Posts Tagged faith

Hymn of the Day

24 April 2012

King David often compared God to a fortress, a strong tower and a refuge in times of trouble. The Tower of London may have provided shelter for kings and been a stronghold against their enemies but it had flaws and weaknesses. On the other hand, we have a Fortress that never fails.

A Mighty Fortress is our God

Words and Music by Martin Luther

***

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;

Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

***

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

***

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.

***

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18:2)

An Explanation for Unanswered Prayer?

21 April 2012

In Matt. 13:3-23, Jesus gives the parable of the sower who throws his seed out onto various types of soil. Most of the seeds don’t stick for various reasons; some do and bear fruit. Jesus states to his (confused) disciples that He’s speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven and the seed of the gospel on men’s heart.

But I’ve often felt there’s a similarity between the sower in this story and the intercessor who sows the seeds of prayer. When you’re praying for people going through a rough time — illness, loss of job, etc. — it seems that the more receptive they are to divine intervention in their lives, the more open their hearts are to the moving of the Holy Spirit, and the more apt they are to receive a miracle or a breakthrough in their lives.

And even if a breakthrough or miracle doesn’t arrive, those people seem to be given extra grace to survive or handle their situation with strength and fortitude.

The least receptive and most self-sufficient “sufferers” — even among Christians – seem to continue simmering in their problems with no apparent breakthrough unless there’s a turning point within their heart. Perhaps this sounds judgmental. I don’t mean for it to be. It’s just something I’ve observed in my own prayer times and as a result of my own frustration with unanswered prayers, both directed at situations in my own life and prayer for others.

So, ask yourself, Am I being receptive and open-minded when it comes to the prayers of others for me and my life or have I hardened my heart a bit — because I think I can get out of this or handle this situation on my own? Or maybe because I have given up or feel like I deserve punishment and don’t deserve to be blessed?

With prayer, persistence is key (remember the parable of the widow who kept knocking?) but at the same time we must acknowledge that the human will plays a key part. God will not force anyone to salvation, to faith or even to blessing. We must open our heart’s door to Him.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. — Revelation 3:20

Hymn of the Day

18 April 2012

God, Who Touchest Earth with Beauty

Mary S. Edgar

***

God, who touchest earth with beauty,

Make my heart anew;

With thy spirit recreate me,

Pure and strong and true.

Like thy springs and running waters

Make me crystal pure;

Like thy rocks of towering grandeur

Make me strong and sure.

Like thy dancing waves in sunlight

Make me glad and free;

Like the straightness of the pine trees

Let me upright be.

Like the arching of the heavens

Lift my thoughts above;

Turn my dreams to noble action,

Ministries of love.

God, who touchest earth with beauty,

Make my heart anew;

Keep me ever, by thy spirit,

Pure and strong and true. Amen.

Living Life’s Dramatic Pauses

2 April 2012

I was awakened by a knock on my door at 3:30 am last Thursday. My dad softly told me that my mom was in severe abdominal pain and that he was about to call 911. One minute I’m fast asleep dreaming about mundane things and the next I’m throwing hospital-friendly clothing into an overnight bag.

In 2011, I moved in with my parents to help take care of my mom who had not been given long to live. Miraculously, she beat the odds and gained strength each day until she was healthy enough to go about her life in an almost normal way. But we lived under the cloud of knowing that an emergency could arise at any moment.

On Thursday, that moment came.

We spent nine hours in the ER and then she was transferred to an isolation room in the hospital. It’s now Sunday. While she came in with abdominal pain, she ended up contracting pneumonia. Fortunately, they were able to control that since it was caught in the beginning stages. Every day has brought new hopes on the heels of new fears.

Sometimes preachers preach to the choir. Sometimes preachers preach to themselves. It’s the same thing with writers. As I read over last Sunday’s post, Life’s Dramatic Pauses, I realize how much I need to be reminded that God is in control, even in those heart-stopping pauses when the rug is swept out from under us.

P.S. We are hoping to go home tomorrow!!

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

 

What I’m Reading

19 November 2011

1. Good Guilt, Bad Guilt: And What To Do With Each by Becca Cowan Johnson.

Excerpt from back cover:

Do you feel guilty? Have you forgotten what your New Year’s resolutions even were? Are you envious of your neighbor’s car? Has it been two weeks since you mopped the kitchen floor? Were you rude to a coworker? Are you throwing away things you should be recycling? Have you neglected time with your children? Did you stray from your fat-free diet? When was your last quiet time?

Most people feel guilty in these areas — and many more. Some of the guilt we experience is part of having a healthy conscience. Our guilt, properly understood, can show us the sin in our lives and lead us to repentance. Bad guilt, however, undermines our emotional and spiritual growth. It is destructive and even immobilizing.

The difficulty is that it is hard to tell the difference. But this book will help us unmask bad guilt and get rid of it. Once we learn to identify this unnecessary guilt, God will begin to work powerfully in our lives. And we’ll discover how good guilt can challenge us to glorify God in all we do.

2. Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Madame Guyon.

Excerpt from back cover:

One of the most influential spiritual books ever penned, even secular historians acknowledge the great impact Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ has had in Christian history. Madame Guyon is generally credited, even by her enemies, as being one of the best-known women in church history. Will Durant, in his 11-volume Story of Civilization, recounts the impact of Jeanne Guyon’s life and writings on French history.

At one time this book was publicly burned in France and yet it has also been received by seeking Christians as one of the most helpful Christian books ever written. In truth, you are holding in your hands one of the most influential and one of the most powerful Christian books ever written. Penned by one of Christianity’s most famous saints, Jeanne Guyon, it has played a major part in the lives of more famous Christians than perhaps any other Christian book.

3. Confessions by Saint Augustine

A few people I greatly admire mentioned this work as one of the most influential in their lives. I’d attempted to read it before but, frankly, just couldn’t get into it — until now. Although Augustine was born in 354, his autobiography is eerily modern and relevant. He writes as if he were talking to God, so the work is a beautiful, transparent prayer and you almost feel guilty for eavesdropping. The book, originally written in Latin, covers Augustine’s adolescent struggles, his slow upward climb of the echelons of society, and finally his renouncing of all the glory and fame for his faith when he converted to Christianity. It’s a classical work of literature that everyone, especially every Christian, should read at least once in life.  I’m finding it strangely moving and insightful — and a bit hard to read (I’ve been at it since July!!). Definitely worth the effort, though.

 

Lay It Down!

9 November 2011

Michelle & our 99-yr-old Grandmother

My cousin Michelle is a talented writer and world-traveler who has a heart of gold. I read ”Lay It Down!” on her blog earlier in the week and asked her to guest-blog here today. 

 

“Can I have a volunteer? I need the strongest person in this room to come up to the front.”

People craned their necks to see who would answer my challenge in this East Asian Fresh Start seminar. Finally a grinning young man in his early twenties strode forward. He told me his name was Chen. Handing him asmall water bottle, I asked, “Is this heavy?” Chen shook his head. “It’s very light,” he insisted, hefting the water bottle in his hand. “So do you think you could hold this bottle for a long time?” I prodded. “Sure! No problem,” he grinned confidently.

“O.K. Please hold this water bottle in your right hand and stretch your arm straight out to the side.” Chen followed my instructions, as everyone in the group watched with interest. “Now stand there and hold that bottle until I say you can stop.”

Then I began to tell my story of getting burnt-out as an English teacher in Asia a few years ago. Little irritations kept building as I attempted to push them down, not acknowledging how they were affecting me. After a few minutes I paused my story to check on Chen. “Are you still doing OK?” “Yes,” he assured me, but it was a bit more strained. “So you can keep going?” He forced a smile. “Of course!”

I continued my story, but stopped again after a couple of minutes, alerted by the audience that Chen’s arm was starting to lower. “Keep that arm straight!” I reminded him. He reluctantly complied.

A few minutes later I paused my story once more. I could tell by the expression on Chen’s face that it was getting more and more difficult to keep his arm up. “Is the water bottle getting any heavier?” “YES!” he replied quickly. “Do you want to continue holding it?” I asked. Chen shook his head. “Would you like to put it down now?” “Yes!” he said gratefully.

Relieved, Chen put the water bottle down and rubbed his aching arm and shoulder, to the cheers and applause of the audience. “So what do you think is the lesson of this exercise?” I asked him. “Something that doesn’t seem heavy at first can become heavier and heavier the longer we hold on to it!” Chen said with conviction.

Are you holding on to small hurts, little irritations or minor disappointments? Mild frustrations can lead to depression, burnout, or explosive rage if not dealt with! Don’t keep holding on to those things that steal your joy and your peace. Lay them down! Give them to Jesus! He wants to give you peace and rest in exchange. Begin to pour out your heart to Him today.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT) 

Quote of the Day

6 November 2011

“Just because it didn’t end the way you wanted it to end, doesn’t mean that it was any less My will.” — GOD

A Lesson In Trust

5 November 2011

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

– Deuteronomy 31:6

I was babysitting Shelby, an adorable 3-year old girl. I picked her up and was going to flip her over backwards onto the ground, something I always enjoyed doing as a child. But halfway down she tensed up and hung in mid-air, her body stiff with fear. Knowing how much fun she would have if she just trusted me, I talked her down and she lowered one hand to the ground, then the other, then finally flipped over and landed safely on her feet.

The first words out of her mouth were, “Again! Again!”

So we did it again … and again … and again, until I thought my arms would fall off. But then it struck me what an apt lesson in trust and faith that was.

If you’re like me, there’s been a time in your life (or many times) when you’ve been scared stiff by what you’ve gotten yourself into — what God’s gotten you into. You thought at first you could handle it but after a while you start having second thoughts. What if I’m not good enough? What if they don’t like me? What if … What if …? Our natural tendency is to freeze up and to start looking rather desperately for a way of escape. Trust God? He’s the One who got us into this mess!

For me, a recent lesson in trust occurred when I made the decision to move from a comfortable life in Virginia, where I’d built relationships and friendships over the span of a decade, to Missouri. The reason for the move may have been a good one – helping to care for my mom — but it felt like I was leaving an exciting life I loved in order to become sequestered in country backwoods. Fast-forward nearly a year and I am amazed to look back and see that this has been one of the most blessed, productive, and peaceful seasons of my life.

God knows that as humans we have difficulty with trusting. Instead of flipping us over all at once into — or out of — a new experience, even an unbearingly painful one, He gently, calmly, carefully lowers us one hand at a time until we are safely on solid ground again. Step by step, we learn to trust God more. We see that He’s been faithful before and chances are pretty good that He’ll be faithful again.

And once the danger has passed, we may even find ourselves thinking, ”That wasn’t so bad after all. Again! Again!”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Give Grace a Chance

2 November 2011

This Halloween, Give Grace a Chance

By Nathalie Jeter

(Published on CBN.com)

With a hammer in one hand and a large scroll under his arm, Martin Luther approached the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He paused to take a couple of nails from a pouch hidden in the folds of his dark woolen habit then began pounding his 95 theses to the church’s heavy wooden doors.

The date was October 31, 1517 and the event changed the course of human history.

Today many Christians debate the proper stance to take toward Halloween. Some believe that the holiday glorifies witchcraft and evil, while others see it simply as innocent fun. One of Satan’s most successful tactics is to incite Christians to fight each other on matters of doctrine. Perhaps we would do better this October 31 to focus on what is most important to God, just like Martin Luther did on that fateful day in history.

Luther’s protest was not against ghosts and goblins or children dressing up to trick-or-treat. He chose All Hallow’s Eve because it was the night before All Saints’ Day, a day when most of Wittenberg’s inhabitants would be in church. It was good advertising.

Click here to read more.

Message in a Mantle

1 November 2011

Mother has been talking for months about getting something to fill the empty space above our mantle. She didn’t want just anything: she had a particular concept in mind where we would take letters and form a scripture or inspirational saying. Dad and I nodded when she would tell us about this, but I think perhaps we both had our doubts about how it would turn out.

We finally found an appropriate scripture: “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Dad went to work, painstakingly planning, preparing, cutting and adhering each letter from an appliqué to the wall. In the end, it looked like it was meant for that space.

It’s exactly what Mom wanted it to be: a silent testimony to God’s miraculous intervention in human lives. It’s also a constant reminder of how God is touching Mom and healing her body from this rare blood disease she has. (For an update on her health, click here)

We are so thankful for the love and prayers of all our friends!

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