I Am Certain of This

Well, when the first four blogs I read in a morning are saying the same thing it makes me sit up and take notice. What is the Spirit saying to me? Maybe He is saying something to us all (?) 

… for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:8‭-‬9 (Blogged twice by Beholding Him Ministries) https://beholdinghimministries.org/  

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. Matthew 5 11-12 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom.8.35-39 (Blogged by Eagle Sight) https://eaglesight.blog/2022/10/01/persecution/ 

And then this from Henri Nouwen: 

“We are fearful people. We are afraid of conflict, war, an uncertain future, illness, and, most of all, death. This fear takes away our freedom and gives our society the power to manipulate us with threats and promises. When we can reach beyond our fears to the One who loves us with a love that was there before we were born and will be there after we die, then oppression, persecution, and even death will be unable to take our freedom. Once we have come to the deep inner knowledge—a knowledge more of the heart than of the mind—that we are born out of love and will die into love, that every part of our being is deeply rooted in love, and that this love is our true Father and Mother, then all forms of evil, illness, and death lose their final power over us and become painful but hopeful reminders of our true divine childhood. The apostle Paul expressed this experience of the complete freedom of the children of God when he wrote, ‘I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:38–39).” — Henri J.M. Nouwen https://henrinouwen.org/meditation/  

Photo by Sheila Bair

Ever-Present (Psalm 46)

God is my refuge, my strength 

He is my ever-present help in trouble 

He is the Ever-Present one 

I am the holy place where He dwells 

where the Most High dwells 

God is within me, I will not fall 

God will help me 

The Lord Almighty is with me 

Ever-Present 

here 

with  

me 

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:20 

Photo by Jack Bair

To make us rely not on ourselves …

It was like the Lord said, read your blog.

A miracle happened as I cared for my elderly parents a while back. I wanted to share it with you, but in the mean time my dear Dad passed into glory, and the caregiving for my bereaved Mom has been overwhelming. But I keep thinking that this may help someone else, so here it is.

You will understand how wonderful this was if I if I go back a little. Ever since I can remember, as the oldest daughter, I was made to feel that it was my responsibility to “save” the family. As a child as young as five I remember being asked to solve adult-weight possible catastrophes. So, my parent’s recent devastating health (dementia, COVID, COPD, heart failure) and resulting financial problems have triggered a lot of anxiety and panic and even despair in me.

This particular day, my parents called me in a panic because they had purchased 400 dollar’s worth of Target gift cards to send as gifts and were positive that either they had left them at the store on the counter or in the little basket of the motorized cart my dad was using, or that my mom had thrown them away in the garbage (part of the dementia is an obsessive urge to clean and clear away clutter). So, I went over there to help them find the cards, or, if possible have them canceled so they could get their money back.

First, I looked around in the house just in case. My dad said to look for a little grey Lowe’s bag and that he was pretty sure they were in the garbage. Luckily, they had failed to get the two cans out to the curb, and they were very full. So, I went through both, item by item, refilling garbage bags. Some of it was pretty ripe. Anyway, I found two little grey Lowe’s bags, but no cards. So, then we went down to Lowe’s to see if they could help us.

They were polite, though looked at us with pity. They said no gift cards had been turned in. My heart sunk deeper. The manager said I would have to call the 1-800 customer service number that is on the back of Target gift cards, as they were not Lowe’s products and they could do nothing. So, as my parents sat on a bench, I called the number and talked with a representative. She said she needed some numbers, which apparently are on the cards themselves because they were not on the receipt or the gift receipts containing the activation codes. In that case, she said she would send me an email and that I should respond with photos of the all the receipts.

I waited and waited but the email did not come. As I stood there, I asked God again to help us, and it was like he pointed me to the receipts I had in my hands and said if we had all the receipts and codes, why didn’t we have the cards too? I felt Him say that the cards were in the house. I knew that God had delayed the email so I wouldn’t get the cards canceled.

Let me go back again. A few months ago God gave me a blog post about these two verses:

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

That morning before I left my house I had been crying out to the Lord and asked him for a Bible verse I could hang on to that day. It was like he said to me, read your blog. Ha ha. So, I did and grabbed unto Philippians 4:6. I had just enough strength in the panic and despair to present my requests to God and try not to be anxious. As we drove back to the house, I cried out to God again, but this time said to him: it’s not up to me to save anybody, it’s up to you, and even if we never find the cards, I will trust completely in You and believe that you have good in mind for my parents. Suddenly, every burden lifted off me and I was at complete peace.

When we got back to their house I asked if I could poke around. I looked in every drawer, every closet, every shelf (I did find my mom’s glasses that had been missing for months!), under piles of junk mail, under furniture. I looked in the attic, in every room on the main floor, and in the basement. While in the basement, I felt sure that the cards were in the kitchen, though I had already searched there several times.

There are two deep drawers in the kitchen packed with random items and junk mail so that you can hardly open and close them. And as I took things out a few at a time, there were the cards about a third of the way down. I was jumping up and down and praising God and they were looking at me like I was strange, but smiling. I knew it was a witness to them because I had prayed with them that God would help us find the cards.

So, God did a “three-for” as my Dad used to say. I believe God healed me deep down of some of the childhood trauma and gave me faith to believe for other grave situations in my family, and he helped me find the gift cards, saving my parents a lot of money, and he showed them that he cares for and loves them. My sister later told me that she was praying “that God would show you where the cards were so that you would feel deep in your heart that God loves you, cares about you and would never leave you.” Thank you thank you thank you sister! God heard you and answered. Praise God for His love and mercy towards us!

But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God.

He’s Not Going Anywhere

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:1-2 (NLT)  

Where it says above “I waited patiently” the Hebrew literally says I waited waiting. The same word repeated twice – waiting and waiting. Yes, that is how I have felt, like I was waiting and waiting for the Lord. And not so patiently either. 

But I am completely humbled and undone by the next amazing word. Translated here as “he turned to me,” the word is natah (נָטָה) and means to “stretch out, spread out, extend, incline, bend,” or, to “pitch a tent.”1 It is the same word as this verse, the first time it is used in the Bible: 

From there he [Abram] went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Genesis 12:8 

Think about that. As Abram stopped and spread out, pitching his tent in order to incline his ear, bend toward God, so God pitches His tent near me when I cry to Him. He spreads out and makes himself at home. Right here with me. He turns His attention to me. He hears me, He is listening. I have someone to talk to. He lifts me – I like the NLT version – out of the pit of despair. The mud and the mire have grabbed on to me and tried to suck me back in. It has stolen my shoes – my way, my walk. But He pulls me out (over and over it seems) and sets me on the firm place of the Rock.   

  God pitches his tent toward me. He is with me. And He is not going anywhere. 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23 

1Definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Brown–Driver–Briggs 

Image by Andy Rogers https://flic.kr/p/fehFPP  

How Long?

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2 

I can so relate to David’s wrestling right now. It does feel like God has forgotten or turned His Face away from me at times. Yet, this quote by Martin Luther from a commentary on Psalm 13 arrested me.

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

“There are times when in our despair we cry, ‘God hath forgotten me.’ yet somehow the conviction rises, ‘No, I am not forgotten forever.’ The soul is in that condition which Luther knew so well. — hope itself despairs, and despair nevertheless begins to hope. In our dejection we think there is no hope, yet we feel in our souls that God cannot forget, and so we begin to question Him, ‘How long shall it seem as though Thou forgettest us forever?’” — McConnell, Moody, and Fitt (emphasis mine)1 

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid [don’t be alarmed, don’t run away, don’t fear or be in awe of, and therefore reverence your enemy] … Luke 12:6-7 

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12 

1Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work, Volume 39, 1920 

Photo by Derek Bair

The Presence is Here

Yes, God is with us. And the relationship He wants with me is way simpler than I have made it.

Enoch walked with God … Genesis 5:24 

One of the coolest things I have ever done lately was sitting in the big stuffed rocker beside my granddaughter, eating crackers and listening to music. We didn’t have to say anything, just being there together, savoring each other. I get that feeling about Enoch in the above verse. I don’t think Enoch did anything special. I think he and God just liked being together. Derek Prince put it this way: 

“Enoch just ‘walked with God’ (see Genesis 5:22, 24). As we go on further in the Bible, we meet the great father of faith, Abraham, with his most honorable title, which was ‘friend of God’ (James 2:23). He and God simply enjoyed one another’s company. I sometimes long to get away from all the theology and all the religious formalities and just have a relationship of being God’s friend—walking with Him and enjoying His company. I really believe God loves to be enjoyed by His people.” — Derek Prince 

I got a deeper revelation about this yesterday – maybe a deeper healing too as someone raised in a conditional love-based-on-performance home – as God sent my way this Prince quote and several other verses and messages from fellow bloggers. I love when He does that! Yes, God is with us. I just have to purposely remain aware of that. And the relationship He wants with me is way simpler than I have made it. He just wants me to know that he is sitting there in the rocking chair beside me, enjoying my company, walking along beside me on my dark path, loving me. 

“Just get down on your knees. There is an awful lot you do not need to know to find God. The light shineth, the voice calleth and the Presence is here.” — A.W. Tozer, And He Dwelt Among Us 

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7 

“As the years advanced I learned to rely upon His presence and lovingkindness regardless of any trials; He assured me in the dark times, and I was able to sing His praises regardless of circumstances. Yet in the darkest times, when I had no voice to sing I silently lifted my hands in surrender to Him. I remember them even today, the overwhelming comfort of His presence reassured me beyond any words I could write for you. It was the presence of His Spirit beyond any doubt.” — Alan Kearns https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/06/21/singing-in-the-dark/  

Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him for the saving help of his presence. Psalm 42:5 

Image free download from Pixabay

Fractured

Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you. 

Cast all your anxiety (merimna) on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries (merimna) of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:22 

Both of the above verses about worry or anxiety use the Greek word μέριμνα, transliterated merimna. J.D. Walt has this to say about this word: 

“The word is transliterated ‘merimna’ and sounds like it spells. It carries a meaning of dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts. Anxiety, in a very literal sense, pulls us apart. It dis-integrates our very sense of self by attacking our core sense of security. 

So how do we deal with anxiety?  

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Is it as simple as telling God what we are anxious about? It sounds good, but all too often when we are anxious we tend to worry our prayers rather than casting our anxiety on God. Anxiety must actually be displaced within us. The little word, ‘because,’ tells us how this displacement works. It brings us to the four most important words in today’s text: 

He cares for you.  

Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.”

J.D. Walt https://seedbed.com/swing-thought-2/ 

Merimna means care, anxiety, “properly, a part, separated from the whole,” “worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts.” It dawned on me that it is the opposite of the “all” I wrote about recently – loving God with all. When we let our hearts and minds be pulled apart by worry into parts it separates us from God. We need to cast it all unto God and love-worship Him with all. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-37). 

The Greek word that Jesus used in quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, translated “all” three times in the verse, is holos (ὅλος). It is the root of the English term “whole.” It means whole, complete, entire, “properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts.” 

Worry, then, is the opposite of this “all.” Worry fractures me into parts separated from the whole. Loving the Lord with all – all the parts present and working as a whole – is the opposite of being fractured into parts by anxiety. Anxiety robs God of my all-love. It means I am reserving some of my love – worship – for that which I worry about. Do I really trust God whole-heartedly? Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you.  

The Greek word translated “cares” above is meló (μέλει) and means to be an object of care. I love that! “To be an object of care.” As Louie Giglio says “you’re on Heaven’s radar.” Even when we can’t feel it or see it or hear it. Even when it seems we have been abandoned and forgotten. 

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care (meló) if we drown?” Mark 4:37-38 

“Don’t you care?”  

How many times have I asked this question, roiling in my anguish and doubt? But he said he cares for me, and has demonstrated that love.  

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares (meló) nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13 

So not being fractured, but being whole, means following the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for me. As Henry Nouwen wrote, it means trusting in God’s love. 

“It’s a question here of trusting in God’s love. The Greek word for faith is pistis, which means, literally, ‘trust.’ Whenever Jesus says to people he has healed: ‘Your faith has saved you,’ he is saying that they have found new life because they have surrendered in complete trust to the love of God revealed in him.” — Henry J.M. Nouwen 

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 1 John 4:16 (NLT) 

God wants me to be whole. I become whole following the Good Shepherd – trusting – loving with all, complete, entire, as one. Letting Him lead and guide me, bind up my wounds, rescue me, hold me close. Christ in me and I in Him, making it possible. His all, my all. 

Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:22-23 (ESV) 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

“Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.” 

Photo, Fractured, by Brett Jordan https://flic.kr/p/8f8EHy  

His Right Hand is Free

If God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it.

Yet I am always with you; 
you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel, 
 and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you? 
 And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
 but God is the strength of my heart 
 and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 

When I was meditating on these verses I realized that if God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it. And since I am right-handed anything I tried to do with my left hand would be awkward and malformed.  

The right hand in the Bible is a symbol of strength. Also, “The right side of a man is the side on which God ‘marches’ when assisting him in battle (Isa. 63:12; Ps. 109:31; 110:1, 5) and it is the right hand which God grasps as a symbol of election (Isa. 41:13; 45:1; Ps. 73:23).” i  

Wow, what amazing grace! He has grasped my right hand; He has chosen me! But, if my right hand is in His, I basically can’t do anything in my own strength. I would have to take my hand out of His. That explains my frequent urge to do just that – shake Him off and do it myself. Fearful that things are taking too long, that I’m missing out, afraid He has forgotten me.  

But His word assures us that He will never forget. Yet, I am always with you. He will never leave us or forsake us. And think of this: though His left hand is occupied holding on to me, His right hand is free. And so, “though my flesh and heart may fail” God is my strength and help. He is fighting for me with His mighty right hand. 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Psalm 138:7-8 (ESV) 

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 

Lord, keep my right hand in yours

iJewish Virtual Library “Right and Left” 

Photo, free download from Piqsels

Standing There

“He stands in my place, where I should stand and cannot.”

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 

At this, [Mary Magdalene] turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. John 20:14 

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27 

There for me the Savior stands,
shows His wounds and spreads His hands:
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps, but loves me still! — Charles Wesley

“’Where does he stand?’ He stands pro me. He stands in my place, where I should stand and cannot … At this place I cannot stand alone. Here Christ stands in the centre, between me and myself, between the old existence and the new.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christ the Center (emphasis original) 

If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 

When you’ve played out  
Your last chance  
And your directions  
Have all been lost  
When the roads that you look down  
Are all dead ends  
Look up  
You could see if you’d just look up  

You’re on the verge of a miracle  
Standing there  
You’re on the verge of a miracle  
Just waiting to be believed in  
Open your eyes and see  
You’re on the verge of a miraclei 

— Rich Mullins 

For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them. Psalm 109:31 

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20 (ESV) 

You’re on the verge of a miracle … 

Salvation

i Richard Mullins, from Verge of a Miracle lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group 

Photo of door by Jack Bair

Air Plant

The Presence of God. That is where I will truly live, abide, dwell.

I used to love plants, seeing them grow and bloom. I loved having plants inside the house with me too. Our previous home was like the Garden of Eden. We could grow anything because of the rich black dirt outside and a sun room inside for house plants. But, when we moved to our current home, surrounded by trees, nothing seemed to want to grow. The soil is extremely acidic outdoors. A nut tree even makes it toxic. And it is too shady indoors for most houseplants.  

So, I’ve watched one plant after another fail to thrive, or wither and die. Many seeds refused to come up at all. Houseplants, too, valiantly tried, but most were spindly and struggling. After a while I gave up on trying to force things to grow where they were not meant to grow.  

Then I discovered air plants. I love them! They don’t need soil at all and they thrive even in low light. They absorb the water and nutrients they need mostly right from the air. Today when I was looking at one God said, “That’s what you are like. You have been trying to be what you are not, to put down roots where you were not meant to grow. But your life, your roots are in Me, in my Presence.”  

This reminded me of the Michael W. Smith song, “Breathei.” 

This is the air I breathe 

This is the air I breathe 

Your holy presence living in me 

Yes! The Presence of God. That is where I will truly live, abide, dwell. He is my air, life, light, sustenance. Help me Lord not to try and put down roots in the hostile, deadly dirt of this world, looking for something – love, acceptance, meaning, identity, peace – that only you can provide. Help me to remember I am a foreigner here, not meant for this toxic soil. Let your holy Presence be my very breath. Let me be an air plant breathing in You, breathing out your love. 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV) 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5 

I am a stranger on earth … Psalm 119:19 

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4 

i Full lyrics here: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaelwsmith/breathe.html 

Photo by Sheila Bair 

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