Category Archives: joy

the joy of the Lord is my strength

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When I see the fury of the law which I cannot appease
I’m tempted to fear and feel my soul doubting in unbelief
but at that point the righteous Judge looks to me and says
don’t be afraid, for in My strength, you’ll find sweet joy and rest.

The joy of the Lord has become my strength
in place of judgment and fear
I rejoice in the goodness He’s given to me
His presence is ever near.

The law has shown my unworthiness
Yet I stand here without shame
at the throne of merciful grace without end
I’m forgiven through Jesus’ name.

My advocate, He, before the Judge
declares my soul redeemed
He purifies me, and washes me clean
and lovingly calls me His friend.

This truth brings me joy when I start to despair: He’s faithfully working in me
I cling to the promise that He will complete the work that began on that tree.
I thank the Father for giving His Son to declare my soul to be clean
His strength is my joy, for through it I know that I my soul has been redeemed.

she is ugly

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Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! that this most glorious Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, whom angels worship, and before whom the seraphim bow–should from all eternity engage to come and seek His Bride from this poor world, and claim her for His own!

Yet so it is!

But she is filthy and polluted! (Ezek. 16:6; Job 15:14-16; Isa. 64:6) Then His own precious veins shall pour forth the rich crimson flood to cleanse her, (Rev. 1:5) and His Spirit shall open the fountain to wash her from her sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1)

But she is naked and bare! (Ezek. 16:22) Then He will cast His skirt over her, (Ezek. 16:8) and will for her, weave in the loom of the Law (Rom. 5:19) fine linen–clean and white–a robe in which she shall be fit to appear at His court!  Moreover the Spirit shall bring near the righteousness of Jesus, (Isa. 46:13) clothing her with “the garments of salvation,” and covering her with the “robe of righteousness,” “as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

But she is diseased! (Isa. 1:5, 6) She is a leper! (Ps. 51:5)  Yet will He bring her health and cure, for He says, “I am the Lord who heals you;” and He is actually made to be sin for her, (2 Cor. 5:21) that she might be made “the righteousness of God in Him.”  

But she has no personal charms—she is ugly!  Then He will put His loveliness upon her, and through it her beauty shall be perfect.

But she is poor! So He bestows Himself and His fullness upon her–and thus endows her with unsearchable riches!

But she is unwilling, and has no heart to the match, for she obeys a hostile prince! (Eph. 2:2,3) Her delights, too, are in the world and the flesh. A new heart will He give her, and a right spirit will He put within her. The Holy Spirit shall make her willing in the day of His power. “I will cause you to forget your images of Baal; even their names will no longer be spoken.” (Hosea 2:17) So that, prostrate at His feet, she shall say, “Lord, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone!”

And now that the Spirit has touched her heart, she feels she is diseased, and discovers her filthiness and nakedness, knows she is ugly and poor, and cannot think the Bridegroom’s heart is towards her, or that she can find favor in His eyes. And therefore she cries out, “I am black!” “Behold, I am vile! My loveliness has turned into corruption!” But He overwhelms her by responding, “You are all beautiful, my love, there is no spot in you!”

Then she exclaims, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death!” He replies, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”

Now she ventures, with a captivated heart, to declare, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His! He is the chief among ten thousand! He is altogether lovely!”

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:19

(“The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ, The letters of Ruth Bryan” October 31, 1849)

through many dangers, toils, and snares

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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.

fear not

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My child, do not be afraid. Every day of your life was ordered before you were even born. I was faithful then, to call you to me before you desired me, before you knew me, before you lived for me. I loved you first. There is no need now for you to be afraid in this storm.

What is the worst that could happen to you? Death? I am the God who is faithful to old age, even to death. A lack of answers of clarity? I am the God who knows all. No answer is hidden from me. Darkness? No direction visible to you? I am the God who leads the blind along unknown paths. Loneliness? I am the God who will never leave you. Pain beyond your ability to handle? I am the God who gives strength to the youth who are weak and faint. I am He who provides grace to the weary and help to the tired.

What is it you fear that I in my power am unable to provide? You could bring care after care to me until you have no more and still every care will find a balm in my healing and help. Every need is provided in me. I love you.

Do not doubt my care because my hand is pruning. Do not doubt my love as you feel the winter’s cold wind blow. You are precious to me and I will protect and care for you through every storm. Rejoice, sweet chosen, adopted and dearly loved child of mine, for through this trial and pain, you are seeing the benefit of years of plenty. Now, when it seems there is no fruit on your tree, you are learning that your roots do indeed go deep and this faith I called you to only a few short years ago, that faith is real. It is being tested even now and it is standing firm. Be encouraged, my child, I am producing growth. This trial is bringing endurance and the more you see my hand at work through the unknown, you will grow in faith and hope.

My Son, Jesus, who died to bring you to me, is praying for you right now. He is standing here saying “Father, forgive her weakness, forgive her lack of faith. Be satisfied in her struggle. Look to my payment and be satisfied.” And you know, child, I am fully and completely satisfied with that payment on your behalf.

So come to me, in your weakness, nakedness and need, confident in my affection and care for you. Even now, when you don’t know what to say, my Spirit is also praying for you. He is interceeding on your behalf, interpreting your tears and pain and carrying your woes before my throne of grace. So, child, cry. Cry out to me.

I loved David and I loved to see his dependence on my power as expressed so often through his tears. Cry, even when there seem to be no words. The Spirit of God is carrying those cries directly to me. They are not lost. I am listening and my arm has never been too short to save. Be confident, in the midst of this trial, of my unchanging faithful love to you.

The steadfast love I showed to your fathers, the guidance to Abraham, the protection to David, the redemption for Jonah, the transformation for Rahab, the love that did not forsake Naomi, that provided for Ruth, and that blessed Hannah…sweet child, I am that same God. And I offer those same things to you. I would delight and joy in you coming to me in hope and faith, not cowering in fear. Judgment is paid. Freedom is yours. Live there. Rejoice there. I will never forsake.

But when you feel forsaken, remember my promises. When you feel tempted beyond your strength to endure, remember I will empower you to stand firm against every attack of the evil one. Even Satan is under my control; there is no need to fear his attacks.

Rest. Rest in the storms, for I hold you safe. I never slumber and darkness does not blind me, as it does you. Don’t you see? I want you to be free, not bound by fear. This trial is producing sweet freedom as you are learning of my sovereign care and provision. Like I said to the shepherds the day I sent my son “do not fear.”. Like I told the disciples the day my Son left them and returned to Me… “do not fear.”

And now you join their ranks…the ranks of the weak and helpless of this world whom I have chosen and loved. “Do not fear.” “This trial was given to you as a gift from a hand of love. Though you do not understand the purpose of the gift you do know the hand. You have seen my care and love proved time and time again to you.

And now, sweet child though you do not understand why, take this gift of pain, suffering and confusion and accept it as a good thing given by a Father who loves you. At this time in your life, what you desire is not a good gift. That is why I have chosen this. Won’t you rest in my arms? I can see tomorrow.

This “mistake” will make sense one day. And even if I never choose to show you the reason why, don’t forget I am using this to bring glory to myself and draw others to see my power displayed in you! Is that not enough? My power at work in you? That is why I don’t wnat you to fear. I know what will come tomorrow. And it is good. Rest. Rejoice. Lean on me. I will never ever let you go.”

do not be afraid

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Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you! I have called you by name–you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble–I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty–you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression–you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!” Isaiah 43:1-3.

I read this verse this morning and was reminded of the reason we are not to fear.  It doesn’t say “fear not, your trials won’t hurt… fear not, I’ll make this easy for you… fear not, ease and luxury are waiting for you right around this corner.”  NO!  it says “fear not for I have ransomed you.” 

Once again, I find myself outside of my situation, looking at this verse and seeing it through the eyes of the gospel… Emily, don’t be afraid.  Why?  God has already saved you.  He ransomed you when you were running straight towards hell.  He captured your gaze and affection.  Remember all of His promises… He chose you before the foundation of the world… He called you to be His child… He saved you… He declared you righteous… now He is working to conform you to His image… and one day He will present you perfectly faultless and fully glorified.  yeah.  don’t be afraid.  The God who did / is doing all of that… uh huh… He hasn’t forgotten where you are.

That’s where the hope comes from… not “God, please, I beg you… take away this pain.”  but instead “God, I’m so grateful you will NEVER ever leave me, not through the deepest darkest pain.  Never ever!

Am I praying God heals me?  Absolutely!!  Do I want this awful season of migraines to end?  Of course!  But after all that has happened in the past few weeks in my life (sorry, too much to explain), I am more confident than ever that He will never leave.  I’m more aware of His goodness and mercy in my life and I’m more grateful for my wise Father, my loving Jesus and my compassionate Holy Spirit than I ever have been before.

by the way, here’s a link to a REALLY GREAT sermon called “How the Trinity comforts us in our suffering” by Lance Quinn. I listened to it twice yesterday. I’d encourage you to check it out too! :)

rejoice

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All the earth rejoice
Your Creator reigns
As the only awesome God
The Alpha and the Omega
Who was, is, and is to come
Let the oceans roar
and the mountains sing
He provides for all He has made
So be comforted as He rules with grace
Rejoice, all the earth, rejoice

All the world rejoice
For the baby comes
As a humble prince in the night
The Word made flesh,
Emmanuel
The Everlasting Light
Let the warmth of heaven
reach the coldest heart
With the gospel of His grace
For His heel will bruise
the serpent’s head
Rejoice, all the world, rejoice

All the church rejoice
For your King returns
On a white horse wearing a crown
He will break the sky
with the angel’s shout
Descending from the clouds
Then the dead will rise
from the land and sea
All His people will ascend
We will reign with Him
for eternity
Rejoice, all the church, rejoice.

© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
By Todd Twinning

from Soveriegn Grace’s Christmas CD Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man

oceans of grace

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Unfathomable oceans of grace
(Robert Murray McCheyne)

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus!” Hebrews 12:2

For every look at self–take ten looks at Christ!
Live near to Jesus–and all things will appear
little to you in comparison with eternal realities.

How many millions of dazzling pearls and gems are
at this moment hidden in the deep recesses of the
ocean caves. Likewise, unfathomable oceans of grace
are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again–
you will never come to the bottom of these depths!

When you gaze upon the sun–it makes everything
else dark; when you taste honey–it makes everything
else tasteless. Likewise, when your soul feeds on Jesus
–it takes away the sweetness of all earthly things;
praise, pleasure, fleshly lusts, all lose their sweetness.
Keep a continued gaze! Run, looking unto Jesus. So
will the world be crucified to you–and you unto the world!

a God of certainty

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“Wait on the Lord.”
Psalm 27:14

It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier learns not without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier to God’s warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No, but simply wait. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the case before him; tell him your difficulty, and plead his promise of aid. In dilemmas between one duty and another, it is sweet to be humble as a child, and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord. It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our own folly, and are heartily willing to be guided by the will of God. But wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in him; for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is but an insult to the Lord. Believe that if he keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet he will come at the right time; the vision shall come and shall not tarry. Wait in quiet patience, not rebelling because you are under the affliction, but blessing your God for it. Never murmur against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to the world again, but accept the case as it is, and put it as it stands, simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God, saying, “Now, Lord, not my will, but thine be done. I know not what to do; I am brought to extremities, but I will wait until thou shalt cleave the floods, or drive back my foes. I will wait, if thou keep me many a day, for my heart is fixed upon thee alone, O God, and my spirit waiteth for thee in the full conviction that thou wilt yet be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower.”

 

“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed.”
Jeremiah 17:14

“I have seen his ways, and will heal him.”
Isaiah 57:18

It is the sole prerogative of God to remove spiritual disease. Natural disease may be instrumentally healed by men, but even then the honor is to be given to God who giveth virtue unto medicine, and bestoweth power unto the human frame to cast off disease. As for spiritual sicknesses, these remain with the great Physician alone; he claims it as his prerogative, “I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal;” and one of the Lord’s choice titles is Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee. “I will heal thee of thy wounds,” is a promise which could not come from the lip of man, but only from the mouth of the eternal God. On this account the psalmist cried unto the Lord, “O Lord, heal me, for my bones are sore vexed,” and again, “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” For this, also, the godly praise the name of the Lord, saying, “He healeth all our diseases.” He who made man can restore man; he who was at first the creator of our nature can new create it. What a transcendent comfort it is that in the person of Jesus “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily!” My soul, whatever thy disease may be, this great Physician can heal thee. If he be God, there can be no limit to his power. Come then with the blind eye of darkened understanding, come with the limping foot of wasted energy, come with the maimed hand of weak faith, the fever of an angry temper, or the ague of shivering despondency, come just as thou art, for he who is God can certainly restore thee of thy plague. None shall restrain the healing virtue which proceeds from Jesus our Lord. Legions of devils have been made to own the power of the beloved Physician, and never once has he been baffled. All his patients have been cured in the past and shall be in the future, and thou shalt be one among them, my friend, if thou wilt but rest thyself in him this night.

from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening (August 30th)

the five year plan

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“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Had I been asked that question five years ago at the dance studio, the first Sunday I showed up at Sovereign Grace Church, never in a million years would my answer have been “living with Rick and Lucia Thomas, in the room above their garage and enjoying it.”

Tristen was one.  Haydn and Ansa had not yet been born.  I did not love the families at church and ridiculed just about everyone there.  I was dating Dave and running hard away from God.  Yet in love, the One who loves me more than anyone else ever could, pursued me.  He wrecked my ship against the solid Rock of Himself.  I fell hard, but He showed me that He died to be my foundation. 

How grateful I am that five years ago today was my first Sunday at Sovereign Grace Church, and by God’s grace alone, it was not my last. 

My heart overflows as I reflect back on His sovereign leading.  There are no adequate words to describe it. 

He looked on my helpless state and led me to the cross.  Oh, how I am glad that He did.  This is truly amazing grace. 

“when you were dead in your sins, Christ died for you.”

Confessions

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O Lord, I am Thy servant: I am Thy servant and the son of Thy handmaid. Thou hast broken my bonds. I will sacrifice to Thee the sacrifice of praise. Let my heart and my tongue praise Thee, and let all my bones say, O Lord who is like to Thee? Let them say and do Thou answer me and say to my soul: I am thy salvation. Who am I an what kind of man am I? What evil has there not been in my deeds, or if not in my deeds, in my words, or if not in my words, then in my will? But You, Lord, are good and merciful, and Your right hand had regard to the profundity of my death and drew out the abyss of corruption that was in the bottom of my heart. By Your giftI had come totally not to will what I willed but to will what You willed. But where in all that long time was my free will, and from what deep sunken hiding-place was it suddently summoned forth in the moment in which I bowed my neck to Your easy yoke and my shoulders to Your light burden, Christ Jesus, my Helper and my Redeemer? How lovely I suddenly found it to be free from the loveliness of those vanitites, so that now it was a joy to renounce what I had been so afraid to lose. For You cast them out of me, O true and supreme Loveliness, You cast them out of me and took their place in me, You who are sweeter than all pleasure, yet not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, yet deeper within than any secret; loftier than all honour, but not to those who are lofty to themselves. Now my mind was free from the cares that had gnawed it, from aspiring and getting and weltering in filth and rubbing the scab of lust. And I talked with You as friends talk, my glory and my riches and my salvation, my Lord God.

Augustine Confessions: Book Nine, Chapter One: The Joy of Conversion.