
"Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statues!" (Psalm 119:5). "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law" (Psalm 119:18).

We need to talk to God about the dark shadows of our hearts. We need to talk to Him about our pitfalls and besetting sins. We need to tell Him about the areas where we regularly struggle. We need to decry our wickedness, confess our sins, and ask Him for forgiveness, renewal, and restoration.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide" (Psalm 32:5).

We need to talk to God about our submission to Him. If we are at all discerning spiritually, we realize that there are frequently areas in which we are not quite in line with God's desires for us. There are times that we focus on our own desires and stubbornly cling to our own preferences. We need to tell God that we are yielding to Him. When God convicts us, we have to talk to Him about our decision and even about the struggle to reach that right decision.
"Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth" (Job 40:4). "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).

We need to talk to God about our attitude toward Him. God is not insecure and is not dependent on our expressions of love and high regard, but of all people, He is most deserving of such statements. We need to tell God of our love for Him. We need to tell Him of our admiration for His attributes. We need to praise His goodness and His character.
"For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth" (Psalm 71:5). "I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You" (Psalm 9:1-2).

The Bible is filled with prayers and statements like those above from godly believers of the past, and such prayers should be a regular part of our lives as well. God is omniscient. He knows our heart and our thoughts better than we do. Nevertheless, God still wants to hear from us. He wants communication. The value is not so much for God as it is for us. We need to strengthen our side of the relationship by serious communication with God. We need the benefit that comes from clearly considering and actively verbalizing what is in our hearts. We need the grace that comes when we humble ourselves before God and say the things that God ought to hear from us.

Such communication cannot be scripted; it cannot consist of standard phrases that we habitually and mindlessly parrot. Rather, it must be fresh and regularly prompted anew. While reading the Bible or other devotional material, while singing or listening to music, and while listening to sermons, our hearts must respond, and we must deliberately verbalize that response. There are no secrets from God, but deep communication can strengthen and build the relationship, developing a special sweetness that comes when barriers and formality are removed.