4 Steps to Learning How to Rest Effectively in God

Rest Effectively

Rest for some people comes naturally. For me, however, learning how to rest effectively has been a struggle. God gives rest to the weary. It is a gift I am only just beginning to understand and receive.

My father would often admonish me to slow down, saying, “You always lean into the wind!” Obviously, even as a child I erred toward quick movement and constant action.

How about you? Are you like many people who fall exhausted into bed each night after high pressure days? Do you, like others, rise from a night’s sleep without feeling refreshed? Have you learned how to rest effectively? More importantly, do you know how to rest in God? True rest encompasses spiritual, physical, and emotional elements. Only then will we find the powerful secret of rest.

“It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
Psalm 127:2

Peace and Rest

Step 1 — Discern When to Work and When to Rest

Psalms 127 describes me — overworked and anxious! God instructs us to work. Most people possess a desire to accomplish, to better ourselves and things around us. A good day of productive labor gives a sense of satisfaction, but God knows we need a healthy balance. He instructs us to work for six days, followed by a Sabbath rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . “
Exodus 20:8-10

In some seasons of life, this may seem near impossible. How does a young mother not work to care for her children? Shift work or being on continuous call doesn’t afford flexibility to designate a consistent day for sabbath rest each week.

Rest from Work

God created us and remembers we are “made from dust” (Psalm 103:14). He knows continuous work will cause us to implode! Between work shifts and serving in ministry, I, too, struggle to eek out a sabbath rest. Then what?

For people whose employment runs from nine-to-five o’clock five days a week, schedules may require very little adaptation for a sabbath rest. For many others, diligence to prioritize where and how to spend precious time becomes essential. One day a week (Saturday, Sunday, or any other day) to pull away from responsibility and work will increase one’s ability to enjoy refreshing, sustaining rest.

The first step in learning how to rest effectively comes with giving God permission to reset our focus away from work. Through sabbath rest, we give our bodies and minds a break from routine pressures.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Jeremiah 31:25

Step 2 — Get Away With God

Jesus faced similar pressures when He walked this earth. Many times, He invited His disciples to leave the crowds for time to rest with Him. He understands the unending demands of responsibility.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'”
Mark 6:31

For me, just beginning each day fresh with God helps to set my pace and give me perspective. Finishing the day with Him, settles my heart and mind. My “quiet place” with God includes Bible reading and meditation on His Word, prayer, and worship. It also includes being still within to hear His gentle whispers in my heart — sometimes affirming, sometimes convicting, often giving direction.

The “quiet place” of rest might include going for a walk in nature, allowing Him to reset the rhythms of life. God often nudges our thoughts toward Him during these times. He seeks opportunity to simply “be with” us. Every thriving relationship requires uninterrupted time together, including our relationship with God.

Somehow, in the midst of time with Him, we find rest. This simple step helps to train us to rest effectively in Him.

Step 3 — Trust God is Good

Training ourselves to draw away from work and near to God sets the foundation of trusting Him with all the other “burdens” and pressures we pick up and carry. I worry over family, concern myself about the future, and feel anxious over the uncertainty of our times. Trust! Easy to say; hard to do!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

The secret for true rest comes in trusting God — trusting He is always good to me and those I love. Doubting God’s goodness lies at the core of my struggle to rest in Him.

So I work more, try harder, and attempt to control everything possible. I wear out, play out, and burn out. “Get away with me and you will recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest,” sounds too good to be true.

Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it!” Instead, I resist Him, going my direction, doing things my way, and expecting Him to watch how I do everything! It usually ends in misguided effort, ultimate failure, and guaranteed fatigue. But as I learn how to trust and rest effectively in God, I walk more with Him, work better beside Him and through Him, while watching closely how He works. How peaceful and easy everything becomes, while trusting His ways and co-operating with the Holy Spirit.

Step 4 — Discovering God’s Grace

As an unaccomplished musician, I remember well the hours upon hours spent leaning over the ivory keys of an upright grand piano. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it sure helps. From childhood into adulthood, hours turned into weeks, and week into years of practice and concentrated effort.

“The unforced rhythms of grace” play a different tune, however. Paint swirled upon a canvas by a skilled artist yields fluently to the flow of the brush. Clay upon the potter’s wheel offers no resistance to the will of trained hands. As we fully rest in God’s plan, we learn to flow freely in the unforced rhythms of His grace and love. Here we find sweet rest. Here we recover abundant life, living freely and lightly.

Artist Painting

In “the unforced rhythms of grace” — where soul, body, and spirit find refuge and rest — guilt holds no sway.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power if made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Learning how to rest effectively in God partners with grace. How peaceful the heart becomes when we acknowledge we don’t need all the answers. Success does not depend on our ability, strength, power, resources, or wisdom. It depends on God. As we rest in Him, He works through us all the more.

Learning How to Rest Effectively

Life, for all of us, continuously changes. We no sooner learn the rhythm of one season when suddenly we face another. Sometimes changes shift slowly. Often, they come like violent upheavals. My husband and I are learning again to rest effectively in God. In Him alone, we find rest in transition and change.

Learning suggests an ongoing process — a process of internal change and transformation. Learning also suggests a Teacher faithfully guiding the steps of that journey.

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.”
Psalm 71:17

David, once a shepherd and then a king, wrote,

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet water, he refreshes my soul.”
Psalm 23:1-2

Sheep Resting

Sometimes God, our Shepherd, makes us lie down. Usually, when we have forgotten to rest.

May I invite you to come with me as together we learn how to rest effectively. Let us allow God, our Good Shepherd, to give us times of rest “in green pastures” and “beside quiet waters”. Through rest may we recover our lives, living freely and lightly, and may we experience the “unforced rhythms of grace.”

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“I Forgive You” — Forgiven and Free

Forgiven And Free

No other words eliminate guilt and shame as well as these, “I forgive you.” Undeserved and unmerited, they come. Forgiven and free, we leave. The cost of forgiveness always runs heavy. The one wounded carries both the wound and weight. Yet, by God’s immeasurable grace, the one who forgives gains the most and receives the best.

Whether “Please forgive me” or “I forgive you,” I’ve hesitated too long to utter these necessary words on both sides of offense. I’ve stuttered and stammered, delayed and doubted, justified and judged.

I’m not alone!

The rich reward of freedom flows only through forgiveness. Isaiah watched his people perform unlimited religious duties and ceremonies with excellence while ignoring compassionate care for others. God rebuked them sharply for it.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?”
Isaiah 58:6

None of us need to look far to witness injustice, yokes, and oppression. How do we — in this generation — respond better than they and previous generations to similar issues? How do we move compassionately with love toward those around us? May I suggest that forgiveness plays a strategic role.

Dog Tied

Injustice

My dictionary defines injustice as “an absence of justice, violation of right or of the rights of another, and unfairness.” It also defines justice as “the maintenance or administration of what is just, impartial, or fair; to treat fairly and adequately; to show due appreciation for; the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity.”

Truthfully, everyone faces injustice — some minor, some extreme.

God doesn’t mince words,

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

What does God mean by “loose the chains of injustice” or as another version puts it, “to break the chains of wickedness?” The Hebrew word for chains means “bond, pain, or torment, referring to unjust, wicked bonds usually indicating social, economic, or political oppression.” How do abusive cycles break — cycles where the rich dominate the poor, the strong intimidate the weak, and people emphasize differences and ignore similarities?

Tiger in Zoo

Jesus showed us. He came low and stayed low.

Humility

” . . . he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:7,8

Forgiveness follows the low road that leads to the high way. Jesus never needed to be forgiven, but forgave us all. Jesus, worthy of honor, dignity, and praise, came only to serve. He thought of us, putting us first before His own needs or desires.

Forgiveness is the highest form of servanthood. Forgiveness bridges the widest gaps, breaks through the strongest chains, and levels the field of injustice. But it requires humility.

Undoubtedly, the unbearable chains of your past exceed mine. However, even some of mine have been difficult to overcome, including molestation and rape. Perpetrators rarely seek forgiveness, but when the abused offer it (even if only before God) chains break — for real, for good, for always.

The greatest injustice in history occurred at the cross where the holy Son of God died for wicked humanity. Yet from that cross, He prayed,

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ . . . “
Luke 23:34

Ever since, chains break and people experience freedom.

Untie the Cords

The Hebrew word for untie contains two separate meanings. The first is “to jump, leap, or startle, describing a rapid rush forward that startles or shocks.” The second meaning encompasses “setting free, loosing, releasing, and letting something go.” To “untie the cords of the yoke” requires decisive action, both a moving forward and a letting go of the past.

Yoke

Owners place yokes on horses, mules, or oxen to pull heavy loads. It is the owner, not the animal of burden, who also removes the yoke. Isaiah states clearly our responsibility to remove yokes worn by others, placed there by whoever, and kept there for whatever reason. Action is needed!

Perhaps nothing startles the kingdom of darkness as much as the words, “Please, forgive me.” Nothing rattles the enemy so deeply as, “I forgive you.” That one radical choice to forgive looses offense, keeps accounts short, and removes unbearable, even generational, yokes.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

If all my offenses lay exposed and visible before others, how ugly and disturbing they would prove to be — thoughts I’ve thought, attitudes I’ve carried, and sins I’ve committed. But God!!! But God forgives even me, releasing me from them all.

In the same way, He calls me to forgive — to forgive the grotesque, forgive the unjust, forgive the vindictive, and forgive the defiling. He both asks and gives the ability to do what He commands. Through forgiving others, I instantly become forgiven and free. In one shocking, startling undoing, I’m set free! Yokes break! Cords sever.

Set the Oppressed Free

The word oppressed means more than I thought. It means “to crack in pieces.” Are you willing to see the cracked remnants of humanity? Am I? They live close to us. They walk beside us. The broken bundle themselves behind busy facades, glossy exteriors and fake smiles. They are here. And there. Everywhere.

Often our own brokenness overwhelms us, incapacitating us from releasing others. As we begin to live as those forgiven and free, we gain the tools to free others. Until we forgive, we remain slavesvictims of the crimes of our assailants. Only through forgiveness does healing flow and gates fling open.

Bird in Cage

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Colossians 3:13-14

What grievance do you carry? What bitterness clouds your wounded heart? May I encourage you today, set yourself free by freeing others through forgiveness. Open the cage of oppression, so that healing may enter and every broken place be restored.

Forgiven and Free

God has graciously led me into many areas of ministry. None brings me greater joy than to walk people through the steps of forgiveness. Yes, there are steps! The most effective steps I’ve found come from Neil Anderson’s The Steps to Freedom in Christ.

  • Forgiveness is a decision of the will. As long as we refuse to forgive, we remain “hooked” to that person, bound to the past, and held by bitterness. Until we willingly forgive, that person maintains the power to continue hurting us.
  • Forgiveness agrees to live with the consequences of another’s sin. The sins of others affect us all. Will it be through the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness?
  • To forgive must be genuine — from the heart. We must truthfully acknowledge the pain we feel, without diminishing or excusing it. God heals from the inside out as we honestly face the pain others have caused us.
  • Forgiveness chooses to not hold someone else’s sin against him, her, or them. God does not tolerate sin. Neither should we. In forgiveness, we release others to God. He will deal with them. Through forgiveness, we take a stand against sin by exercising God’s grace.
  • Forgive before you feel like forgiving. Emotion will follow action.
“We don’t heal in order to forgive; we forgive in order to heal.”
– Neil T. Anderson
Halter Cow

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”
Matthew 18:21-22

We live forgiven and free by forgiving quickly and continuously, without keeping score or counting the times.

A Prayer

Here is a sample prayer to assist you as you continue your process of forgiveness. Don’t rush! Take your time to feel the pain, acknowledge the disappointment, and face the consequences you have endured because of another person’s hurtful and destructive decisions. Then surrender it to God. He is the only one strong enough to bear the burden.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I choose to forgive __________ for __________, because it made me feel __________. Lord Jesus, I choose not to hold on to my resentment. I relinquish my right to seek revenge and ask you to heal my damaged emotions. Thank You for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness. I now ask You to bless those who have hurt me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

If this is a struggle for you, please contact Freedom in Christ Ministries in your area. Someone will walk with you as you process these steps. My desire is for everyone to walk forgiven and free, with chains of injustice loosed, yokes untied and broken, and the oppressed free forever.

Bless you on your forgiveness journey.

Forgiven and Free

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The Lightning and Thunder of God

Lightning & Thunder of God

God reveals Himself in innumerable ways. Have you sensed the lightning and thunder of His Presence recently? If so, was it fierce or awe-inspiring?

In our area, we often experience thunderstorms — some severe. People respond to the storms in various ways. Some people run for cover and hunker down until it’s over. Others carry on with life like nothing unusual is occurring around them. Still others, who border on insanity, pursue storms, enjoying the near-death experience of pushing the boundaries of reasonable safety.

Sometimes a soft rumble of thunder offers the only evidence of atmospheric disturbance. More often a sudden flash followed by an intense clap awakens onlookers to take heed. The more experienced may “feel” the storm coming a long way off, sensing it in the air, and feeling it in their bones.

God often speaks through nature, pointing our attention to deeper spiritual concepts. Paul said,

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Romans 1:20

Storm Clouds

God reveals His “invisible qualities” through His creation. In nature, the flash of lightning produces the sound of thunder. What about in the spiritual? Do we need a similar combination of visible and audible, power and voice, to comprehend God more personally and fully? Perhaps.

Word and Light

The Gospel of John opens with Word and Light, the audible and visible, thunder and lightning.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
John 1:1

In the beginning — before created things — the Word, Jesus Christ, was with God and was God. From the beginning, preceding time as we know and understand it, the thunder of God’s Word existed and resonated.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:4-5

Here it is! Lightning and thunder! The Word, above all words, speaking all things into existence! The Light overcoming every darkness!

Lightning flashes and is gone; Jesus came and remains eternal. Thunder roars for a moment; Jesus’ words endure forever.

Storm Coming

Fearful

My mother experienced disabling fear of electric storms. At the slightest hint of danger, she gathered everyone and everything into protection. Quickly she closed and latched windows and doors, pulled curtains shut, and busied herself attempting to occupy her fear-filled mind. Many others react similarly.

When God descended upon Mount Sinai with “thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled (Exodus 19:16). Such an awesome revelation of God certainly would have made my knees shake and heart beat intensely.

” . . . Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
Exodus 20:19

Many people easily relate to the Israelite’s response to God’s Presence, seeing God as fierce, cruel, and judgmental. Moses knew God personally and more fully.

“As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”
Exodus 19:19

Storm Over the Ocean

Years later, David wrote these words:

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
Psalm 103:7-8

The fear of God will either draw us near, like Moses, or cause our hearts to tremble and our feet to run away, like the people of Israel. Knowing God’s attributes and nature dispels negative fears and nurtures positive affection and attraction.

Storm Chasers

For a rare breed of others, the mention of an impending thunderstorm incites excitement, their hearts pound with enthusiasm and anticipation. Just the mention of lightning and thunder to these folks causes a flurry of motion as they leap from lethargy, jumping into their jalopies to go wherever necessary to experience the storm close up. With cameras in hand, they ready themselves to catch the ultimate image. Then they tell their adventurous stories with enthusiasm.

The church contains a few similar enthusiasts, ready on a moment’s notice to fly to the far reaches of the globe to hear their favorite speaker, teacher, revivalist, healer, or evangelist. Their enthusiasm for the things of God is exemplary. Their senses sustain high alert for revival. They, too, zealously tell their stories of close encounters with God’s Presence.

Into the Storm

Though not all fit this category, some people chase God only for the thrill of the experience or for what they hope to receive, rather than to know Him more fully. There have always been a few followers, only seeking fringe benefits.

“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
John 6:26

God will eventually confront all selfish seekers who attempt to imitate true God followers. Seeking God for the rush of spiritual lightning and thunder falls far short of leaning close to God, waiting to discover His heart and learn His ways.

Resting

My father labored through many storms while keeping alert to the shifting skies. Wisdom taught him to respect the power of lightning and heed the warning thunder, but he walked confidently through them both. He knew when to stand in awe with appreciation and when to shut the door for protection. We often sat together in a dark room, scanning the horizon for the next lightning flash, giggling, gasping, and glorying in God’s majestic display. Even secure in our home, we felt the fear as the house shook with intensity. It was a fear that drew us close in wonder and amazement.

I think this best illustrates how I approach God’s lightning and thunder — the awareness of His Presence and the sound of His voice. I don’t want to miss the miraculous, but desire to see clearly His movements in my generation. God still speaks. I want to be tuned to listen.

Lightning and Thunder

While multitudes came and went, a few stayed true to Jesus. Peter captured the reason well.

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69

To be a Christ-follower isn’t only about rushes and thrills, miracles and encounters, although these are available and important. Being a worshipper of Jesus means knowing there is no other One we want to be with — to see and hear, to believe and to know.

Lightning And Thunder

The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds to understand, so the thunder of God’s voice creates the greatest impact. The disciples who knew Jesus the best missed most of the essence of what He did and said, until He opened their minds so they could understand” (Luke 24:45).

Everywhere Jesus went, He performed miracles and taught truth. He became incomparable lightning and thunder wrapped in humanity! The Book of Acts records how the apostles followed His example of teaching and doing miracles. Paul speaks to the church in Corinth, saying,

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

Lightning And Thunder

Lightning and thunder, miraculous power united with God’s Word, best demonstrate God’s attributes and character. They steer our eyes from Earth to Heaven — our allegiance from human to divine. Today, this combination still evokes various responses.

Like the seasoned, experienced weather trackers of old, may we possess a strong sense of God’s movements and His ways. May we acknowledge His transcending Presence, His unstoppable power, and His overflowing goodness and grace. May we stand in this window of opportunity, delighting in His display, seeing His lightning power, and hearing His thunderous voice. Fear not!

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A Double Portion — Double for the Trouble

Double Portion

The saying “double for the trouble” originated with God. He turns even the most difficult situations for our good and His glory. I grew up hearing this idiom without knowing where or how it began.

Has someone ever stolen something from you? Perhaps money or possessions? Maybe reputation or position? Be encouraged, my friends! If we continue to trust God, putting our hope in Him, He will restore.

“And when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.”
Deuteronomy 30:2-3

God moves beyond simple restoration, however, desiring to give us double for the trouble we go through.

Two Kittens

The Thief

Make no mistake! Jesus warns — a thief lurks among us.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

This thief comes with evil intention to steal everything and anything he can, rushing in like a lion to the kill, destroying fully and completely. But God! Ha! I love those words whenever I read them. But God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring us both physical and spiritual life, now and forever. God’s restoration exceeds everything the enemy tries to destroy. God gives back to the full.

“Full” here means superior, superabundant, excessive, and preeminent. When God gives double for the trouble the enemy has caused, it defies explanation or expectation.

Two horses

Double for the Trouble

Elisha became Elijah’s servant and understudy. If you think tagging with this out-spoken miracle-working great prophet was easy, think again! Only Elisha succeeded at the task. Elijah tried to shake him off more than once, but Elisha tracked his master diligently. Finally, Elijah asked,

” . . . ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.’ ”
2 Kings 2:9

And Elisha received what he asked for!

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, banishing him from home and family. Slavery turned to imprisonment through no fault of his own. Years earlier, God had given Joseph dreams of his divine destiny — dreams that under the circumstance appeared lost and stolen forever. For a season,

“They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the LORD proved him true.”
Psalm 105:18

But God! But God proved Himself faithful, elevating Joseph from the prison to a palace, second in rank only to Pharoah. Much later, when Joseph’s descendants inherited the promised land, Joseph received double for the trouble.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘These are the boundaries of the land that you will divide among the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance, with two portions for Joseph.”
Ezekiel 47:13

God’s sovereignty exceeds time and circumstances.

Two Birds

More Not Less

Sometimes the losses we experience come through our own mistakes, poor choices. or even sinful actions. Job didn’t fit any of these scenarios. Yet in a single day he lost his work force of oxen and donkeys, his revenue in sheep and shepherds, his means of transportation by camels, and even his closest relationships with family. Refusing to blame God for the extreme tragedy, he acknowledged everything came from God and ultimately belonged to Him.

Even when Satan inflicted what he thought would be a fatal blow, painful sores head to toe, Job maintained his devotion and faithfulness to God.

No matter how many times I hear Job’s story, I marvel. Look at the ending to Job’s story.

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
Job 42:10

Double for the trouble! God restored twice the number of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys, many more children, and a hundred and forty more years to his life (Job 42:12-17)

God doesn’t always restore like for like. Hebrews 11, also known as the Bible’s faith chapter, tells us sometimes the full reward isn’t realized until heaven. God will come through for you, though. He always has; He always will.

Two Sheep

Double Portion

I’m not sure what you have been or are facing. May I encourage you today with these words from the prophet Isaiah?

“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Isaiah 61:7-8

Does shame feel like your portion? Don’t despair. God is preparing a double portion of His inheritance for you. Have you felt the sting of disgrace? Your story isn’t over yet! God’s grace is greater. His justice final. Because He is faithful, we wait in hope for Him to turn things around and make them right.

Zechariah understood God’s guarantee of double for the trouble. God announced through Zechariah this promise.

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

Our fortress is none other than God Himself. Let’s return to and stick with our Mighty Fortress! As willing prisoners, we hold with hope to God. God announced to Heaven and Earth His promise to “restore twice as much” as anyone or anything has taken from us.

Restoration is coming! Double for the trouble we have endured! Don’t lose hope, dear ones, hold fast.

Two Fish

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Focus on the Greatest: Faith, Hope, and Love

Faith, Hope, Love

Can you imagine the impact upon us as individuals and upon our society if everyone would turn their focus toward faith, hope, and love? These are undoubtably the greatest and best assets anyone could possess and share with others, not just now but for eternity.

Many people live frivolously, even selfishly, expecting unending tomorrows in which to “eat, drink and be merry.” But what if we knew our time was short, our opportunities limited? Would the flow and direction of our lives change? Would an eternal perspective help us refocus our priorities and energies?

“And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.’ ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you . . . ” ‘ ”
Luke 12:19-20

It is all too easy to become distracted by the trivial and consumed with the mundane. Too often the responsibilities of life dictate our agendas and demand our time. The urgent pushes ahead of the necessary. Re-evaluating our focus helps to center us, pulling us toward far-reaching eternal goals and targets.

Whether I speak, write, teach, mentor or encourage, I’m continually brought back to the motivation behind it all — faith, hope, and love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

“These three remain,” existing for eternity!

Faith

Paul commends the church in Corinth for their effective use of spiritual gifts. He asks them to remember and honor each individual, valuing their uniqueness. Like us, the Corinthian church struggled to maintain unity within diversity. Like us, they elevated the minor and diminished the major. They found it easy to focus on the external functioning of gifts and ignore the deeper issues of the heart. They faced these challenges — sometimes well, sometimes not.

Faith, Hope, Love

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2

That’s an impressive list, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want a faith to move mountains or the gift of prophecy? What about an ability to understand the deep secrets and mysteries of God? Many people pursue these gifts and receive them. God, speaking through Paul, clearly states that these things don’t impress or please Him. Unless, of course, they spill from a heart overflowing with love.

Unbelief, scepticism, cynicism, and doubt permeate our culture. But there’s good news. they are all temporary ailments of a society in which God is absent. Every negative will come to an end. Faith leads the list of eternal qualities, replacing all negative undercurrents.

Hope

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Proverbs 13:12

Never before have people become so connected yet disconnected at the same time. The bombardment of information and influence serves only to amplify our loneliness. People feel incredibly isolated and ignored while their social media “friend” lists explode and expand.

Hopelessness in various forms pervades. Hope defers. Heartsickness abounds.

The Greatest Things

The longing within us refuses to be quenched and screams for more faith, hope, and love. For a while people hope; often, they give up. Like the faint scent of rain swept away by the harsh winds of reality, hearts lie barren and dry — hopeless in a world without significant hope.

Jesus restores hope!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”
1 Peter 1:3-4

No matter how hopeless your situation appears, it lasts for a season. Jesus Christ grants each one of us an eternal and living hope. Receive your inheritance of hope, securely kept for you. Hope floods your eternal future! Nothing and no one can stop it!

Love

We have all experienced frail, fickle, and faltering love. Genuine love, never fails or falters. We all crave a love that endures. It is a basic need of all humanity.

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease, where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
1 Corinthians 13:8

Even in Christian circles, we easily major on the minors and overlook the major or greatest qualities within God’s Kingdom. No attribute outweighs the significance of love.

I don’t need to look outside myself to find a discrepancy between belief and action. Oh, how frail, fickle, and faltering my own love often becomes!

Jesus Love

Many people feel rejected, abandoned, and unloved. Maybe, you know the feeling all too well. Listen to the following verse and allow God to speak directly to your heart,

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
Isaiah 54:10

It’s possible for mountains to shake and crumble, but impossible for God’s love to be shaken, let alone cease. I find it comforting to know that hatred will end, but God’s love remains eternally secure.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Since God’s Word is true, enduring forever, how should we respond? Since everything else will eventually pass away, how can we nurture faith, hope and love, first in our lives and then in others?

God has given to each of us a measure of these qualities in seed form. When we plant and nurture them (activating them), they will grow and increase. The principle of sowing and reaping runs throughout God’s Word.

  • “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” Psalm 126:5.
  • “A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” Proverbs 11:18.
  • “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.
Sharing Faith

Together, let’s aim to live our lives in the best way possible. Let’s pursue the eternal qualities of faith, hope, and love, both in ourselves and in others. May we commit ourselves to inspire faith, instill hope, and ignite love. How we each accomplish the task will look different, but every one of us possesses the ability to make a difference.

May we focus on these greatest and enduring qualities of faith, hope, and love, receiving them fully, and then just as freely, giving them away. Let’s stop for a moment to ask God how we might spread these attributes further.

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The Holy Spirit — God’s Gift at Pentecost

Holy Spirit in You

Leading up to Pentecost, many people fast and pray, seeking a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Why such earnest hunger for God’s gift? May I present one possible answer? We are a broken people. We leak and run dry. (Or at least, I do.) People of all ages and creeds desire a refreshing experience of God both within and upon them, bringing wisdom, revelation, and power.

In the desiring comes a waiting — a waiting in His Presence for more of His Presence.

Something significant occurs while waiting, both for the disciples and for us. These men and women pressed through three years of personal sacrifice and transition, public expectation and humiliation, and finally Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus knew they needed rest in their waiting. By comparison, the past days and years paled to what loomed ahead.

“On one occasion, while (Jesus) was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”
Acts 1:4

Prayer

The Gift

I love giving gifts! Often the smallest gift brings the greatest joy. Someone else goes through the effort and pays the price for gifts given. Someone else considers carefully the most appropriate gift.

As much as I appreciate gifts, I often find it difficult to receive gifts well. Perhaps these strong-minded disciples shared my handicap. There in the upper room, they gathered in preparation to receive. Others assembled with them.

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
Acts 1:14

Years ago, I painted a landscape picture for someone I deeply cared for. It was my first attempt at oil painting, created with love. Initially, the recipient gladly welcomed my gift, but later returned it. They found something newer and better, which probably wasn’t difficult. My gift, now shunned and rejected, stayed hidden in a closet.

Give gift

Have you given something, perhaps a piece of yourself, only to have it rejected? At some time, we all share the experience. When Jesus offered the gift of the Holy Spirit to these men and women, He ultimately offered the gift of Himself. No gift compares to the valuable treasure of the Holy Spirit. Yet like my painting, it too often becomes pushed aside, shunned and rejected.

In order to receive the Holy Spirit well, we must understand what makes this Gift the best, most appropriate, and needed gift.

A Powerful Gift

For over three years, Jesus cared for and supplied everything His followers needed. But now they struggled to adapt without Him. Jesus knew they needed something, or rather Someone, more.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

For the duration of time they were with Jesus, they operated under His mantle of authority and power. God performed amazing miracles through them. They travelled into the surrounding towns and villages sharing the good news, casting out demons, and healing all kinds of diseases.

That was yesterday! Today called for a difference only the Holy Spirit could make. The most beneficial gifts match the season we live in.

Too easily, the disciples might have dashed into the world ill prepared for the new season ahead. Too easily, self-effort and self-sufficiency may have dominated their strategies. Old season thinking needed to give way to new season momentum.

Living gift

The gift of the Holy Spirit comes with power — power to share Jesus at home and abroad and power for a few men and women to face a world against impossible odds. Sometimes people move out in ministry before the Gift. Then later, they joyfully experience what a difference the Gift of the Holy Spirit makes in missionary endeavors.

A Needed Gift

Paul traveled to Ephesus. His first recorded question reveals much about his priorities in ministry.

“. . . There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'”
Acts 19:1,2

When Paul learned they hadn’t even heard about the Holy Spirit, he immediately baptized them and prayed. “The Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:5,6). With that, the needed gift of the Holy Spirit arrived in Ephesus. Yet years later, Paul continued to pray for this mature, thriving church to experience the Holy Spirit in ever-increasing ways. Why?

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
Ephesians 1:17

The Holy Spirit enables us to know God better — to know Him more deeply, intimately, and fully. To begin to comprehend the vastness of “the glorious Father” requires Holy Spirit’s help, “wisdom, and revelation.”

May the hunger and desire to “know Him better” be the propelling force, preparing us to receive the Gift available to all who will receive.

The Gift that Gives

Paul’s second prayer for the Ephesian church reveals another reason.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:16-19

Love gift

Paul packs punch into his prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to root and establish his listeners in God’s love. He desires the Holy Spirit to help them “grasp how wide and long and high and deep” the love of Christ is. Who can deny that God’s overwhelming love “surpasses” human knowledge and yet the Gift provides the way? Paul longed for the second generation of Christians to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” It’s a longing straight from the Father’s heart.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop there. In the rooting, establishing, and grasping of God’s love, the Holy Spirit gives the ability to offer the same love to others. Isn’t this the greatest expression and evidence of the Holy Spirit’s Presence among us? The remainder of Paul’s letter speaks of loving and living through the Gift of the Spirit.

When I first encountered Jesus Christ, my prayer was, “Lord, teach me to love.” Over four decades later, my heart’s cry remains. To love as the Father loves is beyond personal ability. Only the Holy Spirit enables and empowers such love — even in the smallest form.

The Holy Spirit in You

I apologize as I struggle for words to articulate in a few paragraphs the expanse of the Holy Spirit within us. The Gift turned red-necked fishermen into fishers of men and transformed the uneducated into teachers of the learned. Their lives, and the lives of multitudes since, speak louder than letters and words formed into sentences.

Peter spoke far better than I,

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him as you yourselves know.”
Acts 2:22

Receive

Peter saw and knew Jesus as a man sent by God. We might easily forget He came to earth fully human. Yet this one Man, Jesus, through the Spirit, performed miracles, wonders, and signs. Let Peter’s words sink in. “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs.”

Any limitations rest not in our humanity. We are no more or less human than Jesus was. Limitations originate in our responsiveness (or lack thereof) to the Holy Spirit. That’s good news! What God gave to the disciples on the first Pentecost, He fully and freely offers to us. His Presence overcomes any and all human weakness, bringing hope for everyone.

We don’t need to wait for a certain day of the year like Pentecost Sunday to receive this gift. Every day, the Father extends His Gift to us. May faith reach to ask and trust welcome to receive the Holy Spirit in you.

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A Samaritan Woman — A Lifetime of Rejection

A lLifetime of Rejection

What makes Jesus’ visit with a Samaritan woman so significant? What personal lessons may we glean from her encounter with Jesus? Why is she given so much space in John’s writings?

As you can see, many questions fill my mind. This nameless woman intrigues me. Why Jesus intentionally met her alone intrigues me even more. Let’s begin at the beginning of the story.

“So (Jesus) left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.”
John 4:3-6

John sets the stage for us. Ancient, well-trodden paths made broad circles around Samaria. The road though Samaria was perhaps the least travelled route between Judea and Galilee. Yet Jesus deliberately went through Samaria. Tired from the journey, Jesus found momentary relief and solace, waiting alone beside Jacob’s well.

Well

History tells us that Jacob’s well was situated on a plot of ground he purchased and “pitched his tent” on. He made an altar there, calling it El Elohe Israel, The Mighty God of Israel (Genesis 33:20). The names Israel and Jacob were synonymous with each other. Jacob experienced a deeply personal encounter with God on this patch of ground generations earlier.

Rejected People

When Jacob came full circle, tired of running, deceiving, tricking, and stealing, he also came to the end of himself. After years of fighting God and those around him, at the end of all self-effort, He encountered the beginning of God. Here he dug a well. Here he found refreshing. And it was here near a place called Sychar, meaning “end,” that two weary souls met. One weary from His day’s travel; another weary from a lifetime of rejection.

Jews hated Samaritans; Samaritans reciprocated the feeling. Samaritans, a mixed breed of people, worshiped a blend of gods and God. Though they considered themselves genetically connected with Jews, generational rejection ran deep currents of pain and angst through the people. Samaritans, like other mixed races assigned equally derogatory names, lived isolated among themselves. Accepted by none. Rejected by all.

Samaritans believed in the God of the Pentateuch — the first five books of the Bible. It gave them a correct but limited view of God. Considered “unclean,” the Jews denied Samaritans access to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Consequently, they worshiped on Mount Gerizim.

Water Well

“The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”
John 4:9

Rejected Woman

Usually, women congregated at the well during the cool evening. Together they walked, and worked, and enjoyed each other’s company.

The Samaritan woman came alone — a rejected woman within a rejected people. She, like Jacob, knew pain, struggle, and defeat. Married five times and now living in an adulterous relationship, she carried the deep marks of a lifetime of rejection — past failure, present shame, and a hopeless future. For this woman, Jesus “had to go through Samaria!” For this woman, Jesus came “tired as he was from the journey.”

Here at Sychar, the end, she met El Elohe, The Mighty God, in His Son, Jesus Christ. In the privacy of their one-on-one meeting, He refused to skirt around her pain or ignore her reality.

Stone well

” . . . Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
John 4:17-18

Rather than the familiar stabbing of accusation, she sees and feels and knows there is something different about this Man. But what is it? She probes further, responding with pointed, hard-hitting, and even confrontational questions.

Hope Again

Jesus ignores her sharp-edged response. He offers her the living water of fresh truth — truth that frees, truth that heals, and truth that sustains.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23-24

John tells us in the very next chapter,

” . . . ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 5:19

Because the Father seeks true worshipers, the Son “had to go through Samaria.” Even in her limited understanding, the Samaritan woman believed. She believed the Messiah, called Christ, would come. He would answer the questions of her heart and her people. And here He stood saying, “Worship happens within us not in a building or on a mountain.”

Fountain

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you — I am he.’ “
John 4:26

Jews considered any man talking with any woman (not in his family) in a public setting highly unconventional. Even Jesus’ disciples wanted to question His reasoning for talking with someone they despised. I, too, wonder why Jesus revealed His identity to this rejected woman before anyone else. Astounding!

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’ “
John 4:27

One Encounter

That one encounter caused the woman to run back to town, shouting

” ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ ”
John 4:29

The town’s people listened to the least and lowest among them. They listened and responded, coming in droves to see Jesus for themselves. That one encounter with Jesus changed the Samaritan woman’s life forever. Her outlook changed. Her countenance changed. How she viewed the critics and criticism changed. And then change came to her whole community.

We have all faced rejection and criticism. Rejection leaves its jagged effects deep within us, waiting for the next time, the next slight, the next jab, the next dismissal, the next exclusion . . .

Studies reveal people relive social pain more vividly than physical pain. Our brains register a broken spirit as intensely as a broken limb.

Water Fountain

I’ve given birth to five sons. As much as I try, it is impossible for me to remember the pain of childbirth. How I responded to physical pain remains in my memory bank, but the actual pain does not. Yet, if I allow myself to think of deep moments of rejection, emotional pain immediately breaks to the surface, forcing fresh tears to spill forth. The need for inclusion, to be welcomed and valued, ranks high in our God-given priorities.

Jesus saw in the Samaritan woman a true worshiper — a woman worth reclaiming, redeeming, and restoring. One encounter with Jesus changed everything!

“Come, See a Man”

How are you doing today? I’m serious. Can you relate to the Samaritan woman more deeply than perhaps you thought? Has the pain of rejection cut deep swathes in your soul? Are you sitting in a personal “Sychar” — the end of hope, the end of trying to fit into someone else’s mold, the end of struggling to be valued for who you are?

Maybe, like this woman, you believe in the Messiah called the Christ, but you long for a similar life-changing encounter. Perhaps, you grew up in the church and know more Bible stories than most scholars, but you’ve never met Jesus in a personal life-transforming way. I welcome you to come to the well today. Allow Him give you a drink of “living water.”

Water Fountain

Many times, I’ve come to “Jacob’s well” — bringing unhealed wounds, unreconcilable disappointments, unanswered questions, and unresolved issues. Often, I “pitch my tent” staying in His Presence, until my soul is renewed and peace restored.

“Come, see a man!” Come, see Jesus. He will prove Himself to be for you what He showed Himself to be for the Samaritan woman, for Jacob, for me, and innumerable others, El Elohe, The Mighty God. Though others reject, He never will.

Come! Come, see a man!

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Give Thanks to the Lord, For He is Good

Give Thanks to the Lord

The Bible exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord, because God is good. He demonstrates His unwavering goodness throughout all generations. The truth of God’s goodness resonates through the pages of the Bible. Do you know beyond doubt the goodness of God? Is that knowledge a fixed reality of your faith?

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good his love endures forever.”
Psalm 107:1

When we become discouraged by circumstances, doubt because of unanswered prayer, or become disappointed by outcomes, we may question and even deny God’s goodness. The wounds of life become festering sores into which the deceiver plants his lies regarding God’s enduring goodness. “If God really is good, He wouldn’t allow war, famine, plague, divorce, abuse, bankruptcy, hell, and numerous other maladies ” he rants.

Truthfully though, God’s goodness reaches humanity through both His mercy and His grace.

Father and child

Doubt

Satan’s ploy to lure Adam and Eve away from God’s perfect design sprung from establishing doubt in their minds toward God’s goodness.Every aspect of earth’s degeneration resulted. At the very core of our own questions lie the same seeds of the enemy’s power to deceive us into believing God is not good.

God created humanity to live in eternal, unbroken fellowship and communion with Him. He desires limitless time to express His limitless love to each of us. Despite people’s rebellion, He sent His perfect and holy Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem and restore that relationship.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
‘His love endures forever.’
Let the house of Aaron say:
‘His love endures forever.’
Let those who fear the LORD say:
‘His love endures forever.’ “
Psalm 118:1-4

God created Hell for satan’s eternal confinement, and where rebellious angels will join him. But He created Heaven for unending communion with people, made in His likeness and image, who love and honor Him.

Father and daughter

God leaves the choice of our eternal direction to each of us. Though the option and resulting consequences appear staggering to our human reasoning, God, in His goodness, could do nothing less. Perfect love never forces itself on another; perfect love invites willing participation. With God’s love flows His grace.

“The truth of God’s grace humbles a man without degrading him and exalts a man without inflating him.”
– Kris Vallotton

Grace

God’s goodness and grace interweave like golden strands throughout humanity. Grace is love extended towards the undeserving — including us. By grace, God gives us nothing less than Himself!

We find one of the most encouraging Scriptures about grace in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” The Christian life involves process, the process of being daily changed from what we used to be into what we will one day become — perfect re-presentations of Jesus Christ. Every step in that process involves God’s goodness expressed through grace. Spiritual growth occurs as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say, ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
Titus 2:11-12

Father and child walking

“(God) has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”
2 Timothy 1:9

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His grace proves sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8

Partnered with grace, we find mercy.

Mercy

Mercy involves both the withholding of judgment and the provision of compassion, gentleness, and forbearance. According to the Old Testament mercy meant to “stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon, and to show compassion.” The Bible interchanges the words mercy and lovingkindness for the same word chesed in Hebrew and charis in Greek. Mercy represents “a sure love that will not let go.”

I read recently that the word mercy in English comes from the Greek word, eleos. Eleos originates from the word for olive oil, often used as a soothing agent for bruises and wounds. One poured the oil onto the wound and massaged it in, soothing and comforting the injured part (Fr. Anthony M Coniaris). Mercy demonstrates God’s goodness and compassion toward those who are suffering.

Father and child

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

Too often, we only associate God’s mercy with withheld judgment. Here are but a few Scriptures connecting God’s goodness and mercy:

  • “Answer me, LORD, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me.” Psalm 69:16
  • “The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:9
  • “For the LORD is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:5
  • “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6
  • ” . . . The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth . . . “Exodus 34:6

Goodness

The knowledge of God’s unfailing goodness establishes a rock-solid foundation withstanding times of trouble. No one speaks so succinctly as Tozer on how important this understanding is.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us . . . Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God . . . The most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.”
– A.W. Tozer
Father fishing with daughter

Does our mental image of God align with His Word? Do we see Him as One who is altogether loving, gracious, merciful and good? If not, we will tremble with the times. David, who experienced more than his fair share of difficulties, said,

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.”
Psalm 27:13

Oh, how I know what quivering faith feels and looks like! Nothing short of God’s grace and mercy, entwined in His eternal goodness kept me on track. The sure foundation of the Word holds fast.

“”Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor or your majesty . . . I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works . . . I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
Psalm 145:3-7

God’s abundant goodness merits acclaim as much as His mighty acts, glorious splendor, wonderful works, and great deeds.

Give Thanks to the Lord

May we pull aside from our daily struggles and exhausting activities long enough to give thanks to the Lord. May we, even if only for a few moments, ponder God’s goodness, grace, and mercy. As we do, hope will rise, faith will take root, and a calm assurance will wash away doubt. God is eternally good! May we echo the psalmist, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!”

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”
Psalm 107:8-9

We become recipients of whatever we thank God for. As we thank Him for His goodness, He promises to satisfy our longing and fill our hungry souls with His goodness. May you be filled and renewed today, as you think about God’s abundant goodness.

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Where a River Flows — An Increase of Faith

Increase of Faith

The river of God’s divine mercy flows from the high mountains of struggle to the ocean of grace, producing an increase of faith. We find ourselves in such a time and place.

Many people today are experiencing the intense pressure and weariness of rock-hard impasses — immovable, constricting, and looming large. Take courage! God turns such gargantuan opposition to serve divine purposes. Because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), I’m switching up my normal pattern of writing this week to focus entirely on praying the truths of Scripture.

As you read these words, may you experience an increase of faith for whatever trial you are facing. Take heart! “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us(Romans 8:31)? “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).

Fast flowing water

The following prayer originates and finds root in direct Bible verses. As you pray, release God’s power and authority over yourself and your situation.

God of The Impossible

“God, we approach Your throne of grace with confidence (with outspoken frankness, bluntness and assurance), yet also in humility, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16) . . . We are facing what appears impossible for us, but God, with You all things are possible (Matthew 19:26) . . . Jesus, You declared that ‘Everything is possible for (those) who believe’ ” (Mark 9:23).

“Without faith it is impossible to please You, Lord, because anyone who comes to You must believe that You exist and that You reward those who earnestly seek You” (Hebrews 11:6) . . . We believe! We know and proclaim You to be loving and infinitely good. You reward all who choose to seek Your face.

Rushing Water

“Just as Paul spoke of the believers in Rome, may it be said of us. May our faith remain unwavering during this season of pressure, believing Your promises, being strengthened in our faith, and giving constant glory and praise to You, O God. May we be persuaded that You have the power to fulfill everything You promised” (Romans 4:20-21) . . . For no word from You will ever fail! . . .

“God, grant us an increase of faith . . .

Walking by Faith

“We do not belong to those who shrink back, but we move forward courageously in faith. You deliver us from every assault of the enemy (Hebrews 10:39) . . . By your grace, we live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) . . .

“We choose today to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11) . . . May our lives produce lasting work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3) . . .

The testing of our faith produces perseverance. When perseverance finishes its work, we become mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4) . . . Lord, may we consider ourselves crucified with Christ, no longer living for ourselves, but recognizing that Christ lives in us. The life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20) . . .

Rapids

“Lord, in every action, word and deed, may we not be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes . . . For in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’ ” (Romans 1:16-17; Habakkuk 2:4) . . .

“You have already given to each one of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Lord, we ask for an increase of faith in each one of our hearts . . .

Warrior Faith

We take up the shield of faith, extinguishing all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16) . . . Everyone born of God overcomes the world. We are Yours! You have named and declared us to be overcomers! . . . This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1John 5:4) . . .

“Thank you, Lord, for the great confidence we have before You. This confidence rests completely in who You are and all You have accomplished . . . ‘Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ ” (Romans 5:1) . . .

“The time is now! Warriors of faith, strap on the weapons of our warfare and take a stand against sickness and disease . . . Heal us, LORD, and we will healed; save us and we will be saved, for You are the one we praise (Jeremiah 17:14). You are the Lord who heals us (Exodus 15:26) . . . Breathe new life into us . . . Pour your soothing oil into the broken-hearted . . .

Prayer of Faith

“Lord, You invite us to ask big, to believe large, and to come expecting the impossible, so increase our faith . . . You said, ‘if we say to the mountainous obstacle, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and do not doubt in our hearts but believe that what we say will happen, it will be done for us. Therefore . . . whatever we ask for in prayer, we believe that we will receive it, and it will be ours!’ ” (Mark 11:22-24) . . .

Mountain, Rock, River

“So, we come today laying our petitions before You. We speak to our impossibles in Your precious Name, ‘Be moved!‘ . . . “Give us grace and courage to stand firm in the faith, to be courageous and strong (1 Corinthians 16:13) . . .

“Do it again, Lord! The things we read about in the Book of Acts, we ask You to do again. We ask for an advancement of Your Kingdom in our day and in our time. We ask for multitudes to be drawn into Your family. Lord, raise up a generation of men and women, young and old, with an ever-increasing faith. May they pray confidently and humbly, desiring nothing more than to see Your Name glorified and You exalted in our time . . . May they live fearlessly for Your honor . . .

“Encourage the weary ones. Restore the wounded. Revive the frail. Oh God, come to our aid, we pray. You are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

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Immeasurably More Than All We Ask or Imagine

Immeasurably More

How large are your prayers? How imaginative? The Bible tells us that God can and will do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. No matter how big we ask or how great our imagination, God offers more. Is this a generic promise for every situation and circumstances, or is there more to the more?

Years ago, a name-it-claim-it faith-movement began asking God for outrageous things. They believed that quoting the right Bible verse would compel God to respond with mansions, Mercedes, and money. I’m not advocating the return of such thinking, but neither do I desire to diminish the Word of God. What God says, He means.

My editor and I discussed the following portion of Scripture in Ephesians, which I’ve quoted in a soon to be published 30-day devotional workbook on prayer.

Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you. Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ—and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!”
Ephesians 3:20-21 TPT

Prayer is a sword

Though many Bible versions word these opening lines as God being able, this translation says, “He will.” When does the “He is able” shift to “He will.” When do we know the prayer initiative, or spiritual battle, is over and the answer forthcoming?

God Who Can

Though some people of faith question God’s ability, most Christians grasp the concept of God’s power to do anything He desires, anyway He wants, any time He chooses. Defining words for God include Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. The prefix “omni” simply means “all, completely all, or universally all.” No one or nothing justifiably lays claim to “omni” — only God. He alone is All Knowing, All Present, and All Powerful. God, being nothing less than God, puts to rest the question of His ability.

God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight . . . covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with his clouds. He created the horizon when he separated the waters; he set the boundary between day and night. The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke. By his power the sea grew calm. By his skill he crushed the great sea monster. His Spirit made the heavens beautiful, and his power pierced the gliding serpent. These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then can comprehend the thunder of his power?”
Job 26:7-14

The same God who created all things by the word of His mouth, a mere “whisper of His power,” lives and reigns supreme today. He always will. Kings come and go, rulers rise and fall, but God endures forever. As believers, we attest to God’s omnipotence! He alone is All Powerful! He does immeasurably more! When the “whisper of His power” rises beyond our comprehension, how much more the “thunder of his power?”

God Who Will

Knowing God can answer our prayer and that God will answer prayer rest almost opposite one another. It is possible to live our entire Christian existence knowing only the God who can — the God who is able.

Armor

A leper bridged the gap between “can” and “will.”

“A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Matthew 8:2

Notice his choice of words. He knew beyond a doubt God could do immeasurably more than he asked or dreamed. The point of uncertainty lay in Jesus’ willingness. How many of us approach Jesus in prayer the same way? We know He can. Beyond a doubt, we believe He is capable. But faith falters at will He?

God desires that all people confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and enter eternal communion with Him. However, many reject His offer. In that choice, they sentence themselves to eternal separation from God’s Presence — His life, joy and peace. God also desires healing for everyone, yet we witness healing sometimes and not others. The why remains a mystery understood by Him alone.

The same words Jesus spoke to the leper, He speaks to you and me.

“Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!'”
Matthew 8:3

In an instant, the leper’s faith leaped forward, landing steadfast on Jesus’ words, “I am willing.”

God is God

The essence of prayer rests in relationship. We may come with raised voices, speaking with authority, and demanding our way, but God remains unfazed. God is God; He takes orders from no one. In the place of communion with Him, we gain His ear and hear His heart.

The battle is over

When we approach Him, in reverence and awe, based on access gained only through Jesus Christ, He welcomes us to lean into Him and speak the desires of our hearts. Then as we press close, asking His will and perfect desire on the matter, He will speak. While waiting, seeking, and listening for His sovereign directive, He will make His ways known.

Though I’ve witnessed many miraculous interventions, resulting from God’s response to prayer, I’ve also heard Him say, “Not now, Little One.” At other times, His silent comfort speaks, “No.” At these times, faith digs deep and trust grasps hold of His loving hand. Here in the painful waiting or in prayers answered in ways least desired, the yielded heart knows He accomplishes His “immeasurably more” along paths unfamiliar to us.

“The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”
Psalm 145:9

His immeasurably more sails upon the winds of His goodness, grace, and “tender mercies.”

Immeasurably More

As we pray, seeking His will for a situation, we listen — anticipating his whispered, “Yes.” When we hear the utterance, everything shifts. Without visible evidence, the deep knowledge of hearts aligned with the Father’s will, propels lightning force prayers with pin-point accuracy into spiritual domains. No holding back — God whispered, “I am willing!”

Armor and War

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Hebrews 4:16

Boldness rises, pure and submitted, without pride or presumption. When God speaks His, “Yes,” it is only a matter of time before the results become visible. We know with God’s “Yes,” He already released the provision, He already canceled the cancer, He already redeemed the lost, He already restored the relationship, and rebuilt the broken. The tangible only needs to catch up to the spiritual. His mercy and grace pours earthward.

God’s “immeasurably more” abides in the twin realities of His written Word, the Logos or the Bible, and His spoken word, the rhema. I once heard someone compare the Logos to a deep fresh well. Then God gives us the bucket called rhema with which we draw the water.

Ask

It’s not what we know, but Who that makes the difference. Attempting to manipulate Scripture to control God to meet our whims accomplishes nothing. When we know and approach Jesus Christ, our Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient Lord, with humility everything changes. We can trust Him to be continuously working everything for His divine purpose and our eternal good.

Sword of the Spirit

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Romans 8:28

So when we don’t have answers, we still know Someone who does. When we don’t understand, we know the One who understands everything. In turbulent times of uncertainly, we can be sure of one thing, our God does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. God gave us the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), let us use it wisely.

Let us pray, asking big and imagining large. In the asking and imagining, we trust fully the One Who does immeasurably more — the one who is both able and willing.

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