I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;Isaiah 49:15-16
The other day my Bible study girls (or BSGs as I like to call them) were once again talking about praise versus thanksgiving. I had already been pondering over my praise life when we started talking about how we so often thank God in our prayers for things He has fixed or doors He has opened in our lives. But how often do we simply herald the Creator for being well, the Creator? For being the Holy King of our lives?
As I’ve prayed these last few weeks for direction after completing the Jesus Mindset series, I kept being drawn to this topic of praise. God speaks to us when we ask Him for direction. And throughout the last few weeks He has placed numerous psalms and Bible verses in front of me related to praise. So, it didn’t come as a surprise yesterday when our church’s guest pastor highlighted the following verses in the book of Luke:
"However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”Luke 10:20
And so today I praise God for remembering my name. I praise Jesus that if you look closely at His battered hands, you can see my name tattooed there. And if you have confessed that Christ is your Lord and Savior, that God is our Great Creator, you’ll find your name there too. It cannot be erased.
When we remember someone’s name it also brings to mind the details about their life.
Pastor Joel Fitzpatrick
God knows exactly who we are. What we have done. What we will do. And He still won’t erase our name from His hands. There’s no other relationship we could ever turn to which offers us so much love and forgiveness.
Knowing our name doesn’t take away trials and tribulations. Knowing our name doesn’t make our outer life easy street. Knowing our name brings us inner “settledness.” The knowledge that when the Book of Life is opened our names are carved there for all eternity. When this short life is done, we will rejoice in the heavens with the angels. And that, my friends is something worthy of praise.
Sing the praises of the Lord,
you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.Psalm 30:4
A prayer to constantly praise and thank God
Mighty God, I admit that when things go wrong in my life I am quick to ask for help. But when my life is running along smoothly or even when a prayer is answered I’m equally quick to forget to thank you. Each and every morning when I rise, I commit to thanking you for what you will send my way that day – even the “not-so-good.” Because even in those times I know I have the opportunity to grow in my faith. And throughout my day I will remember to thank you even for the little gifts you send my way. LORD, at the end of my day I’m frequently so tired. But you are never tired of hearing my praise for you. I will, before my eyes close, remember the ways you revealed yourself to me that day. Whether you acted as my counselor, comforter, King, creator, or protector, I will praise you. In your son’s name I pray, Amen.
In the late Spring of 2020, I was led to learn more about how to pray. Using what The Navigators call, “The Prayer Hand,” I learned the five parts to highly effective prayer. That’s not to say we can’t or shouldn’t pray short, on-the-go prayers throughout the day, but the Prayer Hand revealed to me what was missing from my prayer life – praise.
Praise is different than “thanksgiving” I learned. When we praise someone, such as our children or a friend we compliment them for what they themselves have done, created or just are such as their patience or sense of humor. When we thank them it usually involves something to do with our relationship. We thank people for helping us or making things easier in a situation. The same is true for our praise and thankfulness toward God.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise
his name.Psalm 100:4
This concept was so foreign and awkward for me — it seemed that “praise” was so flowery and silly – that I dove headfirst into figuring out how to “do” it. And so, I created my 30 Days of Praise blog series. I took all the different characteristics of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and set about praising them for well, just being the amazing Triune God.
And although that 30 days was pretty awesome, I still struggle with daily praising Him. And that has revealed something else about me. I have a hard time praising others (and myself to be honest). I’m great at thanking people when they help me out. But just unabashedly praising people? I realized that effort and awareness requires me to look outside myself and my own “things I gotta do right now” world. I need to pay attention to the human beings around me. I mean really pay attention. To the salesclerk, the deli guy, the mailman, my neighbor, that person I see walking their dog every single day, my husband, my children, my friends – I need to look at them and see them and praise them. Why? Because they too are God’s creation. And I can praise God for putting them in this world.
Praising God means honoring Him for the rain, the sunrise, the puffy clouds, the air we breathe, the Son He sent, the joy He provides, the Word we read, the awesomeness of the universe. We praise Him from whom all blessings flow! I love the doxology I used to sing in a previous church and it takes on full meaning to me now:
Praise God from whom all
blessings flow, Praise Him
all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly
host, Praise Father, Son and
Holy Ghost, Amen
I will keep working on my path to praising God each and every day. I want to be His thankful daughter. I seek to find ever more reasons to praise Him. And in doing so my eyes are moved off me and onto Him.
If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!
So here we are — Day 30 of 30 Days of Praise! And although my daily prayer praise of the Almighty doesn’t end with today, my challenge to find different ways to write about God’s amazing characteristics is complete. When I started this more than 30 days ago I was on a journey to help me learn a new way of praying. I felt comfortable with thanking God, asking God for help, and asking Him for forgiveness. But praising God seemed so strange and uncomfortable to me. True to His character He placed a challenge on my heart and mind to help me grow.
I heard a great comment about God’s character yesterday. “God never allows us to fail a test, he just gives us the test over and over until we pass.” It goes right along with Charles Stanley’s Life Principle #7:
The dark moments of our life will last only so long as necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles
God Allows Us to Be Reduced to Brokenness
You see, I didn’t start my journey of learning how to praise God 30 days ago. I started the day God spoke to me in my bedroom a few years ago. While I sat enjoying my little pity party God said, “Enough is enough.” He shook me with the simple statement: “What have you really done?” You see I was whining about being such a “good Christian” and yet my life felt like a mess. He spoke those words loudly again, “Yes, what have you really done?” He had been letting me do things my own way for a long time. But He loves us too much to let us continue down destructive paths for too long. That day started my training. And it was intense. He taught me that the secret to a peace-filled life was a lot simpler than what I imagined. I didn’t need to be “doing” so much. I just needed to obey Him — no matter the consequences, no matter how outlandish the request sounded. 1 John 2:25 says:
But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them.
1 John 2:25
Not only was I reduced to brokenness but God was right there to put me back together as a much more simple, faithful Christian with one goal: Obey.
God Re-Uses Lessons To Get Us to Listen
Throughout my continuing journey I have experienced many times when the same lesson pops up over and over. It’s when I give in and say, “ok, ok, I get it!” that He finally moves on. From podcasts, to daily devotionals, and songs on the radio to a Bible study, His Word weaves its way seamlessly throughout our lives. On August 1, I started with my devotional, “New Day, New You” by Joyce Meyer. The day’s lesson? “Simple, Believing Prayer” based on Matthew 6:7. “And when you pray, do not heap phrases as the gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.” Good start as I then turn to my “30 Life Principles” Bible study lesson for the day: “Listening to God is essential to walking with God.” In it the question was asked, “What does Jesus say about the use of many words?” Based on, guess….. Matthew 6:7. I saw a message forming here. I then decided to read a bit of my “Spurgeon on Prayer & Spiritual Warfare.” I don’t read it everyday but I felt led to that day. And lo and behold, the topic was approaching God with reverence, joy, submission, confidence and sincerity. Not babbling on with useless words intended to make myself sound “christian-like.” Point taken.
God Takes Trash and Makes It Into Something Beautiful
Each Sunday we would see him. A man in about his 40s dressed to the 9s. Not just full suits but “zoot” suits. Big shoulder pads, double breasted suits. But what was most impressive was his hair. I dated a guy back in the 80s who played in a 60s throwback band with that same hair — pumped up, rockabilly pompadour. He stood out among the mostly white, upper class 60-80 year olds. It came to pass we ended up in the same membership class. I told him how I enjoyed seeing what cool and interesting outfits he was going to show up in each week. And, I was definitely impressed with his hair. Both being named Chris/Kris we of course, hit it off. When it came time to tell our testimony I realized what a blessing it was that God put me in the same group as Chris. He told us how his family growing up were Christians. But he rebelled. He wanted long hair, hard rock and a free spirited life. One day when he was 15 his father came to him and said, “We are going to Africa to be missionaries. You have two choices, you can cut your hair and come with us or you stay here in California and find your own way.” He chose to keep his hair. He also decided that Los Angeles was the place to become a rock star. He played bass and guitar. He ended up on the streets, homeless. And he turned to drugs which eventually led to heroin. He told us he should’ve died at least 10 times. But God was not done with him. He pulled him from the fire after yet another devastating drug-fueled, car accident. And led him on the path to recovery. He now goes all over the country speaking on the perils of heroin and his faith in God. He jumped in to help mentor middle school and high school kids at our church. He’s one cool cat. Chris was like the trash that rolls along our city streets, finding its way into doorways. Crumpled up and seemingly useless. God transformed him into a true follower of Christ — a thing of beauty. His transformation story gives me hope for my, much smaller problems.
I praise God today for all the work He has done and will do in our lives. He whispers to us. He shouts at us. He shakes us and he nudges us. He will never force us to follow Him. And He will never fully let us go. Click on the photo below to enjoy the song, “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music — but here’s a hint, play it loud and raise your hands high!! I look forward to having you join me on my next challenge — “His Works Project”– coming soon!
When I was a kid one of my most favorite shows was, “I Dream of Jeannie.” My friends and I would take turns playing the Barbara Eden character, Jeannie, and the Larry Hagman character, Tony. Major Anthony Nelson (Tony) crash landed his space capsule on a remote beach. He discovered a beautiful bottle and opened it. With a puff of pink smoke out popped a gorgeous, blonde genie. She, of course, offered him three wishes and the opportunity to be her “master.” Being a gentleman, he refused not only the wishes but to be called “Master.” She fell deeply in love with him. Jeannie and her bottle came to live with Tony in Cocoa Beach, Florida. As the tv seasons went on, Tony also fell in love with Jeannie and eventually, they married. The problem along the way was she kept calling him “Master.” He always insisted she call him “Tony.” It was a way of life she lived for 1,000s of years. In that time the rules stood – when someone opened your bottle, they were your master. It took a lot of training to break that habit and eventually call him “husband.”
It takes a lot of work to be called a “master” of something. Journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the 10,000-hour rule in his 2008 bestseller, “Outliers.” The rule is simple: mastery comes after someone practices one skill for 10,000 hours. And new studies show even that may not make you great at something. In some areas you still need talent or clearly defined ways in which you practice. When you break down the 10,000-hour rule it’s overwhelming. It can take more than 20 years to accomplish this feat for one skill.
God has been at work as Master of our world much longer. And who knows how long he has been Master of the Universe! I’m thinking He has gotten pretty good at being in charge, not only of our lives, but the entirety of our world. And yet we still buck under His authority. He doesn’t ask for a “master-slave” relationship from us. In fact, in Hosea, God clarifies His role in our lives. He wants to lead us, speak with us tenderly, shower us with riches. And when we respond in loving obedience He says:
“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’”
I think as Christians we struggle in life between seeing God as our “master” as in “the boss” and as our “husband” because we constantly try to pull away and lead our own lives. The sin that is created from this brings feelings of condemnation and pain. Instead we should see God as “The Master of the Universe” – the being who has put in way more than 10,000 hours of practice. He’s who we can lean on, trust, look for guidance, find hope in, and gain strength from. And with that, He wants a personal relationship with us — as a loving “husband.”
A lot of feminists bristle at the Christian ideal of family structure. A husband as the leader of the family brings up hackles. And yet men and women who truly know and understand the Bible realize God created a loving hierarchy in our families based on our God-centered, world hierarchy. There are no slaves with brutal masters. There are masters who had responsibilities to slaves throughout the Bible. There are business people who must treat their workers appropriately, just as God has treated them. And it’s very clear that both a husband and wife have responsibilities for loving and caring about each other.
God, the All Knowing Master, is also our betrothed. I praise Him for being both – a powerful force that I can rely on and love with all my heart.
The other day while out walking with my dog I was listening to a podcast by a well-known Christian speaker. She asked the question: “Do you remember a time when you sinned, I mean really sinned? How did it feel?” I stopped to think on this. I’ve never murdered someone. But I did encourage a friend in my younger days to get an abortion. I’ve never been a thief, although I have, at times, realized I wasn’t charged for something correctly and didn’t go back to the store clerk. I’ve never cheated on my husband. But do those lustful thoughts count? I check in with my mom and dad, through gritted teeth. I put God first. Well, except for the times I put money and my children first. I’m good to my neighbors even though I’ve spoken badly about some. See, I’ve only sinned a wee bit.
I realized that every single time I sinned “just a little” made me feel a “little bit” broken. At times it made me feel a lot broken. The Christian speaker went on to say, “Now imagine Jesus on the cross. He is the only person to walk the Earth who has not sinned. But at that moment His Father placed all your darkness, all your brokenness, all your pain caused by sin on Him. There is no one else who has experienced so much pain. Imagine how He must have felt.” It brought me to tears. It brings me to tears as I write this.
This visual is what I praise God for today. The understanding of Jesus’ pain and sacrifice made for us. I previously hadn’t made an emotional connection to this powerful, earth shaking moment in our time. I had the knowledge but not the emotional response. Baptist teacher Oswald Chambers once said about Jesus on the cross:
The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God.
My father is reading The Saxon series books. In it, a character refers to Jesus as the “Nailed God.” It brought to mind movies I’ve seen showing the crucifixion. With each hammering of a nail through Jesus’ feet and wrists I cried. But it was out of sadness and horror. That day, when I visualized Jesus on the cross pulling, drawing and tearing our sins from us and placing them squarely in His own heart and soul I was overcome with gratefulness and sorrow. I want to apologize to Jesus. His gift to us caused Him so much pain.
It’s a well-accepted fact that when we are forced to work hard for something, say a new car, home, a good job, we tend to take better care of it. I didn’t have to work for the gifts of salvation and redemption. I’ve proven over and over that sin is easy for me to commit. I need to keep Jesus’ pain, his suffering, and His willingness to take mine, closer to mind each and every day. His love for us can only be repaid with obedience and thankfulness.
As I sit here in my comfortable, middle-class, suburban home it’s hard for me to imagine living where rioting and violence have taken over cities in America. Now mind you, my neighborhood is very diverse. On my block alone live people from India, China, Philippines, Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Mexico — and there’s only 18 houses. What connects the tumultuous cities are a number of characteristics but what shocks me the most is the concept of “defunding the police.” There’s a lot of counterintuitive-ness going on in the world the last 10 years. What seems good and right, now is apparently bad and evil and vice versa. Loving your country and standing for its national anthem is evil but wanting to turn to Marxism, which only has ever brought about human suffering is good. A white woman screaming in a black police officer’s face about racism is good but a statue commemorating President Lincoln signing the emancipation proclamation is bad. Thank God I live under God’s plan which is steady and true.
Praise God that he takes the most unlikely people – ones who have created chaos and violence – and changes them. He is the “Super Cop.” He ferrets out those who hide in shadows doing evil. And he has no fear in standing in front of the powerful and saying, “you’re coming with me.”
I have a lot of respect for the police. Even though I once told my two police officer friends, “Sometimes cops are real jerks!” (and they agreed with me) I still value the difficult and varied roles they are asked to play in our society. For many years I was a security substitute in our local high schools. The role of high school security staff is many fold. We would ensure the morning drop off went smoothy in the parking lot as crazed parents cut each other off and cursed at one another. We then closed up the campus making sure the only people on campus were authorized to be there. We patrolled the campus – keeping kids in class and strangers out of the school. But we also counseled students. There’s the “always late” students who typically come from difficult homes. The student who you find weeping in the bathroom because of a romance failure or a parent who has left the family were not unusual circumstances. We were involved in altercations between students and staff which created opportunities to delve deeper into a student’s anger. I imagine a city police officer experiences these and much, much more. There are many difficult and dangerous situations they face and there are some uplifting moments in which it makes it all worthwhile. When I see a college educated, privileged person screaming in the face of a police officer who is doing their duty to protect our cities it makes me want to weep for both.
Saul was a violent and angry man. His terror and violence against followers of Jesus was legendary. He took comfort in the Law of God. He thought of Jesus as being from satan, the false prophet. So, he intended to eliminate this “dangerous sect” before it destroyed the Jewish faith. But God met him on the road to Damascus and arrested him. One of the definitions of “arrest” is “to bring to a stop.” When God’s holy light flashed on him, he fell to the ground. The men with him were speechless. Saul knew immediately it was from the holy realm and asked, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Wow, the authority in that statement! Instead of handcuffs placed on Saul he was blinded. He had to be led into the city. For three days he sat in the jail of darkness and did not eat or drink anything (Acts 9:9).
But God sent another of his officers to release Saul from jail. The disciple Ananias was told by Jesus to go to Saul and anoint him. He hesitated at first, knowing Saul’s reputation. When he entered the house, he placed his hands on Saul and called on the name of Jesus to fill him with the Holy Spirit. Immediately Saul could see and was freed.
How many times do we need to be “arrested by God” to finally see what life He wants for us? Some of us have seen the inside of life’s jail for far too many years. We justify our actions because it’s what the world wants from us. Or we twist the meanings of God’s Word to suit our actions. Like the city cop who knows the neighborhood junkie by name, God knows our names too. That cop has given so much help and advice to the junkie but he keeps going back to what hurts him or may even kill him. Jesus keeps putting His hand out to you and me. When He shines that light on us as we stumble in the dark alleys let’s grasp Him and let Him pull us free.
I don’t know if you’re like me but when I go into any situation, I’m always asking, “what’s the plan?” There’s that Martha popping up in me again! I’m an action-oriented, goal-centered, outcome-driven creature. That’s not bad. Through numerous human resources training sessions I’ve come to realize the different characters in a well-oiled team. And, as a person comfortable with leading, I’ve needed to see all the beautiful ways people contribute toward accomplishing a goal. You have the worker bees, idea creators, empathizers, suspicious minds, change resistors, change lovers, and number crunchers. But there always needs to be a “man with a plan.” Of course, not necessarily a man. But a person who has a vision – an overarching goal or purpose to why we all have gathered. Apple founder Steve Jobs was one such leader. On leadership he said,
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”
At the end of Mr. Jobs’ life I don’t know how he felt about God but he was channeling God’s leadership ideas. God is the Man with the Ultimate Plan. Praise God that He is our fearless leader. In Romans 8:28, the disciple Paul writes: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Notice God calls meetings and has a purpose in mind? As believers we are working in concert with God’s purposes. He pulls together teams to accomplish His visions for His world. So, when we are called into the office, we bring our various talents and characteristics.
It’s a dangerous mistake for us to look at other Christians working for God’s purpose and compare ourselves to them. Yes, we can all learn from each other about how to better trust and obey God. But being a believer doesn’t erase our basic tendencies or talents or abilities. At my most recent church I volunteered for the Come Build Hope team. This program facilitated building an average of 10 houses in Mexico each year. In the bulletin was posted the need for a registrar. That was right up my alley. I’m very organized, computer savvy, and communicate well with volunteers. The other two key members of the team were grateful because those aren’t their talents. One was a building specialist. One was the vision and money person. We made a great team. Mostly because we were also God-centered. Our big and many small decisions were based on Jesus’ teachings. He was always on our minds and hearts. It’s not that everything went smoothly, it’s that we were able to work out all problems great and small as a team.
I’ve found when I place God as my team leader and look to Him for guidance, comfort, encouragement and peace my life seems to go in a much clearer direction. It’s when I try to wrestle back control that it jumps the tracks. I also know that when circumstances around me start to go awry I can look to Him to take me through the storm. There are many major companies that have failed to weather financial, political or other storms due to lack of good leadership. Trials and tests will come to everyone. When I put my faith firmly in the capable hands of God I know He will work all things for my good.
I love this new song by King & Country. I was fortunate to hear this song in concert before it was released. The idea of working together, for His purpose, is so important right now. As Christians we need to band together as God’s team to bring light and hope to our world. Click on the photo to watch the video of Together.
Life is like a stormy sea That tosses to and fro, But God’s Word will ever be A ballast for my soul; By its truth I’ll be held fast Till I reach heaven’s shore Where I will be home at last And sail life’s sea no more!
How often do you feel like a sailing ship being tossed to and fro? Or a tiny dinghy out on a stormy lake? I certainly felt that way more times than I can count. My “peace-filled” days were the ones I could count on a couple hands. But Jesus is the Prince of Peace! It’s so fascinating to study the days of Jesus and His interactions with the leaders of the Jewish faith. We have the benefit of thousands of years of scholarly study to correctly interpret Jesus’ words. We also have the truth of the resurrection to back up Jesus’ position with God.
But think of those leaders who knew the prophesy in Isaiah 9:6 which states: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” They certainly weren’t anxiously waiting for this Nazarene. A child born to a lowly woman. Someone not officially holding a title of Prince or even Rabbi. And yet there he stood.
“Shalom – peace – is a precious word to the Jewish people. It means more than just the absence of war or distress. Shalom means wholeness, completeness, health, security, even prosperity in the best sense. When you are enjoying God’s peace, there is joy and contentment,” says Warren Wiersbe on his commentary of John 14:25-31. The Pharisees, and other lay people, were looking for someone to just give them the absence of war and the gift of prosperity. They were missing out on the eternal peace that God gifts us through both war and prosperity. When I think of God’s peace the eye of a hurricane always comes to mind. This eye is an area of mostly calm weather inside a terrifying hurricane.
According to the website, A Catholic Gentleman, which promotes faith in men, “over 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder of some kind, and there are no doubt countless others that live with severe anxiety but are undiagnosed. “ But how do we obtain this elusive peace? The Catholic Gentleman gives some great insight:
First, it means living in the present moment. A great deal of anxiety comes from worrying about the past or the future, neither of which can be changed. Even though we know it is useless, we often expend untold emotional energy worrying.
Second, it means accepting the circumstances of life without impatient resistance, realizing that everything is either positively willed or at least allowed by God.
Finally, it means trust in the goodness of God. Many of us are afraid to completely abandon ourselves to the will of God because we are afraid of what it might mean.
These three pieces of advice are so clear and helpful. But they are not easy. I once told a good friend that some days just working on staying in the present moment took every ounce of energy I had. There are no quick fixes to this amazing gift God wants for us. Unlike grace and salvation which, once we accept Jesus as the son of God who removes our stains, is given fully and freely to us, the gift of peace can seem more like trying to open a clamshell style package. You think it looks simple and you try poking your fingernail between the two pieces of plastic. When that doesn’t work you look for a helpful tab somewhere the manufacturer must have added in order to tear that puppy open. But alas, none exists. Then you start trying to use brute strength or maybe your teeth. You feel a bit silly. I mean it’s you against a piece of plastic! You finally give in and get out a knife or scissors. And even that may lead to a bloody finger. When all is said and done you have in front of you a mangled piece of plastic and the object of your desire, freed from the bonds of the clamshell. You look at your freed item and somehow it feels more valuable from the work you just put in. And you exclaim, “finally!”
I love the teachings of Joyce Meyer primarily because this taming of our minds is her primary teaching focus when it comes to following God’s Word. One of her devotional days says,
This is based on 2 Cor 10:5: “We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey God.” When we keep our mind in the present and decide what goes on up in our thick skull we are miles ahead toward achieving that gift of peace.
I know a lot people who spend most of their time on the wall of the hurricane instead of the eye. They’re the “Chicken Littles” and the “Debbie Downers” and the “Joy Suckers.” I’m familiar with all of them as I perfected each of them at one time or another. Until I accepted Jesus. I surrendered to trusting the goodness of God. When I am facing tough situations I FIRST turn to God to pump a little extra peace into me. For a long time, I assumed that long-time Christians all had this peace. One friend I spoke to at the beginning of the COVID 19 scare, who has been a Christian much longer than I, was distraught. He said he just couldn’t see God at work anywhere. I told him he sounded like the ship being tossed to and fro. And that without trust in God he wouldn’t find peace. He stopped talking. He realized he had stepped out of God’s eye and into the storm.
I read this story as part of a sermon by Max Lucado on “Peace that defies pain.”
“I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said. “Amazing!” I thought.
His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. His shirts are held together by strips of Velcro®. His speech drags like a worn-out audio cassette.
Robert has cerebral palsy.
The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduated with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at a St. Louis junior college or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.
And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal. He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language.
Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.
I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched his stiff fingers force open the pages. And I watched people in the audience wipe away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need for joy.”
His shirts are held together by Velcro®, but his life is held together by joy.”
I praise God, the Prince of Peace, the Giver of Joy, the Giver of Shaloha, as many on the beautifully peaceful island of Kauai like to say. I thank Him for helping me be steadfast in surrendering to Him so that I might live each moment in the eye rather than the walls of the storm.
Have you ever watched a speech where a sign language professional was interpreting for the hard of hearing community? I always wonder if they are truly interpreting the speech correctly. In fact, in 2013 at a world televised memorial to Nelson Mandela, advocates for the deaf called out an interpreter as fake. “The man, who stood about a yard from (President) Obama and other leaders was moving his hands around, but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for,” said Bruno Druchen, national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa. At times, as a Christian I have felt what those watching this man wave around his hands in meaningless gestures must have felt – confused.
I’ve heard a few “fake” interpreters of God’s Word. From hate-filled pastors such Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church and Bishop Talbert Swan of the Church of God in Christ to more subtle false “prosperity” teachers like Joel Olsteen and T.D. Jakes, the Word of God has been twisted, edited, and completely ignored. And yet there are hundreds if not thousands of people who follow these “pastors'” preaching. Why? Because we all are looking for answers — for someone to interpret God’s plan for us. Some of us want quick and easy answers. Some of us just want answers that fit our sinful needs and desires.
In the Old Testament, God communicated through people like Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah and others to relay His commands to the people of Israel. There were also false prophets who claimed to interpret for the gods. The people turned to both kinds of prophets for guidance. God swiftly punished those who disobeyed His Word. The great shift came when God sent himself, in the form of Jesus, to speak directly with His creations. Jesus became our great interpreter – explaining the Father’s purpose for His chosen ones. He didn’t speak to nations like so many of the prophets of old did– He spoke with us as individuals and groups. He gathered up people at wells, in gardens, in homes, at lakes and even at graves. He warned us about false prophets and teachers. But His Word cannot be denied. It is written in the oldest book. And although there are various translations of the Bible, His Words stay pretty much the same. It amazes me to hear people, especially angry hate-filled Christians, espouse rights or wrongs that don’t exist in the Bible. I just say, show me the scripture.
When I find myself wondering what God wants from me or a direction I should take, I go directly to Jesus’ words. He was not one to speak meaninglessly. He didn’t speak out of hatred. He rarely showed anger. And when He did speak it was as though He was allotted a certain number of words to use while here on Earth. And He used them wisely.
Praying for Help
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
Who to Trust
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22: 37
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39
How to Attain Peace
“Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except for me.” John 14:6
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34
Jesus not only was the son of God, he was us. He lived among us to experience the temptations, the persecution, the love, betrayal, and loyalties in everyday life. I praise Jesus today for coming to us to interpret the mind of God for us frail, limited humans. Our eyes and ears and minds have a glimpse into heaven through His actions and words. And God wasn’t done when His son when up to heaven. His Holy Spirit continues the work as our individual, tailored guide. She whispers to us and laughs with us and cries with us.
I don’t walk in the wilderness so much anymore. And with Jesus’ Words I am very discerning about my spiritual leaders. My guide, my interpreter, is always by my side. He will show me the way home. Praise God.
Did you figure out what the sign language word is in the picture? “Grace.” Enjoy this ASL interpreted song, “In Christ Alone” by clicking on the video below.
Is there someone in your life you are praying for – praying they will know God and surrender to Jesus? I have a few friends and family members on my prayer list that I lift up continuously to the Lord. He is our great Harvester but as He says in Luke 10:2,
We don’t know who is on God’s list of the “elect” so it’s our job as His field workers to get on our knees and pray for those around us. For when we pray, we are then opening ourselves up to direction from the Almighty. It’s one thing to pray for ourselves – our sins, our hurts, and our needs – but those of us who have offered up ourselves to God are already saved. Our eternal place in heaven’s field of flowers is set. So, when we plead with God for those we love, it brings about something new.
When you Google the words “Harvest Celebration” you get to the Wikipedia page, “Harvest Festival.” It says, “Ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields are two central features of harvest festivals: eating, merriment, games, music and romance are common features around the world.” Just think how much grander the harvest festival is in the spiritual world! God celebrates each time a new seed is planted, nurtured and brought into His ample basket. And, as His field workers we are called to play small parts in each of those steps.
I chose this topic today to send up praise of thanksgiving to our God who loves us bountifully. He answers our prayers fully that reflect His will. Here’s how I know this. This answered prayer starts with a reflection on my family. My mother is the daughter of a Baptist minister. She has a tenuous relationship with God, at best. Unfortunately, there weren’t field workers willing to nurture her through questions and feelings of mistrust. She saw Christians show up to church each week and act devout then leave the church doors and sin. My father is an atheist. He had no upbringing in the church and no friends who shared their faith. What little exposure they’ve had to God was through my mother’s sister who had many mental and family issues. In spite of this, I always believed in God. I had a friend that I occasionally attended church with but the majority of the people around me never spoke of their faith – if they had any. I married into a devout Presbyterian family. Boy, were they worried about me! Funny enough, my own parents were concerned when I told them I was going to church. Fast forward to the last few years. My parents and I never talk about my beliefs. I don’t hide them. But we just have not had another conversation centered around faith since I announced I was attending church. I asked a pastor once when I should just give up on some people – like my parents. He said, “Oh, you never give up! Just like God never gives up on you!” And so, as I have surrendered my life over to Christ, I’ve started praying more for others.
After watching the amazing movie, War Room, I set up a prayer area. On my wall I have cards filled with prayers for other people. One of those is for my parents:
“Lord, you are the only one who can break the bonds holding my parents down. With all your heavenly might break the tall and strong walls they have built around their hearts and minds. Lord, grab a hold of them and pull them from the fire!”
I’ve been praying this prayer now for about a month. The other day I added to the prayer, “Show me what part, even the smallest part, I need to do to help you accomplish this.” That very afternoon I stopped by their house to check in on them. My dad started talking about a book series he’s reading called, “The Saxon Series.” It’s an historical drama set in England. He shared that he had never understood what the “Holy Ghost” was or how the trinity worked until he read these books. Apparently, there’s a character in the book who refers to Jesus as “the nailed God” and priest who refers to the trinity as, “Father, Son and the other guy.” What ensued was a conversation about the role of the divine in each part of the trinity. I shared how when Jesus was crucified, he let the disciples know that another would come in his place to be with us always – the Holy Spirit. We talked about how much of the New Testament is written to churches who were either going astray or who needed support due to persecution. We also talked about the roles in the Old Testament of pagan gods versus The Almighty God. It. Was. Amazing.
Here’s the thing, I had written off my father as someone who would never come to know Jesus because he is an atheist. I thought my mom would possibly come around because of her faith background. But it was my father with whom I was having this conversation!
When I left the house I was stunned. I praised God for answered prayers. And, I thanked God for this: I was prepared. If this conversation had come up five or ten years ago, I would not have been able to speak so confidently and easily about these topics. God was preparing me for that day, that moment. I know the salvation of my parents is not my responsibility. I was just the field hand, who had been on my knees praying and pleading for God to help them. And if I needed to play some small role, I was ready to do the work. I will keep praying for them until either the day of their passing or the day of their surrender.
We can never know the hour God will gift us with answered prayers. Just like I really have no idea when my green tomatoes will finally turn red and be ready for harvest. Until then I get my knees dirty working in His name.