Category Archive: Encouragement

Perspective and Promise

Did you notice more grey hairs during the past six months of shelter in place? I did. Not that I had more, but that without going to the salon they were coming out of hiding!

I’m thrilled that nail and hair salons in our area have reopened and I can deal with those grey hairs.

But I’m even more encouraged by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:3-4

What a promise! The God of creation upheld me since conception, carried me since birth, and will sustain me to my old age. There’s another wonderful promise in Psalm 92.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Psalm 92:12-15

Oh, we will have difficulties and trials in this life. Jesus promised that.

Sometimes I feel I’ve had my share of challenges, between the losses of a husband, both parents and parents-in-law, and some dear friends; challenges of illnesses; Covid-19 restrictions; and leaving/healing from a legalistic ministry.

But then I think of those in countries where people are being held captive for years, separated from family who may not even know whether or not they are alive, because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Others are giving their lives rather than renounce their Lord. He said if they hated me, they will hate you. And I pray for God’s sustenance for those dear brothers and sisters. And I ask how I can help.

These are righteous, and they will be honored by God in His kingdom. And I’m humbled because I have not experienced what they have. And yet all who have trusted in Christ’s work on the cross are counted righteous–not because of what we have done, but because of his grace! (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Perspective and promise. Perspective that comes from recognizing God’s loving hand throughout my life (and trusting him for my future) and from seeing others remain faithful through extremely difficult trials.

God’s promises, which are true because he cannot lie. It would be against his character. And he has promised “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) to all who trust in him. We may not see that hope in its fullness until we’re on the other side; but his promise is true.

How are you doing through this time of shelter in place and division in our country? I pray you will be encouraged by these two focus areas, perspective and promise.

I’d love to hear from you.

That They May be One

‘Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell’. 

Psalm 43:3

A devotion from Seeds of the Kingdom explains that in Scripture light often symbolizes well-being. So walking in the light of God’s presence illuminates the deepest secrets of our hearts, and carries with it day to day benefits for us. First, it keeps us in the truth. We live in a world of compromise and relativism and more than ever before we need to know the truth so we can walk in God’s ways. Second, it dispels our fear because His presence is always with us and we will not lose our way. Third, walking in the light of God’s presence is the way of obedience. In Scripture obedience and blessing go hand in hand. https://seedsofthekingdom.org/devotionals/0140/walking-in-the-light-of-god%E2%80%99s-presence.php

How can we walk in the light of God’s presence in a world, a country that is deeply divided right now?

Our small women’s Bible study group studied Jesus’ prayer in John 17 this week. He prays that we will be one, as He and the Father are one. He prayed for us, for me–“for those who will believe in me through their message.”

He prays for this oneness so the world may believe God sent Jesus, and that Jesus loves us even as the Father loves the Son (John 17:23)

This weekend a local pastor shared some letters he has received in the past two weeks. Each said she was questioning her relationship with God because of the divisions, the anger she sees within the church over politics.

Hearing these letters hurt. How tragic if our disagreements, my desire to be ‘right’, causes others to turn away from rather than to Christ!

So how do we move forward? We know we have political differences in the church. I think most families have some level of political difference. We don’t have to think alike. And yet Jesus prayed that we would be one.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

1 Corinthians 12:25-27 MSG

When injustice occurs, we need to hurt with those affected, and work for justice. When righteousness blesses someone, we rejoice exuberantly with them! We can look for opportunities to be intentional about loving someone with whom we disagree, especially politically.

We can also focus on relationship. There are differences within my family, but we have agreed that our relationship is more important than our differences. We’ve agreed not to discuss politics or, if we do, we work to do it briefly and in a spirit of respect for the other’s point of view.

Politics is not our savior; a political party cannot make us right with God. His purposes go beyond what happens in the November election. We don’t have to think alike; but our focus needs to be on Jesus and on the mission He gave us to share His love and truth with the world. If we do this, we can lay some of our differences aside and love each other.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headedthat exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Hebrews 12:2-3 MSG

What are you finding in this divisive time? Is your family all on the same page politically? If not, how do you handle those disagreements?

My Times are in Your Hands

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once talked about two kinds of faith, the “if” faith and the “though” faith. The “if” faith says “If God blesses me, I’m prosperous and healthy and happy, then I’ll trust God.”

“Though” faith is different:

Though things go wrong, though evil is temporarily triumphant, though sickness comes and the Cross looms, nevertheless I’m going to believe anyway and I’m going to have faith anyway.. Though the waters doth roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Martin Luther King Jr.

In the Old Testament, Job looked around and saw that everything had been stripped away from him. He couldn’t see the big picture. He just saw the losses stack up. Even his wife advised him to “Curse God and die.” Job’s response was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15a).

So what kind of faith do you and I have? Can we say we have a “though” faith?

  • Though hate and violence rear their ugly heads in my country
  • Though all collapses around me
  • Though I get lonely and desperately want face to face people connections
  • Though people I love are experiencing grave difficulties
  • Though I lose loved ones to COVID-19
  • Though I fear for much of what is happening in our country.

Oh, we will grieve. We may be lonely. We may be fearful or depressed. But we still have a choice. Will we choose to trust God despite those circumstances, and as we work our way through them? Or will our faith collapse under the weight of the pressure?

This is Pentecost Sunday, the day commemorating the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ earliest followers. The Holy Spirit is referred to as Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counselor. He is still with us. Let us trust him to help in our times of need, to give us strength to hold on, to share His love with those around us, and to trust that God is holding us when we feel we have no strength left with which to hold onto him.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 

Jesus, in John 16:7 KJV

We still have His power working in us today to help us through these various challenges.

Psalm 31:14-15 tell us “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands...”

I have struggled with depression; I am grieved and angered by much of what occurs in our society; I don’t know what to expect next–do any of us? But I will choose to trust the One who holds my times in His faithful hands.

The Blessing

Like many in the midst of this pandemic, I am looking for places of hope. Pastor Rene Schlaepfer, at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California encourages us with the following thoughts from the story of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8.

In the midst of the WHAT is making us anxious, there is a WHO saying “Look at Me.” When our focus moves from the storm itself to the One who is with us on this journey, when our faith in someone surpasses our fear of the something, then we can be at peace. We will face storms–they will come into our lives unpredictably, unexpectedly, inevitably, and impartially.

  1. Jesus is close. In the middle of the storm, Jesus was right there in the boat with the disciples. And in this pandemic, He is here with us. Isaiah 43:1-2: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
  2. Jesus cares. The disciples said, “Jesus, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” He does. As hard as this is for some of us, we are to relax in His care. I Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”
  3. Jesus is in control. In our Western culture we like to think we are in control. A pandemic like this shows us how little control we actually have. But we can rely on the One who is in control. Mark 4: “Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!'”

I rely on these truths for myself and for those family and friends who are ill, have lost jobs, are going through marital struggles, and are just feeling anxious.

I will leave you with a wonderful song by musicians from 25 churches in Hawaii, from six islands. Skip the ad and go to The Hawaii Blessing, hosted by Hawaiian Island Ministries (HIM).

May God bless you and keep you and give you His peace.

Where is My Refuge?

Pitch pipe on sheet music

Mom used to tell me how often God wakened her with a song in her heart, usually one that gave her hope or peace in a difficult time.

Don and I slept in yesterday. Our room was still in shadow, all the windows covered. Don got out of bed first and opened one of the blinds. The sun poured in, almost blinding. Immediately an old chorus popped into my mind. It goes like this. Do you remember it?

Chorus:
Oh there's sunshine blessed sunshine
When the peaceful, happy moments roll
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.

There is gladness in my soul today
More glorious and bright
Than shines in any early sky
For Jesus is my light.

I got up singing. It’s the first time in forever that I’ve had five consecutive nights of good sleep. I know people have been praying for me, and we’ve made some small changes to our daily schedule. But to waken with a song and feeling refreshed felt like a gift from my heavenly Father and my mother!

Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.

Vincent McNabb

Hope. Without it, we soon lose our way. With it, we can move forward through our fears, our griefs.

So how do we respond during this time of conflicting news reports on COVID-19, differing opinions on what kind of contact is or is not safe? Different states, and counties within states, have varying regulations. Individuals and families struggle with long-lasting illness and death. And we deal with fears, privately and corporately.

  • As we Shelter in Place, one of our biggest joys is going for a walk around our neighborhood, especially on a pleasant day.
  • Churches–and businesses–meet on Zoom or another platform (and thank God for technology that allows us this option).
  • Friends email, call, Zoom.
  • Visits sometimes occur through the windows of residential centers which cannot allow guests inside.
  • We delight in meeting neighbors out walking, retaining our distance but treasuring face time.

But we still have choices.

We can complain and be filled with negative thoughts, and pass those on to others.

We can trust that the God of the universe has not lost control, nor has He lost sight of what’s happening in our world. We can ask Him what purpose He has in this situation, how He is working out His plan as we are all reminded that ultimately, we are not in control.

I treasure this scripture.

The name (character) of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Proverbs 18:10

Don’t misunderstand. God is not promising bad things will never happen to His people. But He is promising the security of knowing He will be with us, will never leave us, no matter what circumstances we face. (Hebrews 13:5).

And we need to surround ourselves with hopeful friends who encourage and support us, who help us look to the source of our hope. If we keep our eyes on the problem we will despair, but if we keep our eyes on God, the problems take on a different perspective.

I need to keep returning to that source. It’s not at all a once-for-all thing. My fears resurface, motivation veers off course, and I need to drink deeply of the well of living water again and again. I’m encouraged by these verses.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

What’s helping you walk with hope in this challenging time?