Category Archives: encouragement

my “unnecessary” prayers

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in church a few years ago, we studied the book of 1st Peter.  I learned how God works through suffering, I learned that the character of my God does not change when life is one trial after another.  And I learned this by being thrown into one trial after another.  Physical struggles, emotional pain… at times it really seemed there was no end to the suffering and trials that had become my life.

Then God brought me past complaining to the point where I could see His goodness through the trials.  I began to see what He was teaching me and how He was using hard times to mold me into His image. And I understood that the Christian life involves many trials of all kinds.  It is filled with thousands of ways to take up your cross, deny yourself and follow Jesus Christ.

Somehow in the trials, though I always believed that God COULD bless me, I was tempted to doubt that He would.  I seem to be the type that learns the hard way (just take a look at my life…) and I resigned myself to the fact that God would use trials to continue to mold me to His image.  Though I often struggled with this, I learned to rest in His sufficient grace and realize that if God chose to use suffering, but in the end the result was that I was more like Him, that it was worth it all.

But then the wheels started turning again as God was preparing my heart to see yet another facet of His character… this time it wasn’t a sustaining and all-sufficient God through trials, I was unknowingly being prepared to meet a God who delights in doing more than I ask for… and through that, in revealing more of Himself to me.

But it all started with a closed door.  Or several years of closed doors.  And questions. and doubting.

When God closed the door to move to Washington DC last year, it opened the door for me to meet my husband.  He is the most amazing gift from God to me and I could not have imagined a year ago that I would receive a gift so wonderful.

I had prayed that God would provide a husband, but I honestly never prayed for someone like Ted.  He was “too good… too much of a dream” and asking for that would have been asking God for too much.  I had basically been praying for someone who would simply love God and care for me.  The extra details (like a quirky fun personality) were things that I could give up.

God surprised me.  He gave me more than I asked for.  He gave me a man perfectly suited to lead me.  He gave me a best friend.  He gave me a godly man who loves me with his whole heart.  He even answered the prayers that I was afraid to ask because I knew they were “unnecessary.”  And He did it to show me His character and blessings.  And as I watched that unfold, my heart grew in amazement and worship of my God.  I continue to be amazed.  I continue to grow in worship.

God has chosen yet again to answer an “unnecessary” prayer.  This week Ted and I adopted two dogs: Rex, a 2 year old boxer/German shepherd / chow mix and Cody, a 5 year old yellow lab/ chow mix.

For years I have wanted dogs.  But living in apartments and working full time it wasn’t really possible.  I mean, i could have had little rat-dogs that weigh 2 ounces and yip all day, but i wanted a DOG!  A dog you can take running, a dog who scares strangers, a dog who has a mean bark but a sweet temperament.

Ted and I have talked for several months about the possibility of getting dogs one day, but were aware that financially that would probably come later rather than sooner.  But I kept looking and hoping that maybe we would find good dogs for free somehow.

Two days ago, I found them!  Their previous owner, who has had them since they were both about 6 months old, is moving to Colorado and can’t take the dogs with her.  They had all their shots and even came with paperwork.  She threw in the bowls, leashes, and 40 lbs of dog food as well.

What a blessing.  I have cried so many times the past 2 days as I am once again overwhelmed at God’s blessings… this time in the form of 2 barks and 8 legs.  Once again, God knew the desire of my heart and blessed me abundantly.  And once again, my faith is strengthened and my view of God has grown.

Its cool being a “mama” to Rex and Cody.  Its cool being married to my best friend.   But its more cool that God cares enough to answer my “unnecessary” prayers.  What an amazing God we serve…

when a dark cloud hides God… remember this…

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There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a profest brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us.

We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yea, impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises.

But God is true. His Word of Promise is sure. In all His relations with His people God is faithful. He may be safely relied upon.  No one ever yet really trusted Him in vain. We find this precious truth expressed almost everywhere in the Scriptures, for His people need to know that faithfulness is an essential part of the Divine character. This is the basis of our confidence in Him.

A.W. Pink

from whence this fear and unbelief?

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From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on thee?

Complete atonement thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate’er thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with thy blood?

If thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest!
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty;
Trust in his efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee.

Augustus Toplady

Lord, you are gracious

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You do not treat us
as our sins deserve
though we are guilty as charged
Your Son was treated
as if responsible
for all my sin.

Lord, you are gracious
Lord you are compassionate
Slow to anger, rich in love
Lord you are.

Your Son was perfect
Blamelesness itself
Father You turned your face away
You bruised and crushed Him
That I might know your grace
for all my days

Lord, you are gracious
Lord, you are compassionate
Slow to anger, rich in love
Lord you are.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end

Lord, you are gracious
Lord, you are compassionate
Slow to anger, rich in love
Lord, you are

Slow to anger, rich in love
Lord, You are

© 2006 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)
Words and music by Pat Sczebel
As recorded on
You and You Alone

I need such a friend

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Jesus knows all my wants and weaknesses; all my sin and misery. He knows the malice of my enemies, and the foolishness of my heart. He has power to subdue my whole nature to Himself, and to defeat the wiles and machinations of my foes.

His grace is all-sufficient.  His love is infinite.  His wisdom cannot be defeated.  His power cannot be resisted.  

He has all power and strength–and I am very weak. He has all the knowledge to understand my whole case, and all the wisdom necessary to direct everything concerning me. He makes no mistakes. He is never deceived. He is never outsmarted. He knows all things. He knows my weaknesses.  He knows my sorrows. He knows my heart. His wisdom never fails. He is never confounded or perplexed. He has as much mercy and kindness as I need. His loving-kindness is so great that we cannot fathom its top or the bottom–the length or the breadth of it. The ocean of the Divine love is boundless and inexhaustible! It is infinite!

I have no sorrow to which He is a stranger.  He sympathizes with me in all my sufferings and temptations.

I need just such a friend.

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

(William S. Plumer)

prison clothes and the King’s table

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ever feel like you are underdressed for an occasion?  you show up for a party in jeans and a sweater and everyone else is dressed up?  imagine that the President invites you to the White House for a dinner party… would you show up in jeans?  of course not.  You would be embarrased if you were so drastically underdressed and i’m sure you’d feel very out of place. 

growing up for the first 20 years of my life in mostly fundamentalist churches, I often heard something like this as an encouragement to wear your best clothes to church on Sunday… to dress up when you come into the presence of the King to show reverence and respect.

but the reality is, God looks much deeper than the outward appearance and examines what is truly at the heart level.   I am not saying it is wrong to wear nice clothes to church, but personally, I am not of the conviction that God is impressed by my pantyhose and knee-length skirt.  He is impressed by a heart of humility that seeks to serve his Body and worship Him for His holiness. 

but all too often I am tempted to think that because God looks on the heart, I am in trouble.  that He knows my sin and I often feel ashamed to stand before the King with prison clothes on my heart.  Aware of His holiness, my sin can feel so condemning and overwhelming.

I’m so grateful for times when God reminds me that this simply is not true.  That Jesus died not only to save me from hell, but to release the chains that are around my heart that is so prone to sin.  I am not captive to those sins anymore.  Those prison clothes are not what defines my heart.  My heart has been changed and is now ruled by Jesus Christ.

but it often doesn’t feel like that does it?  condemnation.  shame.  regret.  fear.  those things can often overcloud the 3 words so precious to me:  “it is finished.”  as Martin Lloyd Jones stated in his book Spiritual Depression, its exactly at those times that I need to stop listening to myself and start talking to myself… to start talking truth from God’s Word. 

Several years ago, I read through the Bible in 3 months.  There were a few passages that jumped out to me at that time.  One was the first five verses of Zechariah 3…

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

I shared this passage in Care Group Friday night along with an impression that God wanted to encourage those in the group that struggle with this very thought… with the thought of standing before God in our prison rags… that He wants to remind us that through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are accepted… our clothes are changed, our chains are gone and we are invited in as a child of God as a result of His amazing grace.

Yesterday at church, it was encouraging to see the Holy Spirit move.  Someone came up during worship and shared the exact same passage… Zechariah 3:1-5 and the exact same encouragement to the body of Christ.  It edified my heart to see God working in various means to build up and refresh his church.  And from such an “obscure” passage… 

After care group on Friday, someone shared with me another passage along the same lines… 2 Kings 25:29:

So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table.

I think this accurately displayes who we are in Christ.  I pray that God encourages each of you who know Him with the hope found in the truth that we were… “once your enemy, now seated at your table.”  Jesus, thank you.

thoughts on suffering

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Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering but in being weary of joy.  G. K. Chesterton

 When ours are interrupted, his are not. His plans are proceeding exactly as scheduled, moving us always (including those minutes or hours or years which seem most useless or wasted or unendurable) “toward the goal of true maturity” (Rom 12:2).   E. Elliott

When you and I hurt deeply, what we really need is not an explanation from God but a revelation of God. We need to see how great God is; we need to recover our lost perspective on life., Things get out of proportion when we are suffering, and it takes a vision of something bigger than ourselves to get life’s dimensions adjusted again.  W. Wiersbe 

The “Why?” becomes unimportant when we believe that God can and will redeem the pain for our good and his glory…. When I put the sovereignty of God beside his unfailing love, my heart can rest.  Verdell Davis

 

Where does your security lie? Is God your refuge, your hiding place, your stronghold, your shepherd, your counselor, your friend, your redeemer, your saviour, your guide? If He is, you don’t need to search any further for security.  E. Elliott

 

In a way I wish I could take to heaven my old, tattered Everest and Jennings wheelchair. I would point to the empty seat and say, “Lord, for decades I was paralyzed in this chair. But it showed me how paralyzed You must have felt to be nailed to Your Cross. My limitations taught me something about the limitations You endured when You laid aside your robes of state and put on the indignity of human flesh.” At that point, with my strong and glorified body, I might sit in it, rub the armrests with my hands, look up at Jesus, and add, “The weaker I felt in this chair, the harder I leaned on You. And the harder I leaned, the more I discovered how strong You are. Thank you, Jesus for learning obedience in your suffering…You gave me grace to learn obedience in mine.” Joni Eareckson Tada

 So many times we say that we can’t serve God because we aren’t whatever is needed. We’re not talented enough or smart enough or whatever. But if you are in covenant with Jesus Christ, He is responsible for covering your weaknesses, for being your strength. He will give you His abilities for your disabilities!  Kay Arthur

 

Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God. Robert Schuller

 The fact that disabled people hang in there does something for Christians. It’s not about being an inspiration for others, it more than that…. it’s a mystery. God somehow strengthens others by their faithfulness. They may feel like a burden to others, but God thinks the opposite. He thinks its necessary for others to take care of the disabled… they do more for one’s spiritual well being than can be imagined. What’s more is that it’s all being credited to the disabled person’s account, per Phillipians 1:25-26.  Joni Eareckson Tada

 

 Let your mind be renewed by this: God cannot lie.  God is love…. “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.”  Do you know why the Bible tells us things like that?  its because we’re tempted to think that it hasn’t endured… that it doesn’t reach me in 2009 in this situation.  So God keeps speaking to us and telling us “no! it does!  it endures forever. It lasts forever.  It is for you…  God gave up His own Son to death to save you from sin.  And He points to that to show you how deeply he cares for you. 

 

He asks you to measure His faithfulness and His love by the cross.  If He would do that for me, how much more will he meet me when I’m growing weary in my sickness, when I’m wishing I had that relationship, when I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  How much more is God going to care for me.  God’s Word tells us that His arm is not too short to save.  He is able to meet us in any circumstance… Look back on your life.  Not ONE of God’s promises has failed.  That doesn’t mean you haven’t faced disappointment.  But look back.  All of God’s promises to be with you and to be faithful… not one has failed.  Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. Not a partial trust. 

 

SO here’s the idea I want you to think about … this kind of leaning (lean not on your own understanding) leaves us vulnerable.  If this thing I’m leaning on were to go away I would fall flat on my face.  And that leaves me off balance…  this is a little scary. I’m trusting in something else.  Leaning on the Lord leaves us off balance and we don’t like to feel off balance.  A lot of us spend our entire Christian lives running away from the feeling of being off balance.  That feeling of being vulnerable… of being held up by God…  this is exactly where God created us to live…and that is exactly where we are the most secure than we’ve ever been.”  Exceprt by Joshua Harris from sermon at CovLife on 8/9/09: Total Trust.