LIGHT IN A DARK PLACE

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. –Psalm 139:1-12

2019 was a dark place for me. Especially the final few months. What’s amazing is that I don’t feel grievous. God has given me peace over every circumstance, and has reminded me of the victories over every situation. When things got so bad that I could hardly breathe (literally had fluid on my lungs), and I needed to figure out where I would live and work, God made provision in a way that no one could have possibly imagined. When depression had gripped me so hard that I couldn’t seem to pray my way out, I never lost sight of God’s presence and love. (Jeremiah 31:3) He was there in the dark places. I couldn’t encourage myself, but God was continually reminding me that He loves me. He repeatedly commanded me not to back up in my faith.(Hebrews 10:38-39; 11:6) So I didn’t.

Depression and anxiety had me emotionally paralyzed in a place of great sorrow and tears. I couldn’t move forward but knew better than to back up. So I just stood still. This reminds me of the predicament that the Israelites found themselves in, during the exodus from Egypt. There they were, the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army on their heels (Exodus 14). Moses’ response to their fearful grumbling was “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”. (Exodus 14:13).

I was reading a book recently, where the main character became lost in the woods. I recalled that his Boy Scout training taught him what to do if he got lost. Stay where you are, in order to increase your chances of being found. Do you feel lost in your circumstances? Has the weight of your sorrow overtaken you? Are you lost and not sure which way to turn? Stand Still. God is there. Once your heart rate slows down and breathing quiets, you’ll be able to hear Him. God’s plan for you is perfect you and He never loses sight of it; even when we do. (Jeremiah 29:11

NOW

 

My heart is so full

So full of gratitude

Excitement for what is to come

And for what has already been

Help me to enjoy the Now

You are here with me Now

I want to see you Now

I want to be near you Now

I seek after you Now

You are my Master

        My Fortress

                  My King

                         My Protection

                                   My Savior

                                            My King

I don’t have to wait for you because you’re with me Now.

I don’t have to be afraid because you’re with me Now.

In The Great Commission,  Jesus commands the eleven disciples to go out into the world, “…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always , even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)      Whatever it is that God has assigned you to do, trust that He is with you Now.                

CAN I GET A DO-OVER?

At some point (at many points), we all fall short. We all misstep. We all make foolish and sometimes defiant choices. Some of those poor choices land us in a world of trouble. Fortunately, God is merciful. He gives us new mercies each day.

Israel Houghton sang, “you have given me a second chance”

There is nothing we can do that God can’t forgive. (1 John 1:9) That doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. Remember, CONSEQUENCES DON’T ALWAYS MEAN DESTRUCTION. Many times, the Israelites went off track and turned from God. Each account in the Bible shows God chastening them, warning them of consequences and carrying out what He promised. What’s beautiful is that each warning of punishment included a message of hope and mercy. Each punishment was temporary and there was opportunity to start over.

Don’t believe me? Here are some amazing stories of mess ups and do-overs laced in God’s mercy:
• David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11,12:1-24)
• Jonah and the big fish (Jonah 1,2)
• Throughout the book of Jeremiah (you have read the whole think to make sure you don’t miss it)

We can’t forget about Peter. The same one who denied Jesus three times repented and later spewed out a dissertation that has been credited for winning 3000 souls . (Luke 22:54-62, Acts 2:14-41)

I have a friend who was often asked to sing the sermonic selection at church. Many times, she started singing and would stop if she wasn’t pleased with the way she started. she wasn’t afraid to say “I’m sorry, can I start over?”. The congregation would smile and nod. We were never disappointed with the do-over.

Do you need a do-over? Well, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid to pray to God for forgiveness. He’s waiting to hear from you, and even has directions to get you back on track. That map being the Word of God.

A HAND FULL OF FRAGMENTS DOESN’T MAKE A WHOLE

What if I took a whole apple, cut it into pieces, placed it in a sandwich bag and nibbled on the contents of that bag until it was empty? Once I finished, how many apples would I have eaten? One, of course. What if I only ate half of the contents of that bag and dumped the rest in the trash? The bag is empty; did I eat the whole apple?

When my daughter was three, she heard the voice on the radio say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Her response was, “That’s right Mommy! I can do whatever I want through Jesus!”. Being fairly new at reading and studying the Bible, I thought it was amazing how well she understood that scripture. After all, that’s what I was being taught in Sunday School and Bible study.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”, is a staple in my bag of  “words of encouragement”. Unfortunately, it’s only a fragment of God’s message. At some point in my life, I added Philippians 4:8 to my bag.”Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things”. A little later, I added Philippians 4:11. “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” More fragments. Eventually, I had a handful of fragments:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (v 4)
  • And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (v7)
  • Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (v6)

Just like only eating pieces of an apple only gives us a portion of its nutritional value, we can miss out on God’s revelation to us when we only partake of portions of His message. Each of these verses are encouraging, but the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church of Phillipi was intended to relay a different message than that of my daughter’s, and many of our own, perception. When we put Philippians 4:1-13 together, the “words of encouragement” become encouragement and direction. Paul was encouraging his brothers and sisters to continue to praise God, while they wait for their prayers to be answered. He then told them that they will have peace in spite of the struggles if they meditate on those things that are good and pure (ie. the Word of God).  Through this excercise of meditation, prayer and praise Paul is able to be content in whatever is going on in his life. He was able to be just as content in hunger as he was in abundance.  Paul could endure all circumstances because he relied on the Word of God (Christ) as his source of strength.

When God commissioned Ezekiel to deliver His message, He commanded him to “eat this scroll”.(Ezekiel 3) Ezekiel didn’t nibble on it. He opened his mouth and God fed it to him – the whole thing. I am encouraged, and I encourage all, to EAT THE WHOLE.