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Today marks the beginning of a new year. A fresh start, new beginnings, better choices... and resolutions. But that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be happy. Sometimes this “fresh start” hits us in the middle of tragedy. January 1, 2007, my family was sitting in intensive care while our 3 year old was on life support as she went through chemo treatments. Now ten years later I am with my sister as she strives to put together the pieces of her life after a fatal accident has left her a widow with 2 boys and another on the way. Through these hardships of life are we expected to just put on our party hats and smile for the new year?

Truth be told- no matter what day of the year it is- life can be difficult. Trials overwhelm us. The New Year is not always a happy one. I Corinthians 15 tells us “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Our hope needs to come from above, but it also needs to exceed our life on earth. We have hope because our Saviour has conquered the grave. He gives us new life and His promises are eternal. Jesus is not just a fairy tale to make us feel good. He is the true and living God. Not only is he the Creator of everything in heaven and earth- but the giver and sustainer of our very being. He gives us hope and peace and rest beyond our understanding. And when this life comes crashing in from all sides, by His strength we can look past our circumstances to see our Saviour.

So, what do we do when we are overwhelmed by a storm in life? As cliche’ as it might sound, we need to take one step at a time. Do what we know is right. Put your trust in Christ to guide you as He has promised. His Word will be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. His Spirit will be your Comforter and your strength from day to day. His love will give you a song in the night. And if He feels too far away… reach out for Him; he tells us in Acts 17:27 that He is right there. Follow and obey His will each moment as He guides you through this difficult part of your journey.

And the happiness? Yes, we are promised that too. But it might not look like the happiness that you would see on a child’s face when you pull into Chuck-E-Cheese. It may be the deep sense of peace that passes all understanding when our hearts and minds are focused on following Christ no matter what this world throws our way. It is the inner joy that we cannot explain when deep inside we know we are walking through the valley that the Lord has prepared for us. It is the comfort in seeing only one set of footprints in the sand- because we know he is carrying us.

If this new year has come upon you at a time when there is no celebration in your heart, take comfort. Stay close to the Saviour’s side. Lean upon Him. Let Him carry you into this New Year.  

Please pray for my sister Tiffany and her boys. For those who would like to help them monetarily- donations can be sent to: Tulsa Baptist Temple, (William Scott Warren Memorial Fund), 1203 S. Columbia Place, Tulsa, OK 74104 

 
 
So much is going on in this world we live in. One minute we are tucked away in our cozy homes, raising our children, building our marriages, striving to please the Lord with each day- and before we know it the world is crumbling all around us. Tragedy strikes and we stand in the aftershock wondering where it came from. This may come by a loss of health, the death of a loved one, or a nearby act of terror we didn’t see it coming or going. All we know is somehow we need to find a new normal and figure out how to move on from here. Do we bury our head in the sand? Do we live in denial and act like nothing has happened? Do we leave the firm foundation of our faith in God and get washed away on the shifting sands of this world’s philosophy?  How are we, as Christians, to respond when our world is tossed about on the raging seas of life? (When all we really want is to just live a quiet and peaceable life!)

Well….  I really don’t have the answer for you. (Other than to say turning our back to God is definitely NOT the answer.) But I do have a biblical example to follow. Job lost everything. And Job even had something that we don’t. Job verse one says that he was perfect and upright. Now, I am not trying to speak for you, but I can firmly say that I am neither perfect nor upright! I wish I could say that I was. And someday I hope that I am, by the grace of God. If it weren’t for all the times I continue to cave in to the desires of my flesh I would be a lot farther along than I am today.  Nevertheless, we can see the example of Job- who lost more than we can ever imagine without even a moment’s notice!!

First, let’s get some facts straight. God cares about Job. He knew what Job was going through. He loved Job. So, does it occur odd to us that when the Lord answers Job after so many chapters of silence he ends up spending an entire chapter talking about Leviathan, the great sea monster!! I’m talking about 34 verses!! I am being polite and holding myself back from using CAPS LOCK here… but take a moment to breathe this in! God Himself. Answering Job. Out of His Infinite Wisdom. And He’s talking about a dinosaur?

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This may be a bit cliche’ but, has it ever occurred to you that nothing occurs to God? God knew exactly what was going on. In fact, He knew before it happened. He also knew the outcome. That is not to say that the way was easy for Job. Times were tough and he endured such grief that cannot be explained. Yet, God also knew exactly what Job needed to hear. Sometimes we tend to make God so personal that we lose sight of His Mighty Power!!

This great sea monster that man cannot tame, cannot subdue, cannot even hunt for its meat- God has made to play in the waters for His enjoyment! Psalm 104:24-26 “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.”

So, to all of the naysayers that tell me that this is not an important point… (you know, those “sincere Christians” who insist that we stick with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ) I would like to just point out that when God spoke to Job in his trials and hardship, he spent an entire chapter explaining, in detail, the greatness of leviathan. That was not an accident. Job saw. He got the message. Job got his eyes back on the Lord and His greatness!

How about us? I know it’s hard when tragedy strikes a little too close to home. We can so easily become consumed. Maybe it is concern for our fellow man, our country, our safety- until we become glued to the next news headline popping up on our screen. ...What will it be next? ...Where will it be next? But let me tell you this. This world is not getting any better. And it isn’t going to. Now more than ever we need to take a step back and fix our eyes on our Lord. Draw close to Him. See His mighty power! I am not suggesting that we bury our head in the sand… but it would not hurt any of us to skip the nightly news for once or give our facebook page a rest and take a look at the night sky or get up to see the sun rise in the morning. Sit a while and read through Job 41. Verse by verse. Think about those knights trying to slay the dragon, only to have their spears fall like blades of grass. Yet, the Lord watches him play in the water. And He is the same Lord Who watches over us.

"Sea Monsters … More than a Legend?"  I found this article interesting from Answers in Genesis. Go to their page here.
 
 
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All around us we hear words of peace, words of comfort, words of stillness… yet sometimes the struggle is too real, too dark, too swift… we need Jesus- and being still, waiting in quietness,  just isn’t working. That’s where Bartimaeus was- the blind man in Mark 10. He sat begging, and when he heard Jesus was passing by- he cried out. And when others tried to calm him, quiet him, he just cried out louder!  There are times in our life the struggle is so real and all we can do is cry to Jesus. And when we try to “be still” and listen for that “still small voice” we just can’t. Because the hurt is real, and the pain is deep. We just cry louder.

Jesus sees us in our struggle. He hears us amidst our deepest need.  Bartimaeus was there. He sat begging in the street. Taking whatever the world had to throw his way.  The pain. The sorrow. The loneliness. The world didn’t have much to offer him. He knew there was more- even as he cried to Jesus the world still tried to quiet him. What was he? Just a blind man? Just a beggar?  “And Jesus stood still.”  (vs. 49) To Jesus he was so much more. His needs were real. His struggles were worth caring for. He was worth cleansing and making whole. And so are you.

Bartimaeus was blind. He couldn’t see Jesus. He didn’t know where Jesus was, but heard that He was passing by that way. There are valleys we must pass through in this life. We sometimes get our eyes off the Lord and allow the storms to overwhelm us. We cannot see Jesus. Yet we must trust that He is near- for He is Faithful and True. He is always near. In faith we must call out to Him. Cry out to Him. And if we still can’t seem to see Him- cry louder.  There He is- standing still- waiting for us to come to Him. And there He stands, calling us, like He called to Bartimaeus.

Bartimaeus was comforted. He cast off his worldly garment and came to Jesus. He laid down his need at the feet of Jesus. Immediately he received his sight. He didn’t have to wait. He didn’t have to go through some type of ceremony or time of cleansing. Immediately Jesus made him whole. Jesus was ready for Bartimaeus. Jesus was willing to heal him. When Bartimaeus called- Jesus stood still. The Lord knows when the struggle is too much for us to bear. He knows when we reach the end of our resources and can do nothing but cry to Him. He knows when we can’t sit quietly and still any longer. He stands for us. He comforts us. And He is ready to meet our need. Call out to Him today. For salvation. For security. For peace amidst the storms of life. Cast away the garments of shame and come to Jesus. Follow Him in faith. For He is Faithful and True.  

 
 
Psalm 23 has been read, written, memorized, recited… on and on… sometimes until it seems almost like it is being said in rote. (rote: a fixed, habitual, or mechanical course of procedure)  Growing up many years in church- I have heard many analogies and illustrations. One that always stuck with me is a story of 3 people reciting the 23rd Psalm. One was a great orator, who spoke so magnificently and perfectly accented every line. One was an influential preacher, who had no doubt spoke to crowds all over this world to share God’s Word. And the third was an older gentleman, poor, humble… he didn’t understand why he was asked to join them on the stage, yet was honored to accept.  As he spoke Psalm 23 he needed no paper to remind him of the words, for he spoke them from the heart. Slowly, tears began to fill the eyes of the room- and for the first time that night the people understood the words of that precious Psalm.

Personally, my favorite phrase is right at the beginning. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Can I truly say that in my daily living? I shall not want.  Is His grace sufficient for me? Can I be content in whatsoever state I am? If the Lord is my shepherd- do I really have lack or need of anything this world has to offer? Or is my day filled with so much “I want...” and “I wish…” that I fail to see the hand of my Shepherd leading, restoring, comforting, preparing, and strengthening me day by day.
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I was 18 when I used all of my graduation money to buy an airplane ticket to the mission field. I was blessed to spend 6 months with Teddy & Ligaya Fulfer at Subic Bay Children’s Home in Olongapo City. I left at home a little brother and sister, so naturally as there was a boy and girl about the same age as my siblings back in Iowa I became very close with them.  The boy was born with a severe cataract covering one eye. We made several trips to the eye specialist until the day of surgery finally came. I spent a night I will never forget in a Filipino hospital with an unconscious boy tossing and turning from surgery after having the eye removed. After that, he would come to my little room every night at bedtime to get his eyepiece cleaned. He would lay his head on my lap and though he spoke Tagalog, and I English, together we would softly quote Psalm 23 until his nerves were calm and I could gently remove the plastic to be cleaned and put back in place.  “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”


 
 
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“I’m praying for you!”

How often do we use that phrase?  

Should it really be just a phrase
      - or should it be words with meaning?

“I’m praying for you.”  Praying.  Praying is an open line of communication to God.  God of the universe. God Who hears us, takes time for us, is always there to listen, and answer us.

And He desires to hear our prayers, to have us speak to Him, to draw close to Him. He wants to answer our prayers. He wants to comfort us, to guide us, to help us.

And yet so often we throw around the phrases “I’m praying for you.”    “Praying.”     “Will pray.”    “We’ll be praying.”    And how often is that time actually spent in prayer. That “sweet hour” of prayer.  Praying. 

Truly praying- like we believe we are speaking to the God of Heaven. The God Who hears us. Guides us. Comforts us. Protects us. Truly praying to the Lord of All.

 
 
Lamentations is a very small book- only 5 chapters. Yet it is full of lamenting and sorrow. So many struggles and hardships are cried out…


...we are orphans and fatherless


...the joy of our heart is ceased


...my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed


 
 

...through the waters

          ...through the rivers

                    ...through the fire

                              Isaiah 43:2


There seems to some type of false pretense that if we just love God and trust in Jesus- our walk on this earth will be an easy one.  Then life hits!


People are often asking, “Where did God go?”  


The truth is- God hasn’t moved. He never does. And unlike the common cliche’s we may hear or have maybe once believed… He also hasn’t promised us a life of pure happiness.


Unfortunately many false hopes are based upon little sayings that make us feel good- and not necessarily on Scripture.


God’s promises are true. But we must walk close to Him and find them spoken to us through His Word. He will not leave us comfortless. He will give us peace, and rest, and joy. He will speak to us through His still small voice.


When life hits hard- forget about all the Facebook memes and beautifully crafted pins on God’s promises. Open His Word and ask Him to speak to your heart. If you are His child- He will be right there for he has said, “I will be with thee.”

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