Category Archives: Heaven

through many dangers, toils, and snares

Standard

lately it seems i’ve been connected with and talked in detail to many other folks who suffer with severe, chronic physical pain.  this has had a two-fold effect on my soul.  first, it has encouraged me.   its helpful at times like this, when just getting out of bed is a challenge, to be reminded that I’m not alone.  i’m not the only one with undiagnosed issues and with the fears, pains and sorrow that accompanies these pains.  the thoughts and fears swarming my mind are not unique to me. 

I really do find much comfort in knowing this, for one thing that chronic pain does is make you feel isolated.  Its easy to think that no one understands my pain.  No one understands what I’m going through, etc…  How grateful I am to God for the reminder that these thoughts simply are not true.  He has placed me in a body where there are many others who not only understand, but who pray for me as I pray for them… who encourage me in my weakness and who point me to Jesus. 

My friends are much like the friends of the paralyzed man in the New Testament.  He couldn’t walk to Jesus, so they carried him.  My friends have carried me lately through car rides when I was too weak or dizzy to drive, through meals when I have been too tired to cook and through prayers when all I  seemed to have the energy to do was cry.  Thank you.

But on the other hand, the more i talk with other folks who suffer with chronic pain, the more my heart breaks.  I hate to see the rampant effects of sin.  I hate to see the sorrow and trials and fears that are simply part of day to day life.  the more i see suffering here, the more i long for the day when my Jesus will come back to judge evil and wipe all tears away… not just my countless tears, but the tears of my sweet friends as well… the tears of Jess C, Charissa, Jenn S, Missy, Wendy, Jess B, Sarah and so many others. 

And then to add on to the physical pain, I could list so many who have suffered in other awful ways as well…miscarriages, death, abuse, persecution, broken hearts, divided families… this world is a violent place.  But we have the promise that Jesus will wipe all tears away … what sweet hope and comfort I find in those words.

oh come Lord Jesus.  Come and rescue your Bride from this fallen world of suffering and shame.  Come in mercy to give eternal hope to your children who eagerly await their inheritance.  Come and rescue those like Gao Zhisheng who are imprisoned and beaten for your sake.  Come and give comfort to the fatherless, hope to the barren, comfort the widow with your presence, and come and give trust and peace to those like me who often live in fear of the unknown (or in regret and shame to the past).

but until that day, I will hold on to you.  Until the day you answer that prayer (could it please be today?), I will continue to cling with my feeble fingers to the ledge of your great grace.  I will hold fast to the One who will never let me go.  I will follow the example of the one who suffered in my place.  Give me grace to not grow weary as I seek to follow you.  Keep my eyes riveted on your grace when my sins begin to overwhelm me.  Grant hope … as you’ve promised is the result for enduring trials with a steadfast heart.

Oh God, my heart is steadfast on you.  You are the only hope for my life.  I am looking to you to satisfy, not to what makes sense to me.  Please, won’t you give my weary heart some hope?  You have consistently shown me hope and you have faithfully given me comfort and steadfast love.  Be faithful to once again answer my prayer.  Let my weariness find rest in you.  And care for my friends… remind them also of your unending love and care.

this would not be the way I’d have chosen

Standard

 

 

If I had to describe this season of my life it would be with the following phrase “this would not be the way I would have chosen.”  God; however, has chosen this path for me.  He has chosen 10 months of debilitating migraines, crippling food allergies and countless nights of restless sleep.  He has chosen to give me no medical explanation or cure.  He has chosen a path formerly unknown to me, a path of new trials and pain.  

 

My Father has tested my faith over and over again, in many ways I hope never to repeat.  He has pushed me beyond my limits and right into His loving arms of care.  He has shown me my utter inability to change my circumstances, but greater still, He has shown me His love.  

 

I love God more now than before this trial began.  I know God loves me even if this trial never ends.  I plead for it to end.  But I trust His sovereign care.  I trust that He knows what’s best and that His desire is not to harm (Lamentations 3:31-33).  He is not vindictive or harsh.  My God weeps over the pains His children endure, and as one of His children, I know without a doubt that His compassion extends to me (Psalm 103:13).  He hears my feeble cries (Psalm 145:19).  He listens to my weak prayers (Psalm 61:2).  He does not condemn my questions and doubts, but instead He cares and wants me to cast those anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7), He strengthens me with His promises (Psalm 119:25, 28).  He comforts me that I will never walk alone (Deut 31:8, Is. 41:8-10, Matthew 28:20), that nothing can separate me from Him (Romans 8:38-39) and that others have successfully walked this path before me (Psalm 88, 27, 91, Hebrews 11-12).  

 

You see, though in my mind, this is the path less traveled, in God’s eyes it is not.  The way of salvation is hard.  The path is rough and few follow on that path of suffering.  But the joys… oh the joys are incomprehensible.  One day, I will be with my Lord.  I will gaze in the eyes of my Savior that suffered worse pain than I could ever know.  He took what I never will – separation from His Father.  I will see others, like William Cowper, who suffered for years in pain, yet chose despite all odds to praise his loving God.  Oh, I long to talk to him about his struggles… about his many nights of depression and doubts and struggling and to hear intimate encounters between him and his God who lovingly held him through each of those nights.  I look forward to meeting those who died daily for Christ, whether by a martyr’s death or in the daily fight against sin.  I want to hear how God was bigger than each horrible circumstance that men and devils created for them to endure.

 

So, in my weakness, He is proving His strength.  In my despair, He is becoming my joy.  He is fulfilling my longings and providing all the comfort my soul needs.  In my agony, He is reminding me that He bore my eternal agony so I could know joy.  I praise Him for His steadfast love and compassion.  I rejoice, as Paul (sorrowful, yet rejoicing) in my infirmities as I see more of His power displayed through my weaknesses.  And I look to Him in faith, my tender, compassionate Father that has the power to give life to this mortal body (Romans 8:11).

The God of the broken-hearted

Standard

(J. R. Miller, “The Beatitude for the Unsuccessful” 1892)

“The Lord is near the broken-hearted.” Psalm 34:18

The God of the Bible, is the God of the broken-hearted. The world cares little for the broken hearts. Indeed, people oftentimes break hearts by their cruelty, their falseness, their injustice, their coldness–and then move on as heedlessly as if they had trodden only on a worm! But God cares. Broken-heartedness attracts Him. The plaint of grief on earth–draws Him down from heaven.

Physicians in their rounds, do not stop at the homes of the well–but of the sick. So it is with God in His movements through this world. It is not to the whole and the well–but to the wounded and stricken, that He comes with sweetest tenderness! Jesus said of His mission: “He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted.” Isaiah 61:1

We look upon trouble as misfortune. We say that the life is being destroyed, which is passing through adversity. But the truth which we find in the Bible, does not so represent suffering. God is a repairer and restorer of the hurt and ruined life. He takes the bruised reed–and by His gentle skill makes it whole again, until it grows into fairest beauty. The love, pity, and grace of God, minister sweet blessing of comfort and healing–to restore the broken and wounded hearts of His people.

Much of the most beautiful life in this world, comes out of sorrow. As “fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks,” so many of the fairest flowers of human life, grow upon the rough stalks of suffering. We see that those who in heaven wear the whitest robes, and sing the loudest songs of victory–are those who have come out of great tribulation. Heaven’s highest places are filling, not from earth’s homes of glad festivity and tearless joy–but from its chambers of pain; its valleys of struggle where the battle is hard; and its scenes of sorrow, where pale cheeks are wet with tears, and where hearts are broken. The God of the Bible–is the God of the bowed down–whom He lifts up into His strength.

God is the God of those who fail. Not that He loves those who stumble and fall, better than those who walk erect without stumbling; but He helps them more. The weak believers get more of His grace–than those who are strong believers. There is a special divine promise, which says, “My divine power is made perfect in weakness.” When we are conscious of our own insufficiency, then we are ready to receive of the divine sufficiency. Thus our very weakness is an element of strength. Our weakness is an empty cup–which God fills with His own strength.

You may think that your weakness unfits you for noble, strong, beautiful living–or for sweet, gentle, helpful serving. You wish you could get clear of it. It seems to burden you–an ugly spiritual deformity. But really it is something which–if you give it to Christ–He can transform into a blessing, a source of His power. The friend by your side, whom you envy because he seems so much stronger than you are–does not get so much of Christ’s strength as you do. You are weaker than him–but your weakness draws to you divine power, and makes you strong.

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Blindness

Standard
Today is Sunday – a day of worship – a day to reflect on the amazing grace of God and His wonderful blessings in our lives. Praise God, I have not had a migraine since last Sunday, and though I have had auras, headaches, etc, I was able to sing today during worship. Despite the seeming unending technical difficulties with the sound system, it was such an encouragement to stand and view the faces of my church family – many who are suffering, many who are weary – to see those faces offering a sacrifice of praise to God – the One who faithfully sustains through all trials.

To see hands lifted high in worship to the One who cried tears so that their eyes could be dried. To see Jim singing with tear-filled eyes, sorrowing for the loss of his dear wife and best friend of so many years. To see Rose catch my eye with a smile on her face, realizing that my standing there was an answer to her prayers. To see Christa, with both hands lifted high and a smile on her face not because of her uncomfortable silence, but because her trustworthy God is proving Himself to be greater. To see Jimmy standing on the front row speechless, with joy on his face – and knowing that he slept last night after countless nights of insomnia! To see Dave working on the sound board, rejoicing that He’s able to stand today and not be in so much pain that he can’t be at church. To see new faces, that for the first time were experiencing that time of corporate worship. To see Kayce, knowing this was her second worship service as a Christian – I’m overwhelmed by God’s greatness at work in our midst. Its an honor to stand side by side with such faithful Christians approaching the Throne of Grace together.

During our worship rehersal this morning, we were practicing “Grace Unmeasured” and Jim took a moment to point out to the band an evidence of grace in Danny Robert’s life. Danny (our pianist) is in his young twenties and he and his wife, Nikki had a son 2 1/2 months ago. Baby Bentley had to be rushed to the NICU shortly after birth and spent the first few weeks of his life struggling to survive. By God’s grace, Bentley came to church last Sunday for the first time. What a joy to see his tiny body in his mother’s arms. What a sweet time of rejocing that was.

And then to find out today that Bentley is legally blind and may never see clearly or live a “normal” life. To hear Danny talk about that with a smile on his face because he knows that God will continue to sustain. To see gratefulness in his heart overflowing through his sparkling eyes because his dear son should be dead, but is still miraculously with us. What an evidence of God’s overwhelming and abundant grace at work.

I have much to learn from Danny and Nikki. I thank God for bringing them to us 2 years ago. Our body would not be the same without them.

I pray that God in His abundant mercy would heal Bentley. But I realized today that if He doesn’t do this, that the first face Bentley will ever see is the face of His Creator! What an honor! What a joy that would be!! To be blind, with no grasp of beauty and then to wake up to complete Beauty that is ever-present. To see men as “trees walking” and then walk hand in hand with the One who heals both soul and body!

I pray that God would most importantly draw dear Bentley to Him – that He would resuce His soul and provide a peace that has nothing to do with physical blindness. I know He can do this, for He has healed my spiritual blindness. He caused my scaly eyes to view a glimpse of His glory on the amazing, horrible Cross. I pray the same for Bentley. And I pray that the Jesus who had mercy on the weak and hurting, would show, yet again, his abundant mercy on His weak and hurting children – that He would lavish Danny and Nikki with overflowing, ever-present, tender grace.

Every Tear You Cried

Standard

This post is about a book. A book that I love and that leaves me in a puddle of tears whenever I read it. I’ve read it countless times and love it more each time. This was the first Ted Dekker book I’d ever read and it opened up to me a world of his powerfully descriptive and compelling writings. If you haven’t read it, I’d encourage you to do so.

The author portrays a suffering in this book in light of heaven and the eternal hope that a Christian has. It describes a town of faithful women who are willing to endure persecution for the joy set before them. (*note – this book can be rather descriptive and harsh at times*)

Todd Agnew and Ted Dekker worked together to create a song that is woven throughout the book. The link is below and it has, over the past few years, become an all-time favorite. I love the care portrayed by our Father through the words. I love the reminder that every tear I cry falls into the palm of His hand… that every lonely hour was spent with Him by my side… that every moment here is pointing to a reality to come.

I think its time I read it again. I never want to forget my hope came that day on a cross. I never want to forget I’m not home right now. I never want my current cross to appear greater than the glory to come.

… to finally here those words “my child, you are finally home.” I long for that day. When I can see my Daddy face to face. When I can hold the hand that wiped my countless tears. When at last, I’ll be home.

Sing O son of Zion
Shout O child of mine
Rejoice with all your heart and soul and mind
For you are finally home

I’ve been waiting to dance with you
In fields full of colors you’ve never seen
I’ve been waiting to show you beauty
You never dreamed that’s always been in you
I’ve been waiting to see you tremble as you’re embraced
By a world saturated with my love
I’ve been waiting for the day when at last I get to say
My child you are finally home

Sing O son of Zion
Shout O child of mine
Rejoice with all your heart and soul and mind
For you are finally home

I’ve been waiting to watch you realize
What all your longing was for
I’ve been waiting to show you the thread of grace
That ran through all your pain
I’ve been waiting to let you drink the water of which
Your greatest joy on earth was just a taste
I’ve been waiting for the day when at last I get to say
My child you are finally home

Sing O son of Zion
Shout O child of mine
Rejoice with all your heart and soul and mind
Sing O daughter of Zion
Cry out O child of mine
Dance with all the strength that you can find
For you are finally home

Every tear you cried dried in the palm of my hand
Every lonely hour was by my side
Every loved one lost, every river crossed
Every moment, every hour was pointing to this day
Longing for this day…

Wave upon Wave meets Grace upon Grace

Standard

Life brings waves. Another day lived brings more waves. That is what I have to look forward to. Every day there will be new trials. Every day there will be new struggles and pain and sorrow. Every day on this earth will be hard in its own, new, unique way.

But that thought doesn’t depress me. It doesn’t make me want to give up and cry. It simply makes me long for heaven more. A day when I will wake up, look my Savior in the face and be in His presence completely. Not a presence of wrath and judgment – a presence of love and mercy. What a day! What a sight for my weary, worn eyes that will be.

It makes me think of the old song I grew up on: “what a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see. When I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace. When He takes me by the hand, leads me through the Promised Land… what a day, glorious day that will be.”

But for now, there are trials. For now, there are “light” and “momentary” afflictions. But my confidence isn’t in having a “suck it up and endure” attitude. My confidence is that my Savior has not only rescued me from an eternity of damnation; He has given me hope for this life and strength for these weary days too. That hope is found in His ever-present grace. Grace upon grace is flooding over me as the waves upon waves seem to overwhelm me.

As I’m more aware of my weakness… as He takes and takes away, I am beginning to see that what He gives is so much more meaningful. He may take my ability to teach German. He may take my ability to sing. He may weaken (and hopefully one day kill) my pride in my accomplishments, but He is giving GRACE. That is sweet. It is precious and I’m grateful for it. He is taking me and giving Himself. Why would I ask for that to be taken away?

The migraines aren’t every day. But they are still almost daily. Overall, the pain is either decreasing due to the new treatment or I’m just learning to manage it better. I think its both. I know I’ve had more energy in the past week. But I hesitate to ask for healing. I know my tendency. I boast in my accomplishments. I take pride in my strenghts and look to my abilities as the answer. But how I long for the day when my boasting is in Christ alone… when my hope is in Christ alone… when my strength is mediated through Him alone… when my gifts truly bring Him glory alone. I want that.

There is a sweet peace found in His strength that I don’t experience on a daily basis. But I have experienced it. And I want more of it. I want more grace. I want more of His power. I want to lean on Him (realizing that means I’m stripped of more of me). I want a faith that is unshakeable, an anchor that is firm through the fiercest drought and storms, a hope that is built on a firm foundation. Its sweet.

Though it hurts, its refreshing. Though it comes through pain, there is comfort. And the comfort makes the pain pale in comparison.

Refocusing

Standard

I changed the title of my blog today from “Emily’s blog: random musings into the character of God and its implications in my life…” to “A Sacrifice of Praise.”

This change is for several reasons.

The first is because over the last month or so, God has been lovingly stripping me of “Emily’s thoughts” which are often based in feelings and transferring those with truths found in His unchanging Word. This past month of pain and trials has shown me an inexpressable comfort and sweetness found in Him and His Words. My focus must dwell there more.

As I was reading today in Hebrews 13, I came across the following verses:
So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Because of the cross, I have been drawn near to Christ. He’s commanded, as His follower, that I die to my desires and hopes that are tied to this world and follow Him, looking to the hope that is to come. With that in mind… in light of the cross… in light of eternity, how can I not praise? How can my words not be filled with gratitude? How can I not acknowlege that Jesus is truly the sweetest name I know?

So, the second reason for the change is because I want my life to be this sacrifice of praise. I want to be so enamoured by the cross that everything else pales in comparison. I want my words to reflect gratefulness for the mercy He’s given to me. Having those words at the beginning of my blog each time I log in, will physically help me to remember to praise, not complain… to rejoice, not lament… to look up, not look around or down.

I want to sing. Whether in a dark prison at midnight or in fields of happy sunshine. My response should be a sacrifice of praise because my situation does not determine my feelings. Truth does.

This is a sacrifice because I must surrender all. I must die to my idolatrous desires, as I submit to the will of my Father. I must make a choice to say “no” when my heart screams otherwise. That is a sacrifice worth giving. In view of what He sacrificed, this can scarecely even be called sacrifice. It is minimal compared to His cross.

This is a joyful sacrifice filled with praise, for He has washed my sins away. He has promised to lead the blind. He has promised to guide and comfort no matter what the trial may be. I can praise because God will never forsake. He will always lead. He will always guide me in ways that to me are unfamiliar.

That’s why I praise. That’s what changes everything. Joy is found in death. The death of my Savior brings sweet hope. And the death to my desires brings sweet comfort as Jesus faithfully proves Himself to be more than sufficient. He IS indeed more than sufficient. He IS all. I have no need He does not address. I have no sin He did not remove. I have no cry He does not hear. There is no trial He does not walk through with me. He is indeed great.

In my weakness, I see more clearly His all-sufficiency. I can rest there with joy and peace.

He Hears My Cry

Standard

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God…

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies! …

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive

For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.”

excerpts from Psalm 69


——————————————————

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

——————————————————

David wrote in Psalm 69 a glimpse of his thoughts in the midst of a trial. He was in the waves. And sinking with nothing to hold onto. He was crying. He was weary. His energy was gone. Ever cry so hard it hurts to cry and you can’t see clearly? I have. According to Psalm 69, David has too.

I’m grateful God chose to include weak, weary cries in the Bible. I am so often weak. And weary. Reading these prayers gives me hope for several reasons. First, because in my own pride, I tend to want to fix problems. David in his humility cried. That’s a lesson I pray I am slowly learning. But it gives me hope, also, because David clearly points us not to his problem, but rather, to his Hope. David, in his own strength has no more power than the statue in the picture. He can’t even cry out without God’s strength working in his life.

David is weary. But His Lord is not. His prayer does not fall on a deaf or limited God – NO! they come right to the ears of the all-powerful Creator God. And David has confidence in that power. In the right timing, God WILL deliver. David didn’t pray “answer me God, because I’m coming in faith” or “answer me because I’m worth it.” No, he rested his confidence not on his feelings or situation, rather on the unchanging character of his God. “answer me, because you are good… because you are full of abundant mercy.”

That’s why David was able to sing. Right there, in the midst of pain, struggling, parched voice from all the crying… He’s singing. His eyes are tired from waiting… he is sinking in this overwhelming flood and He’s singing! He’s thanking God in the midst of weary pain. That thanksgiving, empowered by the Spirit, from a weak, parched disciple, pleases God and encourages His children. How amazing! Grace, given as a gift from God, working through weak, weary sinners, is used to encourage faith, magnify God’s greatness and even please God himself!

God hears! God knows our needs and is more than competent and willing to show himself faithful. He will save – not only temporarily by providing relief at times, but by giving us a future hope… a future inheritance… a future with no more cries.

Glorified

Standard

As far as any eye could see
There was no green. But every tree
Was cinder black, and all the ground
Was grey with ash. The only sound
Was arid wind, like spirits’ ghosts,
Gasping for some living hosts
In which to dwell, as in the days
Of evil men, before the blaze
Of unimaginable fire
Had made the earth a flaming pyre
For God’s omnipotent display
Of holy rage. The dreadful Day
Of God had come. The moon had turned
To blood. The sun no longer burned
Above, but, blazing with desire,
Had flowed into a lake of fire.
The seas and oceans were no more,
And in their place a desert floor
Fell deep to meet the brazen skies,
And silence conquered distant cries.

The Lord stood still above the air.
His mighty arms were moist and bare.
They hung, as weary, by his side
Until the human blood had dried
Upon the sword in his right hand.
He stared across the blackened land
That he had made, and where he died.
His lips were tight, and deep inside,
The mystery of sovereign will
Gave leave, and it began to spill
In tears upon his bloody sword
For one last time.

And then the Lord
Wiped every tear away and turned
To see his bride. Her heart had yearned
Four thousand years for this: His face
Shone like the sun, and every trace
Of wrath was gone. And in her bliss
She heard the Master say, “Watch this:
Come forth all goodness from the ground,
Come forth and let the earth redound
With joy.” And as he spoke, the throne
Of God came down to earth and shone
Like golden crystal full of light,
And banished once for all the night.
And from the throne a stream began
To flow and laugh, and as it ran,
It made a river and a lake,
And everywhere it flowed a wake
Of grass broke on the banks and spread
Like resurrection from the dead.

And in the twinkling of an eye
The saints descended from the sky.

And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream—
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye.

I knelt to drink,
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.
A big man running on the lawn:
That’s old John Younge with both legs on.
And there’s old Beryl, and Arnold too,
Still holding hands beneath the blue
And crystal sky: No stoop, they stand
Erect. No tremor in their hand.
The blind can see a bird on wing,
The dumb can lift his voice and sing.
The diabetic eats at will,
The coronary runs uphill.
The lame can walk, the deaf can hear,
The cancer-ridden bone is clear.
Arthritic joints are lithe and free,
And every pain has ceased to be.

And every sorrow deep within,
And every trace of lingering sin
Is gone. And all that’s left is joy,
And endless ages to employ
The mind and heart to understand
And love the sovereign Lord who planned
That it should take eternity
To lavish all his grace on me.

O God of wonder, God of might,
Grant us some elevated sight,
Of endless days. And let us see
The joy of what is yet to be.
And may your future make us free,
And guard us by the hope that we,
Within the light of candle four,
Are glorified forevermore.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org