The bare truth

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  Corrie ten Boom

Friends,

Change has arrived in my life with a thunderclap’s terrifying suddenness and a tsunami’s unforgiving fierceness.

A few months ago, my startup business ended abruptly and harshly when our last project proved unsuccessful.  My business partner and I knew the venture would make or break our five-year-old business.  It broke us.  We always thought we’d be successful until the day we weren’t.  We put everything we had and more into our business, yet we still fell short.

On September 1st, I received a paycheck; on October 1st, I did not.  So, as you might guess, the past several weeks have been a mad dash focused on replacing our lost income stream.   I’ve sent out resumes, emails, text messages, filled out applications, made lots of phone calls and spent countless hours online searching for employment, starting with my industry expertise and radiating to employment parts unknown.  It has been time and energy-consuming.

But the Lord continues to provide for us even amid this sudden storm.

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, You find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, You let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Psalm 23:1-3 (MSG)

My wife immediately found a job; my search for a full-time position took longer. In the interim, a seasonal, part-time job delivering packages for a well-known global-sized corporation came my way.  I’m grateful to have had that opportunity, as it’s been an eye-opening and humbling experience.  Let me say that delivering packages on time and to the correct location is much easier said than done.  My hat is off to all who do this sort of work day in and day out.

Next week, November 17th, I will begin work at a job in a brand new career field.  If you had told me ten years ago, or even five, what my career trajectory would look like, I would’ve told you, “You’re crazy…ain’t gonna happen.”   Yet, I am on the cusp of a new career path I never saw coming, especially since I’m at the age where many of my peers have already retired.  There is no other explanation but to say, “Only God, only God!”  Indeed, God’s provision is remarkable; His quilt weaving is unmatched.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)

Every new job is time-demanding, especially when you embark on a path you have no real experience navigating.  Indeed, the mountain standing before me is daunting, with a steep learning curve that will undoubtedly require crawling on all fours at times to reach the summit.  But I’m eager to begin the climb the Lord has graciously prepared for me to traverse.

Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:19 (NKJV) 

From the onset, I typically have managed to write only one, and sometimes two, new articles a month for my site due to the consuming nature of my startup business. However, I’m anticipating my near-term future productivity to be even less so as I learn the ropes for my new position.

For those of you who regularly bless me with your presence here, please know I have no intention of shutting this site down. Because of these new demands it is likely my posts will be even fewer and farther between for the foreseeable future. I will continue praying for you daily, just as I always have. And it is now my turn to ask you for prayers for wisdom, strength, courage, trust, and faith as my wife and I look to Him for our daily needs in an unfamiliar landscape.

Give us this day our daily bread.  Matthew 6:11 (NKJV)

So, you’re probably wondering, “What’s up with the photo of the car with the cross?”

Our neighbor’s car was attacked by a black bear foraging for food several weeks ago.  It seems some food was accidentally left in the trunk overnight, and the aroma demanded the bear check it out.  The next day’s morning light revealed a dangling rear panel.  My neighbor’s immediate solution to the problem was to tape the car back together again.

Although the cross-shaped tape is a temporary fix for my neighbor’s car, the overarching truth in our lives is that Jesus is The Ever-Present Living Answer to all life throws at us all of the time.   Whether a bear unexpectedly dismantles your vehicle, your business fails, or any of a thousand other difficult situations arises, the glorious sunrise of hope abides in Jesus.  As the saying goes, “Hope has a name, and it’s Jesus!”  Rest in Him, my friends; rest in Him.

May the God of peace himself make you entirely pure and devoted to God; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept strong and blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes back again.  1 Thessalonians 5:23 (TLB)

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“Give Me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega from the album “Home.”

“Nothing Else” by Cody Carnes from the album “Nothing Else.”

In His wake up call

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.  I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.”  Psalm 86:11-12 (NKJV)

“There are no ‘if’s” in God’s world.  And no places that are safer than other places.  The center of His will is our only safety.”  Corrie ten Boom

We often wonder, “Why is it sometimes so difficult, if not impossible, to hear God?”  Yes, this question is familiar to all, myself included, especially lately I might add.  We strain mightily to hear Him, yet His voice sometimes seems faint or nonexistent.  In those times, it’s as if we’re in the uncomfortable, disquieting soundless vacuum of space.  And make no mistake, as we all know it’s a tough spot to find oneself.

To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock:  Do not be silent to me, lest, if You are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.  Psalm 28:1 (NKJV)

Before we dive in, please understand we’re approaching this issue solely from the perspective of a believer and not that of a non-believer.  The Bible is crystal-clear in its distinction between the two in this regard.

He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”  John 8:47 (NKJV) 

As believers, we expect to hear from God, so it’s particularly alarming and disquieting when we don’t.   In these situations, typically, the next question out of our mouths is, “God, where are You?”  It’s a heartfelt, emotional inquiry often stemming from our circumstances but one that is not rooted in Biblical truth.  How I wish I had recognized this error in my thinking much earlier in my life.

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.  Proverbs 28:26 (NKJV)

When searching for the truth, we shouldn’t rely on our feelings, especially during difficult situations.  Instead, we should look to the scriptures for the clarity we seek because God’s Word is trustworthy, and as we all know, our emotions resemble the ever-changing weather at times.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

Where hope is concerned, our negative emotions are a dead-end street, and we must not allow them to bind us in chains, no matter how loudly they demand our attention. The hope we seek exists when we stand on The Rock of Age’s promises and nowhere else.

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  Matthew 7:24-25  (NKJV)

Putting aside the supposed truths your emotions are trying to get you to buy, what does the Bible say about where we stand with God?

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 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.  Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)

If reading Paul’s heartfelt conviction about God’s presence and intentions towards us isn’t enough, Jesus, our Savior, assures us we are by no means alone, now and forever.

teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.  Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)

Rest assured, sister and brother, God is indeed present with His children, even if our feelings vigorously proclaim otherwise.  Do not fall for the enemy’s lie that God has abandoned you leaving you all alone. 

Friends, it’s time for those tempted to think they’re no longer on our Father’s radar to change their understanding and perspective by knowing God more deeply through His Word.  Embrace that He sees you and trust that He loves you and is with you!

“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.”  C.H. Mackintosh

The Lord gave me this memorable quote a few years ago.  I’m just now beginning to appreciate the refreshing, hope-filled perspective it offers.   Here’s the thing, it’s taken a while, but I’ve finally accepted that I tend to be more emotional than most guys.  I don’t work as hard to hide it as I used to, which is a good thing, but now that I know this about myself, I’m more aware that I’m particularly vulnerable to my emotions putting a bit in my mouth and controlling me.  In the past, whenever they spoke, I listened with a mindset already pre-conditioned to give them the lead.  That’s been my MO for about as long as I can remember, and it’s no easy ride, I can tell you, as they’ve taken me over some pretty rough terrain.

Being carried away by your negative emotions is a perilous place for any believer to be.  Why?  Because nothing less than your relationship with God is at stake.  The loudest voice in the pit is often our emotions:  “Woe is me!  God has abandoned me!” As I’ve already said, listening solely to your feelings is a quick way to find yourself unmercifully bound and gagged in the pit with hope nowhere to be found.

Employing the wisdom in CHM’s quote, flip-flops one’s thinking in all the right ways so that when you find yourself in a dark hole, you are no longer the easy pickings for the enemy you once were via your emotional state.  In wonderfully stark, hope-filled contrast, the Bible promises that He is still present, loves me, and has only the best intentions for me.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,  and saves such as have a contrite spirit.  Psalm 34:18 (NKJV)

So, we can rest knowing God is with us, but given this truth, why is He sometimes silent? Remarkably, who other than God has so much to say, even through silence?  His silence speaks volumes at times and grabs our attention.  When He is silent, we know something is amiss.  Indeed, how we long to hear our Heavenly Father’s voice, for we are as though dead without it.

To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock: Do not be silent to me, Lest, if You are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.  Psalm 28:1 (NKJV)

Could God be speaking, but for some reason, we don’t hear Him?  Perhaps there are times He is not as silent as we perceive.  Maybe the problems we experience hearing from the Lord sometimes result from our whereabouts relative to Him.  Or, as realtors like to remind both buyers and sellers alike when it comes to property values, “Location, location, location!” 

If you look closely just to the left of the center in the photo, you’ll see a woman walking in the opposite direction on the sidewalk.  Admittedly she’s hard to see, but even from this distance, I could still hear the music she was listening to on her cell phone when I took the photo.  “Hmmmm.  That’s odd,” I thought, “I could barely hear the music when she had passed me by only steps away a few minutes earlier, but now I hear it quite well from way up the street.” 

Why, do you suppose I could hear her music more plainly some distance away as opposed to barely being able to discern it when she was mere feet away from me?

The science of sound waves tells us the difference maker was the wind.  The volume level I heard depended upon whether I was upwind or downwind of the source of the music.  I could easily hear the music playing when I was downwind from a considerable distance away.   Yet when I was upwind, even though only a few feet away, the volume of the music was noticeably lower and, therefore, much harder to hear.    

How well we hear the Lord’s voice depends upon our location relative to Him.  Are you downwind, or are you upwind of our Father?  Are you in His will, or are you not?

Hearing from God is best accomplished downwind, which places us securely in His wake instead of the lonely, harsh silence experienced from being upwind, running ahead of Him, and plowing new ground the Lord has not trod.   Let us always be mindful that He, not us, is the One supremely qualified to carve and craft new pathways.

Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:19 (NKJV)

Construction zones are usually noisy and busy with activity.  If you’re hacking your way through the wilderness with a chainsaw, is it any wonder you can’t hear the Lord when He’s speaking?  Or how about the noise of the backhoe you’re operating while digging the new river’s course?  Furthermore, even if you do manage to excavate the river channel, where will you get the water to fill it?  It is a desert, after all.  It’s worth saying again, “He is well qualified for this task, and we are not.”   

Where exactly are God’s construction zones located?  Where is this wilderness and desert the Lord intends to make both accessible and livable?  To be sure, He has many construction projects in the works, but one, in particular, is pivotal to His plans.

Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about here because it is the wilderness of our untamed hearts and the parched, inhospitable deserts of our minds He seeks to repurpose. 

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

To be sure, we are no small transformation project, but our Heavenly Father is more than able to accomplish the task at hand.  Simply put, “The Lord is unwilling to leave us as He found us.”  Now that is something all of us “works in progress” should all be excitedly shouting about from the rooftops with a hearty “Amen, praise God!”

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)

For these dramatic changes to take place within us, He must lead

And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8 (NKJV)

…and we must follow in His footsteps…

If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.  If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.  John 12:26 (NKJV)

trusting He is directing our steps for His good purposes

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

…even in the face of evil.

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.  Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)

Buoyed by our lack of comprehension and swept away by our unbridled enthusiasm, we are prone to impetuously run ahead of the Lord, which interferes with our ability to hear and understand Him clearly, even if we’re only a few steps away.

The famous saying from the vintage TV series, Get Smart comes to mind when agent Maxwell Smart says as he’s holding up his thumb and finger to help emphasize the point, “Missed it by THAT much!”  Continuing this thinking, it’s also worth mentioning another famous expression, “An inch is as good as a mile,” regarding the importance of being on target.  In other words, close to the bullseye is still a miss.  The bottom line is if we desire to hear what the Lord is saying, the place to be is downwind in His wake and not upwind, even in the slightest, running ahead of Him.

Running ahead of God, now there’s a subject I can speak about with some authority of late.  For the past month or so, I’ve given much thought and prayer to the differences between “audacious faith” and “presumptuous faith” and how they have impacted my life over the past five years.  I’ll not get into the details here, as that will be the subject of a later post.  I only mention it because this tendency to take the reigns (purposeful misspelling, think about it) from God is, I fear, not something uniquely “me” but something many, if not all, struggle with in our lives at various times.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

However, lest we become discouraged by our shortcomings, it’s noteworthy to recognize that even the Apostle Peter was guilty of getting out in front of the Lord, supposing he knew Jesus’s destination.  Here’s how that all played out:

“You are the Christ. The Son of the Living God.”  “Jesus answered him and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’  Matthew 16:16-18 (NKJV)

Boom! Peter nailed it, culminating with Jesus lauding his audacious faith.  And just like that, Peter finds himself in cotton so tall it’s easy to become lost if he isn’t careful to check his ego at the door.  Let’s see how Peter handles things following Jesus’s uplifting commendation. 

“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”  Matthew 16:21-23 (NKJV) (emphasis mine)

As it turns out, Peter became lost in the tall cotton of his vanity, exchanging his audacious faith for presumptuous faith that egotistically dared to presume to know God’s will and intended destination.  In a short period, Peter experiences Jesus’s affirmation only to be followed up by a stern rebuke in which he’s associated with Satan and his evil plans.  Wow, talk about extreme high and low bookends!

Yet, as we all know, all was not lost with Peter despite such failings.  He was not cast aside and abandoned as worthless in Jesus’s eyes.  No, far from it; Jesus’s steadfast love and godly plans for Peter remained.

And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James.  Mark 5:37 (NKJV)

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.  John 21:15-17 (NKJV)

Let’s be encouraged that there is a way forward upon realizing we are upwind of the Lord’s will.  Though they may seem impossible to overcome, even the giant monkey wrenches we’ve managed to throw into the works from our self-appointed leadership role are incapable of derailing God’s plans.  How small would you have to believe God is if our mistakes could do that?

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26 (NKJV)

Thankfully, He is graciously willing and more than able to overcome our failings and even use them for His glory when we approach Him in a posture of genuine humility and repentance.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

My fellow “Lead Dogs,” it’s time to get back in line downwind and in the wake of God Almighty where we belong so that when He speaks to us through the Bible, we hear His voice loudly and clearly.  He has much to teach us, lest we think otherwise.

“We do not so much search the Word of God as the Word of God searches us.”  Barry Black, US Senate Chaplain

Paradoxically, a life continually laid bare before the Lord for His name’s sake devoted to following Jesus makes such a person a much-needed leader among God’s children and in His Kingdom.

So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”  Matthew 20:16 (NKJV)    

Indeed, what about David caused God to call him a “man after My own heart?” (1 Samuel 13:14)

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’  Acts 13:22 (NKJV)  (emphasis mine)

My friend, let this be His wake up call to His beloved children that we may live in the exceeding abundance of His will.  As we take our place in the wake of the Lord’s glory, delighting in His presence, let’s begin this day anew, refreshed and filled with hope, eager to follow as He leads, for when we do, we’ll once again hear the sweet sound of His voice say, “This is the way, walk in it.”  (Isaiah 30:21, NKJV)

“Get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord,’ and life will become a romance.” Oswald Chambers

Just imagine the possibilities!

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  Matthew 13:9 (NKJV)

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“The Sound of Your Voice” by Third Day from the album “Move.”

short-sighted

 For we walk by faith, not by sight.  2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

Q:  Why do Christians not cross the road?

A:   Because we listen to our eyes.  Metaphorically that causes us to become spiritual chickens standing there motionless, afraid to move, longingly staring in the direction of God’s desired destination for us on the other side of the street.  It’s a matter of faith, or the lack thereof.

Our eyes deceive and paralyze us when it comes to trusting God.  Instructed to scout out the Promised Land, the spies reported what their eyes had seen to Moses when they returned.

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”  Numbers 13:31 (NKJV)

Caleb also saw the same things the other scouts observed about the land the Lord had promised the Israelites but through the eyes of faith.

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”  Numbers 13:30 (NKJV)

Taking ground and moving forward for God’s Kingdom is a Spirit-led initiative that the flesh cannot conceive of accomplishing. 

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26 (NKJV)

As we all know far too well from personal experience, walking by faith is easier said than done.  What prevents us from stepping out in faith?

It’s a matter of focus.

We recently visited the local zoo with our two young granddaughters.  Soon enough, we came to one of our favorite attractions.  The elevated wooden walkway is something we love to do because it gives you an unobstructed and uncrowded view from both sides of various animals as you walk along its meandering track high above the different enclosures.

However, we ran into a problem immediately after climbing the stairs to begin our adventure.  After being carried up the stairs, our 16-month-old, “Little C,” said she wanted to walk too.  And that’s when all forward motion came to a complete stop.  As soon as she set foot on the boardwalk, she froze,  unwilling to move.  To her eyes, the spaces between the boards made walking way too risky of a proposition, even though the slats comprised most of the walking surface.  All she could see were Grand Canyon-sized gaps, gaps, and more gaps.

As followers of Jesus, are we different from this toddler regarding our efforts to walk by faith?  Sadly the answer is far too often “no.”  The good news is we’re not alone or the first to grapple with our shortcomings in this regard, as we’ve already seen with the Israelites and as evidenced by the following familiar story:

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.  25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.  27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-33 (NKJV)

Like Peter, the Israelites, and Little C, when faced with new and unexpected challenges, we’re predisposed to focus on the uncertainty of the gaps along the path we’re traveling instead of the certainty of the One who holds everything in His hands.

Indeed, it all boils down to this: it’s a matter of where, or rather Whom, we choose to place our focus.

“Focus on giants-you stumble.  Focus on God-your giants tumble.”  Max Lucado

We either remain motionless and stagnant, held captive by what’s right in front of our eyes, or move forward in trust as an onward marching Christian soldier for Jesus.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

The good news is Little C discovered she could trust the boards to hold her up, that the gaps didn’t have the final say as to whether or not she would fall to the ground.  She learned that lesson one small step at a time after finally taking that critical first step of faith.  After all, the first step is the hardest.

My friend, trust God…….and……take…….that…….step…….!

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  Corrie ten Boom

I pray your focus is on the Lord, the firm foundation, the One who loves you and is altogether trustworthy as you take those steps of faith toward fulfilling your role in His Kingdom.  May your efforts overflow with His glorious presence.

“There’s some task which the God of all the universe, the great Creator, your redeemer in Jesus Christ has for you to do, and which will remain undone and incomplete until by faith and obedience you step into the will of God.”  Alan Redpath

“Seeing is never believing: we interpret what we see in the light of what we believe. Faith is confidence in God before you see God emerging; therefore the nature of faith is that it must be tried.”  Oswald Chambers, He Shall Glorify Me, 494 R

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

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“Walk By Faith” by Jeremy Camp from the album “Carried Me The Worship Project”

singing in the pain

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,  and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails,  and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields,  and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!”  Habukkuk 3:17-18 (NLT)

When I think about birds, two things immediately come to mind:  flying and singing.  Indeed most people would say a bird unable to either fly or sing is, well, less of a bird, especially so if it was no longer capable of flying.  I can’t help but wonder out loud, though, “Is it possible God sees such a bird as ‘more than’ when all we see is ‘less than?'”

What would your answer be if I were to ask you to tell me two vital things about yourself that are integral to who you are, like we just mentioned about birds regarding flying and singing?  Do you have those attributes firmly in mind?  Good.  Imagine what it would be like if something happened and you lost one of the two traits for an undetermined length of time.  In other words, you don’t know whether the loss is temporary or permanent.  What might your attitude be?  Your outlook?  What emotions might you experience?  Would you shake your fist at God?  Or would you praise Him despite your circumstances?

“It’s easy to love and trust God when life is good, but when things fall apart is when you find out what we truly believe.”  Cory Asbury, Reckless Love (the devotional)

Let me tell you a remarkable story about a lady and a bird as told to me by my wife last week.  One of her Facebook friends originally shared the story as I understand it.  It’s a story that points the way forward towards higher ground for all who find themselves struggling to keep their heads and their hopes up in deep, stormy waters.  I hope you will be as touched by it as I continue to be.

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”  A. W. Tozer

Before I begin this story, let me first make mention of God’s photo provision before I ever heard this story. A few days earlier, we had a bird fly into one of our windows at the back of our house. Stunned from the impact, it fell on the outdoor couch between the seat back and the cushions. This situation was unusual because it was a cardinal rather than the typical dove we usually see. Intrigued by this uncommon occurrence, I took the photo. Little did I know at that time that I’d need an image of a cardinal sitting in an unusual setting for a story I’d be inspired to share a few days later. And yes, for all you fellow bird lovers out there, I’m happy to report that the bird fully recovered and was gone just a few minutes later after I took the picture.

As the story goes, it seems this lady was driving down the street at the beginning of a hectic day filled with appointments when she happened upon a cardinal sitting in the middle of the road. The bird didn’t attempt to fly off as she drove closer, so she pulled off to the side and parked her car for a closer look at this unexpected sight. Realizing something must be wrong for the bird to act like that, she gently scooped it up and placed it in a cardboard box she happened to have in her car. Instead of going ahead with her busy schedule, she immediately drove to an animal shelter, hoping someone could help the bird out. The person examining the bird explained to her that, most likely, the bird had a broken clavicle (collarbone) and had only a 50-50 chance of recovery from this severe and excruciating injury. If she wanted to help, the best thing for her to do would be to take the bird home, nurse it as best she could, and then wait and see what happens, realizing the bird may not ever fly again or possibly die. Not surprisingly, the lady decided to take the bird home with her.

In an unexpected twist on the drive home, the lady said she and the bird shared a “moment” of sorts as they made eye contact. And then, to the lady’s delight and amazement, the cardinal broke out into a song and continued to sing most of the rest of the way home. Happily, the bird healed over the next several weeks, and as instructed, the lady took it back to where she found it and released it back into its home territory.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”  Vivian Greene

You know, friend, I’ve thought about this story a lot since first hearing it. Do you want to know what tugs at my heartstrings about it? It’s the bird still singing despite the pain, despite being unable to fly, and despite finding itself in strange and threatening surroundings. I have to ask, “Would I still sing under such difficult and painful circumstances where I’ve lost something of great value, something I consider to be part of who I am? Do I have the faith and trust in God to sing His praises during challenging times that shake me to my very core?”

“Faith isn’t fact until it’s tested.”  Steve Wiggins, Groundworks Ministry

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  Corrie ten Boom

The story of an underdog facing seemingly insurmountable odds stirs my heart like none other.  This tale is that kind of story, and it brings to mind that old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  God has called us to make lemonade with Him no matter our circumstances.  Why?  For His glory.  Do you know Him to be a good, good Father?  Do you believe He is sovereign?  Your willingness to sing His praises even while surrounded by lemons depends upon Who you believe God to be and the degree of intimacy you have with Him.

“There is a correlation between our sense of security and the depth of our understanding of God’s love.”  David Jeremiah

Ah, yes, if we but truly grasped the unsurpassed depth of God’s love for us, we would never be shaken, and our days would overflow with waterfalls of heartfelt singing.

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “’Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”  Mark 9:24 (NKJV)

I’ve taken the liberty of changing a few words from an iconic song (Singin’ in the Rain) to help illustrate this story’s takeaways.  The original word is noted in parentheses.  And, yes, of course, this song is the source of inspiration for this post’s title.

I’m singin’ in the pain (rain)
Just singin’ in the pain (rain)
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I’m laughin’ at clouds
So dark up above
The Son’s (sun’s) in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the pain (rain)
I’ve a smile on my face
I’ll walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just singin’
Singin’ in the pain (rain)”


Writer/s: Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown
Publisher: BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

When the painful times come into our lives, and Jesus assures us they will, may we find the courage, trust, and faith to sing His praises despite the heartaches.  He has, after all, overcome the world.  Do we believe God to be sovereign?  Let all who know this to be true be of good cheer.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (NKJV)

 “But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.”  Psalm 59:16 (NKJV)

“The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and also a thing of beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world.”  Francis Schaeffer, Art and the Bible

I’m blessed and inspired, as I hope you are as well, by this moving and encouraging story about the cardinal singing amid a life-threatening storm. Yes, these are the type of stories that thrill and lift my heart above the stormy waters that threaten to capsize and sink me. May I live an authentic and vibrant “more than” life that points others to God even during dark and treacherous times. Because of You, Jesus, I can sing it is well with my soul. Let us sing His praises, my friend.

 “Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”  Acts 16:22-25 (NKJV)  (emphasis mine)

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Soul’s Anthem (It Is Well) by Alisha Mino and John Rose

soaring thoughts for sore minds

“God is infinite, and because God is infinite, you and I can be bold and brave in the universe, just the same as the little boy who is brave when his father is around.”  A. W. Tozer, Delighting in God

Recently, my wife and I went out for a later than usual lunch at one of our favorite beachside restaurants.  Accompanying us was my unwanted sullen attitude, which only worsened as a long line of other hopeful diners unexpectedly greeted us at our restaurant of choice.

Patience challenged as I was, I suggested we leave and find a place where we could walk right in with no waiting, but my wife brushed right past my attempts to avoid the crowd, cheerfully observing, “What else do we have to do this afternoon?”  She was right, of course.  It’s just that I didn’t want to hear such positivity as she joyfully, and I begrudgingly took our place at the back of the line.

Why my lousy attitude?  Simply put, I was under siege by a ruthless army of restless, negative thoughts feasting on my worries of “what wasn’t yet, but might be.”

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”  Matthew 12:25 (NIV)

Despite the crowd, we somehow ended up getting the table we’d both choose if we were the only people there.  Sitting outdoors at this time of year overlooking the beach is nothing short of a breath of fresh air, yet my gloominess refused to budge an inch even in the face of our good seating fortune.

All the while, I was trying to tamp my negativity down to prevent our afternoon from becoming a washout.  I felt like I was falling in slow motion off a cliff, yet there was nothing I could seemingly do about it even though I knew better, which made it even worse for me.  I was aboard a self-pity train headed fast towards nowhere good that I desperately wanted to jump off of but maddeningly couldn’t.  Such a tight spot is so frustrating and debilitating for professing Christians to find themselves in, especially for one who writes about my faith as I do.  And with that thought, another chain wrapped itself around my leg.

But then something fortuitously happened out of the blue that completely rearranged and refocused my thinking.  Or perhaps I should be bolder and use the word “providentially?”

“Do you perceive mere coincidence, or do you discern the hand of God?” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

We had been watching a dove sitting forlornly on a nearby ceiling fan blade.  You see, it couldn’t find its way off the seasonally enclosed deck.  While observing the weary bird’s dilemma, I had already ironically thought to myself, “It seems that I’m not the only one trapped today.”  If misery loves company, then the dove was my company.  Suddenly, the bird left the overhead fan blade and landed directly on my head, much to my and everyone else’s surprise and amusement.

There’s something remarkably transformative whenever you perceive yourself as seen instead of unseen, you know?  It’s so encouraging and uplifting.  Here’s how my friend, Mindi, put it in my trucks top rescue post when she was battling feelings of abandonment during a rough time in her life,  “The bird just sat there sweetly looking at me, tenderly reminding me God was with me, watching over me. Instantly my focus was changed from my circumstances to Him. It was a deeply beautiful moment when I truly felt…well, not so alone.”  Amen?  Amen!

“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.” C. H. Mackintosh

“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

In that moment of clarity, just as Mindi had experienced, my burdens were left behind as my thoughts also turned away from myself and towards Him.   A few short minutes later, with the help of some other diners, the dove also found welcome release from its captivity, as well.

The enemy would have you believe you’re a forgotten castaway adrift on a raft all alone.  The truth is just the opposite: the Lord always has His eyes on you because He is always with you, His precious and deeply loved child.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’”  Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV)

“’ teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”  Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)

This particular day I needed to be reminded of the Lord’s promises.  I needed to refocus my attention on Him.  Graciously that mindset change was initiated by a dove improbably landing on my head.

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)

As much as I’d like to say my faith is rock-solid 24/7, it’s not.  The good news for you and me, though, is that while we have our ups and downs, our heavenly Father never wavers!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)

I pray this story is an encouragement and reminder for you to turn your focus on Jesus regardless of your circumstances.  When you do so, He gloriously transforms your sore earth-bound thoughts into thoughts that majestically soar heavenwards.   May you experience that sweet relief in Him!    

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”  Jeremiah 31:3 (NKJV)

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

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“You Raise Me Up-Acoustic” by Selah from the album “You Raise Me Up: Greatest Hits.”

content?meant

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

 Content.”  Now there’s an interesting word.  What’s the meaning or significance of this word as it applies to your life?

“Well, that depends on which ‘content’ you’re asking about,” you say. “With the word standing there all alone, I can’t be fully content to tell you the answer to that question until I know the full content of what you have in mind since it could be one of two possibilities. At the very least, you’re going to have to use it in a sentence; otherwise, I’m going to keep bouncing back and forth between the two choices.  So, you tell me, which one are you talking about here?”

To that, I enthusiastically jump to my feet and reply, “Both!”

Now that we’re on our feet, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the distinct meanings of these two identically spelled but differently pronounced words.  The Cambridge Dictionary defines “content” as “everything that is contained within something.” It also informs us that the other pronunciation of “content” means “pleased with your situation and not hoping for change or improvement.

Our level of contentment is determined by how content or satisfied we are with the contents of our lives.  Generally speaking, when we perceive our content or the components to be favorable, we’re content.  But when the contents of our life take a turn for the worse, we become woeful or even fearful. 

In a sense, these two words relate to each other a bit like our feet.  In one scenario, they work together in harmony like finely tuned, graceful dance partners, serenely gliding across the floor.  Or, conversely, they’re like two left feet noisily and clumsily stepping all over each other on the dance floor, which frequently results in a memorable faceplant of viral social media proportions.  By the way, I fall into the latter category of these two as I’m no Fred Astaire.

For many of us, when a significant component of our lives that we’ve come to depend upon falters, so do we. Experiencing the loss of a job, relationship troubles, financial issues, or an impending health crisis, to name a few, are undoubtedly challenging turns of events that threaten our well-being.  The Apostle Paul certainly experienced various potentially life-altering and, at times, life-threatening circumstances.  No doubt he had more than his fair share of the scars to prove it, too.

“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”  2 Corinthians 11:25-27 (NIV)

Theologians generally agree that Paul wrote about those trials about six years before he penned the following words in Philippians:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)  

These verses in Philippians stand in stark contrast to the world’s perspective of contentment.  Paul’s steadfastness and confidence are even more remarkable, considering he wrote them while being unjustly confined in prison.  How was he able to avoid falling into despair regardless of the situation?  Why doesn’t he have two left feet?  What is the secret he has found?

Paul’s ability to be content in all circumstances did not just magically and suddenly appear one day in his spiritual arsenal.  No, far from it.   Each of his visible and invisible scars wrought from his experiences became graduation diplomas of trust and understanding in the Lord’s plans for his life beautifully and lovingly engraved on his heart. 

Does the relationship between “content” and “content” as they influence our contentment not exist for Paul?  At first glance, it might perhaps seem they’re disconnected, but given a bit more thought, the answer is an emphatic “no!”  The difference is Paul can confidently say what he does because of the eternal Who that fills his life up, rather than the temporal whats that fills up the majority of most other people’s lives.

“To know something in your head is one thing; to feel it in your heart is another.  And I think most Christians are trying to be happy without a sense of the Presence.  The Presence is here, but the sense of the Presence is absent.  The sense of the Presence is absent and that yearning you see is a desire to be nearer to God.” A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God.

Paul is content because he fully embraces the sovereignty and presence of God in his life.  He understands that so long as his life is full of the Lord, Who is good beyond measure, his outward conditions are of little consequence.  The when, where, how, and why of his circumstances are no longer uncomfortable mysteries tormenting him.  He recognizes his place in God’s hand.  And that gives him hope.

“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:13 (NKJV)

 Paul is a person completely sold out for God.

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God”  Romans 1:1 (NKJV)

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,”  Philippians 2:14-15 (NKJV)

Paul has learned the secret for true contentment.

“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2 (NKJV)

“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

“I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:24 (NIV)

In the end, all of the worldly what’s we have come to believe in as necessary to secure our contentment are mere smoke and mirrors.  In them, we stack clay bricks made without straw that cannot possibly support our weight when the storms of life come our way.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”  Matthew 7:26-27 (NKJV)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)

Only God, Who is the same today, yesterday, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), is an eternal rock that is utterly dependable.

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25 (NKJV)

 Where are you searching in your quest to secure your contentment? 

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”  C. S. Lewis, A Mind Awake:  An Anthology of C. S. Lewis

“My home is in heaven. I’m just passing through this world.”  Billy Graham

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 3:20 (NKJV)

“Wait a little while, O my soul, wait for the divine promise, and thou shalt have abundance of all good things in heaven.” Thomas a Kempis.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

“The secret to happiness is to be content no matter the situation.  My life isn’t going to make my happiness.  My happiness is going to make my life.”  Full Count, the movie.

Dear friend, I don’t know where you are or what’s going on in your life, but one thing I do know: He alone is the Source for true and lasting joy that creates and sustains contentment. Content in and through Jesus is where we are meant to be!

He! Is! Worthy! 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

Be Still and Know by Christy Nockels from the album Healer

Under His (re)Construction

When it rains, it pours, as the old saying goes. Let’s reword that a bit for spiritual purposes. “When He reigns, He pours!” To be clear, however, please understand it’s not a question of whether or not He is reigning since He is sovereign all of the time and in all circumstances, of course. Instead, this intentional rewording proclaims He is capable of accomplishing more than we can ever begin to imagine all of the time.  The limitations imposed are ours and not His.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)

If one exclamation point is instructive, then certainly a second one is even better. Such is the framing of this latest post. The first exclamation point, “His Sound Affection,” is barely a few days old, and now comes this second one hot on the heals of the first and an even older post beyond that, as well.

Yes, the use of “heals” rather than “heels” is very much intentional in this well-known phrase because the Lord is white-hot when it comes to His commitment towards healing (building) His children.  Exchanging these identically pronounced words in this particular instance seems very right and thought-provoking to me.  Indeed, our Lord, Jesus, endured so much for our healing.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)

Let’s take a short detour down one more side street before diving fully into today’s post for just a moment. I can’t help but wonder what remarkable things we miss when we choose to bypass pathways that present themselves to us because they appear to be “out of our way.”   Yes, this is but another way of saying, “let’s stop and smell the roses.”

Given that we are discussing exclamation points, it’s fascinating to note the “!” physical location on a computer keyboard relative to another symbol’s location.   If you look at your keyboard, you’ll see the “!” and the “1” share the same key.  Coincidence?  Maybe so.  But maybe not. 

From my perspective, I find it extremely interesting that there is but the One (1) God, who, if we were to assign a punctuation mark to in an attempt to describe Him, must undoubtedly be an exclamation point (!) to my way of thinking.  After all, He is exceptional and worthy of nothing less!  Will you ever look at your keyboard in the same way again now that you’re aware of that shared association?  I can’t, and it’s my hope you won’t be able to either.

In my previous post, we discussed how we are an “ongoing project that is very much under His construction.” Today’s post is a continuation, an exclamation, if you will, of that thought.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve enjoyed watching the new two-story townhome construction that is ongoing less than a minute’s walk from our house. All of the ebbs and flows of building construction fascinate me.  Great strides are made at various times, followed by periods where things seem to stand still.  All in all, it’s an intriguing and compelling process to observe.

After what seemed like forever, it finally came time to install the windows into the roughed-in townhomes. However, the workers didn’t install all of the window units leaving a few holes glaringly unfinished. Much to my amazement, those holes stayed that way for a long time following the initial window installation. It was nothing but neglect as far as I was concerned.

I couldn’t figure out why the workers were seemingly ignoring this part of the job for the longest time.  The window units themselves were on site, yet the holes for the windows remained dark and unfinished for an uncomfortably long time as far as I was concerned.  Over the next few weeks, the roofers, electricians, and the heating and air conditioner workers all came and went.

Every day I’d walk by the building site and wonder, “What in the world were the builders thinking leaving these holes open like this?  There those few unplaced window units are stacked up in the garage; go ahead and install them for heaven’s sake!”

My lack of building construction understanding is showing here.  How little I truly understand about the entire process.  If you’re more familiar with construction than I am, then you’ve probably already figured out why those holes were left unfinished in the first place.  And it’s an excellent reason, by the way.

In 20-20 hindsight, I now understand the window openings were left undone so that large, heavy materials, such as sheetrock, in this case, could be delivered through them via a monstrous, telescoping loader to the upstairs portion of the townhomes.  Let me now state the obvious:  it turns out the builders knew so much more than I ever gave them credit for knowing by leaving the window openings undone.  In other words, they knew what they were doing all along.

There’s a simple but essential principle to take away from this lesson, spiritually speaking.  Aren’t we all guilty of that same sort of off-base thinking at one time or another when it comes to examining what God is doing in our lives as well?  I have to admit there are times when I think the Lord has gotten things out of order in the middle of the construction phase He has underway.  And that not just concerning His plans for me, but for other people and their circumstances as well. 

When I see unfinished openings, it concerns me.  “Put the window in, now.  The opening is ready, and the parts are here ready to go.” I say.  The Master Builder replies, “Be patient.  I have my excellent reasons to leave it incomplete at this moment.  I’m still working in this area, and there is much to be accomplished.  There is more to this unfinished hole than you realize.  The opening needs to remain as it is for now.”

“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 (NKJV)

A few years ago, I discussed pretty much this same issue in my post entitled, “the (s)Parking lot.” I’m a slow learner, it seems. Is that why I’m again revisiting that few-year-old post for that very same reason? Hmmmmm. Or, is there something more to this struggle beyond my being a slow learner, which I’ve thought to be primarily a patience issue? Is it possible there’s more to the unfinished spiritual window opening as I’ve previously understood it this entire time?

And suddenly, I now realize there is so much more to this hole beyond my battle with impatience.”   Yes, I see the issue behind the issue more clearly now.  My struggle with patience finds its beginning with a still more profound problem.   I also struggle with giving up control to Him. 

“There is more going on in your life than you can ever see.  I see the big picture while you can only focus on only a small portion of the (re)construction project I know as you. You’re going to have to trust me for all of it, both the big and the little picture.  When you do that, you’ll find you have a lot more patience along the way.”

Carrie Underwood, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” from the album, “Some Hearts.”

Lord, Help me remember that I am Your building project that is very much a work in progress.    I’ve got a considerable number of barnacles attached to me that You’re in the process of removing from me, as well.  In their place, You are creating within me beauty as only You can create, and doing that right requires Your perfect timing.  Forgive me for my impatience as You work to build me into the person You have called me to be.  Help me to let go of my ways so that I can more fully know Your ways, for the work of Your hands is good, Lord.   Mold me and shape me after Your will.  Your purposes, not mine, Your plans, not mine, Your way, not mine.  You are my Creator, and I am Your created.  In Jesus’ name, amen 1!1!1!1!1!1!1!1!1!

“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.  I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.”  Psalm 86: 11-12 (NKJV)

Casting Crowns, “In The Hands Of The Potter” from the album, “Only Jesus.”

His Sound Affection

“So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Romans 10:17 (WEB)

“Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross…So to follow Jesus is always to accept at least a measure of uncertainty, danger, and rejection for His sake.”  John R. W. Stott

Almost exactly two years ago, I posted sound affects.  Yes, in case you’re wondering, the use of “affects” not “effects” is very much intentional in that post’s title.   God is always present, but the world’s noisy commotion does its very best to divert our attention elsewhere.  If we’re going to “hear” Him and be affected by what we hear, we must make a conscious effort to include Him in our daily lives.

“The call of God is not just for a select few but for everyone.  Whether I hear God’s call or not depends on the condition of my ears, and exactly what I hear depends on my spiritual condition.”  Although I had not yet stumbled upon this particular quote by Oswald Chambers at the time, “Per-sway-did or per-sway-dead?” was written from a very similar mindset.  I love the Lord’s quilt weaving that is neither bound by time nor location!

My previous thoughts expressed in the original post gained a much-needed exclamation point of emphasis this morning as I walked down our street towards the waters of the sound.  Not only are we invited to hear Him but to dive fully into Him and experience all He has to offer.  It is a most welcome and timely invitation to intimacy.

 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)

This morning the surf’s distant roar from waves crashing against the Gulf-side of the beach was still quite evident so long as you paid attention, just as it was back in 2018.  What struck me this time, however, is that is all you can hear.  When you’re standing more than a mile away from the surf line, the roar is an indistinct, constant, radio-station-static-like sound. If you’ve ever experienced the joy of being on the beach, you know each wave creates a beautiful crescendo of sound all its own, distinct and separate from the others, as it breaks along the shore.  It’s a stark contrast of sounds generated from the same source.

And so it likewise is concerning our communication and thus our relationship with God.  Being within hearing distance and hearing His “roar” is a much-needed and welcome step in the right direction.  However, the simple truth is that our relationship with the Lord grows by leaps and bounds when we come close enough to realize He is singing over us.  He is calling us home to Himself.  It is the dramatic night and day difference between being merely “aware of Him” and intimately “knowing Him, and being known by Him.”

“Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me.” Psalm 42:7 (NKJV)

In his YouVersion devotional, “Discover Your True Self,” Chip Ingram rightly observes, “If you’ll take a step toward God, He will take every other step toward you, no matter how many it takes.” But you have to respond.”

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a (NKJV)

This verse conveys a conditional promise.  Yes, God will draw near to you, but we must respond by taking a step towards Him first for this to occur.  As human beings, we face somewhat of a problem here regarding that crucial first step.  On the one hand, when things are going well for us, our attitude is often complacency towards God.  We’re not necessarily inclined to make that step happen when the sun is out.  Yet, when times are tough and foreboding, we frequently look upon God with suspicion and wariness.  It’s a double-edged sword all too often.

In “How to Have Intimacy with God,” Jon Bloom addresses these issues this way: “Trust is at the heart of intimacy. The more we trust someone, the closer we let them get to us. The degree to which trust is compromised in a relationship is the degree to which intimacy evaporates.  This is as true in our relationship with God as it is in our relationships with other human beings. Our experience of God’s nearness or distance is not a description of his actual proximity to us, but of our experience of intimacy with him. Scripture shows us that God is intimate with those who trust him. The more we trust God, the more intimately we come to know him. A felt distance from God is often due to a disruption in trust, such as a sin or disappointment.” (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-have-intimacy-with-god)

Ridgelines are topographic drainage divides that divert water towards one watershed basin or the other.  Challenging circumstances like where I now find myself are spiritual ridgelines challenging me to trust or not trust the Lord.  Balancing at the very top of the divide is not possible.  Unlike the drop of water precariously poised at the ridgeline, I have a choice to make.

Friends, it’s always true that whatever you read here is born out of my experiences of “walking around the block of life a time or two with the Lord,” as I like to describe it.  Simply put, what I share here with you first finds its genesis in my walking.   Today’s “exclamation point” couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

My relationship with the Lord has come under brutal attack the past few weeks.   Disappointment has reared its ugly head in an unveiled and bold attempt to persuade me that He is not trustworthy.  Feelings of abandonment have tried to capsize and sink my faith. 

A couple of weeks ago, my three-year-old startup company experienced a crushing disappointment when our bid to acquire another company’s interest failed.  Our efforts to do so were months in the making.  Had we been successful in that effort, our company would’ve finally succeeded at getting our heads above water.

Going into the bidding process, we were confident our nearly-empty-timeline hourglass for our company I mentioned in “The Miracle of Him” was finally going to be replenished by a large supply of sand grains once we secured the properties.  Such was our hoped-for expectations regarding the potential impact of this acquisition.

And what an impact it was, too, of the worst possible sort.  James Taylor’s poignant lyrics from his song, “Fire and Rain,” capture the depths of my disappointment upon first learning we had come up short in our attempt to secure the deal.  In that song, he sings, “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.” There was nothing but smoldering wreckage as far as the eye could see after that utterly distressing phone call informing me we had failed.

Things have not gone at all as I imagined they would go with my startup company these past three years.  I watched God create this business opportunity out of seemingly nothing in 2017.  Where once there was nothing, He miraculously provided.  No, I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I mistakenly thought we’d experience success reasonably early on, especially since we had His apparent blessings.  However, my expectations have not matched up very well with the reality of how things have gone since we’ve been in business.  To say I’m intimately familiar with disappointment at this point is an understatement.

More times than I can count, my business partner and I have discussed a quote by Mike Tyson, the world’s former heavyweight boxing champion. “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” Indeed.  Say what you want to say about Mr. Tyson, but he’s punched a truth ticket with this one.

As a believer, what do you do, what do you believe, when you find yourself flat on your back yet one more time drowning in a nauseating sea of swirling stars after a vicious, lip-splitting punch in the mouth?   Do you believe the Lord’s affections and intentions for you are sound even in the face of relentless disappointment? Alarmingly, spurred on by this latest crushed expectation, I have found myself straddling an unexpected spiritual ridgeline.   

In response to my concerns, the Lord lovingly answers with questions of His own, saying, “Who do you believe Me to be?  Do you believe My plans for your life are good?  Do you believe I care for you?  Do you trust Me?” The truth is that His questions are reminders, invitations to experience greater intimacy with Him by trusting Him when life inevitably gets messy and complicated. 

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)

“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.”  C. H. Mackintosh

Boom!

My struggles revolve around my unrealized expectations, which have caused me to focus on my uncomfortably lengthy circumstances rather than Him.  Mercenaries known as sadness, panic, disillusionment, and self-pity have relentlessly stormed my castle walls.  What am I to do in the face of this onslaught?

One of my go-to verses these past several years has been Lamentations 3:24 (NKJV), which says, “The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’”  It’s worth noting that other translations substitute “wait” for “hope.”  Now that potential financial disaster is staring me squarely in the face, have I been guilty of only talking a good game with this verse?  I said I would wait on Him in this season because He is worth waiting on, but that was several very long and hard years ago.   Did I mean that or not?  Has my trust in Him been misplaced?

 “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’” Exodus 32:1 (NKJV)

“It’s easy to love and trust God when life is good, but when things fall apart is when you find out what we truly believe.”  Cory Asbury, Reckless Love (the devotional)

Am I so different than the Israelites?  Sadly, I am not.  My impatience is showing, along with other less desirable traits of mine.  The problem lies with me, not Him.   

A fire has a way of refining and purifying like no other means.

A couple of pertinent quotes from movies I’ve recently watched have caught my attention.  They share a recurring theme that fits rather nicely here. “Sometimes you gotta tear something down so you can build it back up again” (Joshua). “Any story that’s good has to go wrong before it gets good.” (Storm Boy)

Revisiting Lamentations 3:24 in light of these quotes is the smart thing to do, especially so when bathed in the truth espoused by Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV), which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  

And so I am graciously reminded that I’m an ongoing project that is very much under His construction.  As a rule, what building projects aren’t messy along their way to being completed?  To expect otherwise is a mistake that makes me vulnerable to a whole host of issues, the likes of which I’m now experiencing. 

My attention has wrongly been on my circumstances and not on Him.  Lord, reframe and refocus my perspective and my attention to You!

Josh Baldwin, “Evidence” from the album, “Evidence.”

 “Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:4-7 (NKJV)

Recall and revisit the evidence of His provision and presence!  Of course! Yes! I may be hanging on by a thread, but I know Who holds the thread!

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  Corrie Ten Boom

Heavenly Father, I have experienced Your ongoing presence in so many different ways these past years.   Lord, You rightly instructed the Israelites to employ Jordan Stones as remembrances of Your provision for generations to come that they would keep You always in their hearts.  I ask You to refresh my mind and spirit, too!  Immerse me in Your goodness, mercy, and grace!  Fill me to overflowing with Your presence so that I will know You more deeply.  Lord, my faith and trust have waivered because I took my eyes off of You. Please forgive me.   Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  May I always seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

My fellow brother and sister in Christ, have you heard His song, the sound of His voice calling out to you?  His affection for each of us is more beautiful and sound than you and I could ever imagine.  He is calling you to Himself in the midst of whatever your circumstances are in this moment.  Do you hear His voice?  Do not be afraid; take that first step towards Him, for He is altogether trustworthy!

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

Third Day, “Sound of Your Voice” from the album, “Move.”

faith rubber meets the rowed

“And not only that, but we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5 (NKJV)

“I’d rather be in a tiny, broken-down rowboat with only half an oar in the middle of a horrific storm with no land in sight if that is where God wants me to be instead of sitting on a beautiful white sandy beach under an umbrella enjoying the shade and light breeze, sipping on a cool drink if that is not where He wants me to be.”

Not that long ago in a far away and distant lifetime that was my unwavering proclamation.  Times  were good with fewer worries or concerns when those words were uttered.  I didn’t say them flippantly or insincerely mind you.  No, I said them each and every time with confidence in their truth.

At the time my relationship with the Lord was strengthening and growing after years of my neglect so the thought expressed by these words was anything but casual.  Yes, I said these words with firmness because I believed I understood the truth they embodied.  I had personally seen God move in our lives in ways I had never imagined before so there was reasonable cause to say them as my confidence in Him continued to grow.   

And then…circumstances changed practically overnight, and I found myself no longer sitting on the beach enjoying the cool shade of the umbrella.  In fact, that beach is nowhere to be seen in any direction from even the crest of the mightiest storm wave that my uncomfortably small rowboat has now found itself precariously perched upon.

“…In the world you will have tribulation…”  John 16:33, partial (NKJV)

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia:  that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.”  2 Corninthians 1:8 (NKJV)

As carefully chosen as these words were they were lacking true depth and grit.  “How so?” you might ask. 

To answer that question the Lord’s perspective must be given voice.  “Really?  I know you believe what you said, but do you really and truly know from the deepest reaches of your heart and soul that what you just said is absolutely true? It’s vital, my child, that when you utter such words that they convey far more than what you think to be true.  You must know beyond a shadow of a doubt they are true.  They must become living words. They must become words with My breath in them that are capable of speaking life into heartache and suffering.  You have experienced the beach with Me as well as a few storms but have you experienced such a storm as you’ve just described with Me?  Until you do these words don’t carry the full weight of My presence.  When you have experienced the truth in these words for yourself then, and only then, can you passionately and effectively share Me with utmost passion and conviction to others in need.”

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)

How do you know what it is you really believe about God until you find yourself in a situation that tests those beliefs? It’s one thing to say you’d choose God and the beat up rowboat in a storm seemingly hell-bent on destroying you from your easy chair on a magnificently delightful beach, but when push comes to shove and you find yourself actually experiencing such a storm, well, isn’t that when you find out exactly what your faith, your trust in Him, what you actually believe about Him, truly looks like? 

There’s a well known phrase that captures this thought: “Faith isn’t fact until it’s tested.”  Indeed.  Each storm that comes our way has value in this regard, but there are those certain storms of storms that take us to places no ordinary storm can.  These are life altaring (purposely misspelled) storms that literally compel you to at long last come face to face with the raw, stripped down guts of your faith. 

Circumstances that are completely beyond your control have a way of making such an improbable and undesirable meeting possible.  After all, how many of us would really be all that comfortable having our faith made completely naked and exposed?  Yet, such a place of desperation where our true foundational faith rubber is brought out of the shadows and into the light by the stark reality of the road being rowed, is absolutely necessary for our own spiritual growth and maturity. 

You say that you know He is faithful, but are you utterly convinced of that?  How can you truly know this unless you yourself have experienced it? How can you speak true life into others who desperately seek hope in their own lives unless you have lived it yourself?

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.”  Psalm 119:71 (NKJV)

Even now as I write this it’s literally storming outside as if to help serve as an in-the-moment physical reminder of the severity of my circumstances.  The waves and wind relentlessly pound my little boat tossing and turning it around and around as it bobs helplessly up and down. There is no rest.  There is no relief. 

By default I am the supposed captain of this little boat, but it is not mine to steer.  Captain?  Hardly.  No, I am a drenched, weary, often frightened and reluctant pilgrim and no more.  All appears lost as wave after unrelenting wave crash over and into the boat that I’m desperately clinging to with all of my might.  Surely it will sink and take me along with it!  Where can hope be found in this storm?

 “And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’  So He said, ‘Come.’  And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’  And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.”  Matthew 14:25-32 (NKJV)

Jesus comes to us in the midst of our storms and invites us to let go of the boat we’re desperately clinging to and join Him.  It’s not until we leave the false safety of the boat, join Him, and then return with Him to the boat that the storm abates. 

Tony Evans says that, “Faith and movement go together, and that if there is no movement there is no evidence of your faith.” We must take that first step of faith towards Him as He beckons to us, “Come.”

“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save, He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

Why is this sort of experience so important for us as believers?  While it’s tempting to say it’s about us, the truth is it’s not just about us.  There is far more at stake.

Seriously, how can such a defining, wilderness “moment” be only about us?  Surely there is a higher purpose and calling at work here.  Is it possible you’re the glowing, red-hot block of steel that the blacksmith purposefully hammers into a glistening sword?  “Well, maybe,” you reluctantly say, “But why?”  For the answer listen closely to King Darius’s question found in Daniel 6:19-20 (NKJV), “Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions.  And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel.  The king spoke, saying to Daniel, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually been able to deliver you from the lions?” 

Friends, non-believers and believers alike all want to know the answer to this question: Is. Our. God. Able? Daniel’s faith in our God Who is indeed able and is worthy of all praise and glory couldn’t help but leave an indelible mark in this world as seen in Daniel 6:25-27 (NKJV): “Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth:  Peace be multiplied to you.  I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.  For He is the living God, and steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end.  He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

As tempting as it is to cut the wilderness experience that God is using to shape and mold you short don’t give into the urge to do so.  Would you tell the blacksmith to stop forging the sword before it’s finished?

Resist the impulse to run away never to be heard from or seen again. Instead, embrace Him and together let this storm run its full course believing He has only your best true-self interest at heart.  After all, Jesus knows a thing or two about wilderness experiences.  Could we ask for a more experienced and understanding guide?  Trust Him in this process that has eternal ramifications for not only you, but undoubtedly a host of others. 

As the saying goes, “that’s gonna leave a mark.”  Indeed.  How can it not, and besides, isn’t that the real purpose anyway of such a profound, life altering experience?

What sort of mark on this anxious world will your wilderness faith experience leave concerning hope?  Such precious faith He has now birthed in you can’t help but proclaim hope through your personal experience of God’s unlimited mercy, grace, and love.  It is through your own encounter with Him in your wilderness journey that compels your voice and heart to joyfully sing and reach out to those in need,  “I will lift up my eyes to the hills-from whence comes my help?  My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2 (NKJV)   

Beauty is in the ayes of His beholders

“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28, NKJV

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:1-3, NKJV

A key question for each of us on our journey through life that we inevitably face is how are we going to handle setbacks when they come our way?

As much as we’d all like to experience a Louis Armstrong “nothing but blue skies do I see” sort of life we are not promised that experience as our own lives often times starkly bear witness. In fact, Jesus graciously…yes, graciously…tells us in John 16:33 (NKJV) that we will experience suffering saying, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

It’s gracious because He doesn’t pull any punches and tells us straight up that life is going to be tough at times, but then He also reassures us that not only is His peace available to us, but that we should be of a positive mindset because He has taken the world’s best shot and come out on top.

So, as beholders, as active participants in this life, will we shake an angry fist in an “eye for an eye” sort of downward cascading negative reaction on the road that leads to bitterness when faced with a loss or a setback, or will we look to the Lord for His help and perspective in time of need in an “aye for an eye” sort of way? Will we humbly give Him an aye, a yes, to work with even in our suffering?

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34:18, NKJV

My friend of several years, Nicole, has a prosthetic eye which she’s had for a longer period of time than our several years long friendship. I don’t know the details as to why she has a prosthetic eye, but I do know her heart’s attitude about it as witnessed by a story she shared with me recently.

Not long ago Nicole sent out a prayer request for a co-worker of hers for their 5 year old daughter needing to have emergency surgery on one of her eyes. It seems the growth behind one of the little girl’s eyes that was initially thought not to be a tumor, turned out to be a tumor after all requiring immediate surgery.

A week prior Nicole’s co-worker, the little girl’s dad, reached out to her about her own experience because he was aware of her prosthetic eye. The family desperately needed Nicole’s first hand advice for their little daughter. Don’t we all seek out those precious voices of experience in such times? After all, words from people “who have lived it” are like gold in times of trouble.

In the midst of their conversation Nicole was able to share her faith in Jesus with this family who didn’t know the Lord. It’s fair to say that the road to this conversation was paved by Nicole’s prosthetic eye.

Am I saying the Lord purposely took Nicole’s eye just for this conversation to occur years after the fact? No, not at all. But, I am saying that Nicole rightly gave this loss to the Lord rather than becoming embittered by it.

You have to surely agree that it’s fascinating that here we have an eye that cannot see according to the world’s perspective, but yet fully sees Him, guiding an eye that can see as the world understands sight, but is nonetheless blind to Him.

To put it another way, rather than embracing bitterness over the loss of her eye, Nicole allowed herself to become a yes, an aye, for Him and His purposes well before she could even “see” how He might be able to use her in this supposedly “broken” condition.

Brokeness, isn’t it amazing what the Lord can do with what a rebellious and angry world judges to be a loss worthy of fist shaking accusations hurled at God for His lack of presence or lack of compassion, but instead has been freely given to Him for His own good purposes in His own good timing? It’s staggeringly beautiful, truth be told.

The Lord desires that our hope in Him abounds even in the midst of our losses and sufferings to the point our ability to help others will soar when we place our brokeness into His hands.

My friend and former pastor, Tim, captures this thought saying, “Ministry is ministering to others right in the middle of your own pain.” Will you now trust Him enough to say “yes” to Him with your life, every bit of your life, even your pain, that He might use you as only He can? Will you allow Him to bring beauty into not only your own life, but other’s lives as well as His willing beholder who says, “Aye, Lord, here I am?”

“The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!” Lamentations 3:24, NKJV

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Genesis 50:20, NKJV

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to hear as the learned.” Isaiah 50:4, NKJV

“Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NKJV

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