The ‘Greatest’ Commission…

The Great Commission is something many of us are familiar with, it is found in the last verses, (among many other places), of Matthew:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…”(Matthew 28:19).

However, God is touching my heart as to what is the Greatest Commission as of late, and I believe He has reminded me that it is… to be ‘fully pleasing Him…’ “That you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him,…” Col. 1:10.

I was reminded yesterday in a commentary about the wonderful moment when Peter walked on water! When Peter saw Jesus walking on water and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.” Matthew 14:28,29.

But I am wondering,  that this was not Peter’s greatest moment, as we might naturally think – but perhaps, Peter’s greatest moment occurs right after:  “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:30. His greatest moment was in his sinking, he cried out, saying,”Lord, save me!”

How quickly Peter went from walking on the water to sinking! But maybe, the Lord in His sovereignty -knowing that we humans, the minute we are successful, we naturally  take pride in ourselves. But God knows that that is not safe, so the waves become boisterous and frightening, and we begin to sink- and our eyes once again get put right where they need to be, right on Jesus and our heart and mind are right where they need to be -dependant on Him:  “Lord, save me!”

Jesus expressed it best, when He told the multitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Matthew 5:3.

So what I am saying, is maybe our ideas of ‘what is fully pleasing Him’ might be more than we naturally think. Maybe, what gives Him the most glory is not so much the ‘walking on water’ moments , but the moments of  total dependence  on God for…everything. Perhaps, that is when He is then ready to send us out to our ‘Jerusalem, and our Judea, and to our outer most parts of the earth.’

We have so many wonderful examples in the Bible where God did not allow them to ‘walk on water’ forever, but allowed hardship and trouble. And we see in each story that God was glorified greatly in the weakness. Paul explained it like this: “And lest I should be exulted above measure by the abundance of revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:17-9)

We must be about the great commission, and get excited about the work on the mission field. And  come along side to be a part of these ministries in praying and supporting  these men and woman who are giving their every waking moment on the field- but I believe even greater still, we must be part of the greatest commission,

a moment by moment choice to ‘be fully pleasing Him’. Nothing big, like ‘walking on the water’ but simply living life in this boisterous world with our whole dependency on Him, He alone is our Savior – and in that, Jesus stretches out His hand and in His mercy and compassion, and He says, “O you of little faith, why do you doubt?”Matthew 14:31.

So the Father might ask us,

“Are you seeking Me? Are you calling out to Me? In dependence and direction? Are you living your life knowing I am your Savior and no one else? And even if it looks like I haven’t heard and make you wait on an answer, are you trusting Me? Is your faith increasing even though your eyes cannot see?”

“Do you, my dear sons and daughters choose to give thanks in Me, even when your heart is breaking, even over and over? Do you choose  to love Me still, even though your time here on earth is hard where cold winds blow often across your back?”

“My dear child, “Grace to you and peace from Me, your Father,  and My Son,  Jesus Christ… because you have chosen, moment by moment, day by day, to have a walk looking unto Me,and trusting in My Son, the author and finisher of your faith, desiring to be growing and increasing in knowledge of Me and My word.

Yes, you might be poor is spirit, and mourn, and even feel persecuted, and hunger and thirst for righteousness – but you are blessed. You are spiritually prosperous. You have a life-joy about you. Be satisfied with My favor, you are fully pleasing Me.

Don’t let your hope be disappointed, ever, because I will pour My love out in You by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:5) I have filled you with my Spirit, My grace is sufficient. Remember always, I am your Immanuel.”

A Hymn for a walk ‘fully pleasing Him’: He Leadeth Me

He Leadeth Me, O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught!/ what e’er I do, where’er I be, Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me. He leadeth me, By His own hand He leadeth me; His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me.

Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom, Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom, By waters still, o’e troubled sea, Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me!

Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine, Not ever murmur nor repine; Content whatever lot I see, Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

And when my task on earth is done, When by Thy grace the vict’rys won, E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee, Since God through Jordan leadeth me…

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“Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12)

“Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12, Amplified Version).

These words mean so much to me today. This morning, I woke, tired, heavy-hearted…but I heard in my heart such tender words from the Lord,  “Come and have breakfast.”

These are words spoken by Jesus AFTER He was beaten and scourged and His hands were lifted and nailed to a cross, after He breathed His last, and died, after He was buried in the tomb! These words, He spoke to His disciples,while He was sitting on the beach in front of some fish He was cooking and some bread! And Peter was there too, Jesus spoke these words to him as well, even after he openly denied Jesus previously.

This is my story, as if, I am one of the disciples on the pages of The Book in this story in John 21.It’ as if these words were spoken just today, just for me, from Him. You see, I see Jesus sitting by the hot coals cooking up the fish and having plenty of bread, calm as a cucumber calling my way saying,”Come… come to Me, you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28), come and have breakfast.”

Yes, but, I am not even on the land yet, in my story. I am just like the disciples, (heavy-hearted, sorrowing, not sure of the future )- so they went out fishing. (Which was their ‘old trade’ because with Jesus they were ‘fishers of men.) My life sometimes feels like the disciples many times- out on the water, fishing all night, catching nothing!

So I read in the story that Jesus said to them, (while they were out ‘toiling’ ), “Children, have you any food? They answered Him, “No.”(John 21:5). So, Jesus then said to them.“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.

So, my prayer this morning was “Lord, WHAT IS THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BOAT?”

And, so the frustration about situations and circumstances in life  seem to me like ‘going out fishing and catching nothing.’ And the Lord tells me, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So I went about my morning, busy doing all the things I had to do, and then had opportunity to pray.

And He answered my question!

I am to cast my net on the right side of the boat, I am to cast my burdens on Him. He’s the right side of the boat!

I know it sounds so obvious, but He was working on my heart, He was bringing all of this truth so much deeper, His idea, I feel was, “Toni, it doesn’t matter, all the ‘stuff’, I know it already, but you just take time with Me and cast each and everything to Me, and I’ve got breakfast cooking!

He is a good Friend. What a Friend we have in Jesus!

He says, “Come and have breakfast,” (John 21:12). “Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest – relief, ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet – for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29). “For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good)-not harsh, hard, sharp or pressing, but comfortable, gracious and pleasant; and My burden is light and easy to be borne.” (Matthew 11:30, Amplified.)

I think what is so wonderful about this story is, yes, they put their nets on the right side, and yes, they caught a great multitude of fish- but Jesus didn’t even need their fish! He already had it all provided for them to eat. He knew after hauling in that catch, they would need rest!

He knows all the ‘junk’ we have to deal with in a given day! (Can you imagine cleaning all of that fish?!) He knows, and He will take care of us. We’ve just got to keep casting our net on the right side of the boat!Fixing our eyes on Him. What an amazing friend we have, in Jesus.

What a Friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble everywhere? We should never be discourage; Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden. Cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior , still our refuge! Take it to the Lord in prayer. Do Thy friends despise, forsake Thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer. In His arms He’ll take and shield Thee; Thou wilt find a solace there.

From gloom to song OR ‘a mess to blessed!’

There’s a battle in my thoughts dear Lord! O Lord, there’s a battle in my heart and mind today. Voices, subtle and without hope; without the breath of You…

God help me – help me now! I take every thought captive in You. Help me take every thought and weigh it, is it false or is it true?

“God doesn’t provide.” “You’re on your own.” “There’s no end in sight!” “It’s always going to be like this!” These are not thoughts that come from You. The enemy is attacking- I cry out to you! What are Your promises? God, help me now!

In Jesus name I cry, to be ‘a present help in time of need!’ (Ps. 146:). In Jesus name I pray-for ‘the pulling down of strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…’ (2 Cor. 10:4,5). I am as David, praying, “Answer me speedily, O LORD; my spirit fails! Do not hide your face from me, Lest I be like those who go down into the pit. Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning…” (Ps. 143:8.)

Then in the craziness I remember,  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”(Heb. 13:5).  Yes, and,  “God will supply all our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” ( 4:19). And what about, “God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 7). And there is no way that I am alone, because, “the Lord is my Shepherd,…and even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because He is with me.” (Ps. 23:1). Hey, and I’m not supposed to even worry about tomorrow, because ‘sufficient for the day is its own trouble,’ (Matthew 6:34).

I am beginning to experience Your ‘present help’ Lord. I am beginning to see that ‘this is my comfort in my affliction,…’ it’s that ‘ Your word has given me life.’ (Ps. 119:50). Or at least my next breath! My thoughts are back to believing that, God, there is none like You.

On a morning where once again my thoughts were full of darkness and lies, You rescued me. You didn’t change one circumstance that is still a mess – at least not yet- but You continually change me. You are the God of hope. Yes, You are the God of hope that fills me with all joy and peace,’ (none of which I had when I first woke this morning), in believing, (Satan was lying again about You, my faith was flying out the window, but You captured it and brought me to Your word). And You did all of this by the power of Your Holy Spirit, (not through any strength of mine, that’s for sure!) that I may ‘abound in hope’!(Romans 15:13, exclamation point, mine.) Your sword is powerful Lord, the enemy is defeated!

So my gloom went  to  a song, “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,  there is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be….

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy Faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto Thee!”

“Now may the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13.

The truth is, even if we have nothing, Nothing + the LORD = Everything! He did it! He has made me to abound in hope again. Instead of a mess, I am blessed.

“I love You Jesus, ’cause You first loved me!”

“Who has believed our report?” I have! and I’m praying BIG!

“Who has believed our report?” These are words of the prophet Isaiah. “Who has believed our report?” And when I think of the prophets and how there were not heeded and how their words angered the people, it makes me think about today.

Isaiah spoke in Is. 60:2, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people…”These words were spoken so long ago, but they are true for today. Just take 3 minutes to read the world news.

But, you see, the very next words of the prophesy of Isaiah say: “But the LORD…”(Is. 60:2). What powerful, ‘dark -into-light’ words, “But the LORD…”

God does not forsake His children that look to Him. The verse in entirety says, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.” (Is. 60: 2).

Who, me and you? Could this word be for me? ‘But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.” “Could God use me like that?” you might be asking.
 Well, yes, but you might not be real popular!

Jeremiah was a prophet given the word of God to the children of Israel, and when he spoke God’s words, very similar to Isaiah’s word about ‘darkness and deep darkness coming for the people’, the priests and the prophets spoke out saying, “This man deserves to die! For he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.” Jer. 26:11. Jeremiah wasn’t popular!

Needless to say, Jeremiah’s message was not ‘politically correct’. Jeremiah ‘spoke to all the princes and all the people saying: “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city with all the words that you have heard. “Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; then the LORD will relent concerning the doom that He has pronounced against you. “As for me, here I am, in your hand; do with me as seems good and proper to you…”Jer. 26:12-14.

Basically, Jeremiah’s message was,  “Turn around!” And this might remind us of John the Baptist and his message of exhortation, not of tolerance, but of urgency of change! ‘REPENT!’: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2).   And we can read of Daniel and how he didn’t change his ways just because ‘everyone else was doing it.’ He was willing to face the lions than conform to the pressure of the world and not seek His God.

So for many of us feel  extremely grieved by the ‘signs of the times’, and the way things are going. And we feel deep desire to pray, so we do, but today, God reminded me of something that increased my faith in these prayers -to help me pray BIG for our children and for unbelievers and the conditions in this world – He had  me think of Saul before he became Paul. Saul didn’t  believe the reports of the believers. In fact he was angered and threatened by them, and he felt he was doing the right thing in his violence against those who believed in Jesus!

“Who has believed our report?” Not Saul of Tarsus!
What an amazing story:
Saul was heading to Demascus to do more destruction to the believers of Jesus, when all of a sudden he was ‘knocked off his horse’ so to speak! Here’s the report: “at midday… along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. “And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul,Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ ((Acts 26:13,14).

We read that Saul asked the Lord, “Who are You, Lord?”(Acts. 26:15). The answer came: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet…”(Acts 26:16).  This is crazy to me because God caused the ‘turn around!’ It was not done through the heart of Saul!  No, God knocked him off his horse and revealed Himself to him and gave him a new direction and a new job! If this isn’t Amazing Grace of a God most amazing testimony to give anyone hope, then I don’t know what is:

Jesus’ words to Saul in his brokenness, “…arise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you, Choosing you out (selecting you for myself) and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people  and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes,

that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18).

So, somewhere, after that bright light appeared and in his conversation with Jesus, Saul became a Paul!

In that report, God had given Paul “one heart and He put a new spirit within him. God took the stony heart out of his flesh, and gave him a heart of flesh, that he might walk in God’s statutes…” (Ezekiel 11:19).

And it is because of this report that I pray without ceasing for the children of this world, young and old – and all those who think they are doing what is right, but it’s end is destruction -because if ‘God can save a Saul, He can save ’em all!’

I’ve believed this report, and therefore, I am praying BIG these days! “But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light,…lift up your eyes all around, and see:…Is. 60: 3,4.

A letter to the prodigal from God…

“Do you not remember Me?”

These are the words of the Father to His children in Isaiah 57:11. “Do you not even give Me a thought?””I have been silent, even for a long time, and so you do not fear Me?” These are not angry words from God, these are the words of a broken heart.

The prophet Isaiah would tell the children the words of the Lord.  The heart of the Father, the very nature and character of God is opposite to what man thinks in his own mind, in his earthly thoughts. But the word tells us, when He passed before Moses and proclaimed His name, He said, “The LORD, the LORD God,  merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6,7).

There is so much misunderstanding, there is such a wall of separation in the hearts of the sons and the daughters. And there is God’s still, small voice, to ‘whosoever’ will hear:

Do you not remember Me?” (Is. 57:11).  What about from the beginning, when Adam and Eve were given a garden that I planted and allowed  to eat the fruit from any tree in the garden, except one. The serpent of old is asking  the same question he asked them from the beginning: “Did God really say that you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?”(Gen. 3:1, International Children’s Version).

And yes, this brought in temptation. But ‘the only temptations that you have are the temptations that all people have. But you can trust Me. I will not tempt you more than you can stand.’ (1 Cor. 10:13).

It was all theirs, except one tree, so the choice could be made to choose to trust and obey.  But it was at this moment in time, that Eve didn’t remember My thoughts, she only believed the lie of the snake in the garden, much like the thoughts of today: ” What’s the big deal if you do ‘this’? Or, what’s the big deal if you do ‘that’? “You will not die.” Gen 3:4.

But death came.  Adam and Eve were still alive. But now they were afraid of Me and felt they had to hide from Me and then they had to blame each other for their mess. And of course, they now knew they were naked, so in their best thinking they covered their nakedness with those itchy fig leaves that left them uncomfortable, stiff. Needless to say, there was anger everywhere and no joy.

Do you not remember Me? That ‘for both of them, I made tunics of skin, and clothed them.'(Gen. 3:21). “Do you not even give Me a thought?” (Is. 57:11). How I covered you in Lamb’s skin?

The snake comes from  the father that hates you, but he is not like Me. Did you remember that there are two fathers? Well, the father of lies, he hates you and he hates Me. He is a thief, and he ‘does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy’ (John 10:10) the life that I have come to give you. He wants you, but not to give you life.

Do you not remember Me? How from the beginning of time when I created the heavens and the earth, the earth was void and darkness covered the waters. But, My ‘Spirit hovered over the face of the waters’ (Gen 1:2), and I spoke, “Let there be light, and there was light.”(Gen. 1:3). You see, I AM the Father of lights, (James 1:17). I can see it all, there is nothing hid from Me, yet ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love;’ (Jer. 31:3) and I desire to draw you with loving kindness.

“You have not remembered Me or even thought about Me. I have been quiet for a long time. Is that why you are not afraid of Me? I will tell about your ‘goodness’ and what you do. And those things will do you no good. When you cry out for help, let the false gods you have gathered help you. The wind will blow them away. Just a puff of wind will take them away. But the person who depends on Me will receive the land. He will have My holy mountain…(Isaiah 57:11-13).

“I will not accuse forever. I will not always be angry. If I continued to be angry, man’s life would grow weak. Man, whom I created, would die…but they continued to do evil.(Is. 57:17).

“I have seen what they have done, but I will heal them.”(Is. 57:18).

“I will guide them and comfort them. And those who were sad will praise Me. I will give peace, real peace, to those far and near. And I will heal them.”(Is. 57:19, International Children’s Version).

I am waiting for you. ‘I am longsuffering toward you,’ (2 Peter 3:9). My Father asked that I might lay down My life for you. His love for you was as His love for Me, and even before the foundation of the world, it was decided that I, His Son, would die for you. “For God so loved the world…”.

I will wait. And every morning I will speak loudly in My silence:

“Arise, shine; For your light has come!” (Is. 60:1). And when your heart is ready to receive Me, I will pull you from the darkness and give you a heart of peace and rest.

“Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,”…”And I will heal him.” (Is. 57:19, NKJV).I will take off the ‘old itchy fig leaves and cover you with lambskins.

I am the Lamb that was slain.  My name is Jesus. I AM the ‘High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whoe name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Is. 57:15).

“Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt…”Jer. 31:3.

What is your song?

Yesterday, was there a song? Today, what is your song? It’s the key out of the dungeon of darkness. I am convinced that the song of worship on my heart are the literal ‘eagle’s wings that help me to mount up and run and not be weary and to walk and not faint.’ (Is. 40:31).

If you don’t have a song today, ask Him to give you one. Because the sounds of the day-to-day are filled with resistance, and complaint, and impatience, and challenge. We need a song! It’s the key out of the dungeon of darkness and it is the light to truth and life.

I believe music is God’s breath of heaven for our earth weary souls, music is like a rainbow – it’s glorious! Music is ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ and  it comes ever near and lifts us on the ‘chimney tops’ where ‘trouble melts like lemon drops.’

Be still, no matter what horrible circumstances surround you, and worship God.

He gave His life,…for our sin? Who would do that? Who would want all our garbage and failures? No one, except Jesus. To think, He came because He knew we messed up and had no hope for life, that we were all destined to die because of our sin.

But He gave His life instead of asking for ours.  On the cross, Jesus said, without a word,

“I love you.”

We cry out, “Bow the heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains and they shall smoke.” (Ps. 144:5). Or, in other words, “Make Yourself near to us”, but how incredible it is, that we discover that He DOES, the minute we worship. He comes down and touches the mountains of problem that we have and makes them like smoke, as His face becomes ever so near. OK, so the problems are not always gone, but He inhabits our praises, and they just don’t destroy us anymore – but we can say,

“The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD.” (Ps. 97:5).

It’s a mystery. The words of this old, timeless, (unknown to me melody-wise) hymn speaks it exactly:

God Moves in a Mysterious Way, by William Cowper, 1615, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.”

“Deep in unfathomable mines Of neverfailing skill He treasures up His bright designs, And works His sovereign will.”

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head.”

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”

“Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.”

And how wonderful for those that just don’t sing. To think that just reading the words to this old hymn, my attitude is transformed from fret to faith!

So, we must remember, when in the morning we seem to walking toward the dungeon of gloom and worry, to remember the key: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night, …Ps. 92:1,2.

There it is – we need a song for the morning and a song for the evening, or maybe just the same song – the main thing is,

We’ve got to keep singing a song! So, for those that are going blank, why don’t you start out with an old favorite, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…” It’s a timeless treasure, because it doesn’t matter how old and sophisticated you become, it is always true that ‘we are weak and He is strong!’

And guess what happens? The mountains, they start melting!

“I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation?” 2 Cor.7:4.

Paul the Apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 7:4, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” First of all ‘joy’ in itself is a lot to have some days, especially in tribulation, but exceeding joy? and in all our tribulation? We have examples in the Bible of this. The Bible is loaded with heroes. But unless we are reading the Bible, we will not be hearing their stories.

Can you imagine reading in a local newspaper: “Many people are becoming exceedingly joyful in all their tribulation!” It’s just opposite to how our natural tendency is.But these are the best stories! The stories of the one who carries on in the face of trouble and defeat!

The way things are looking, I believe great opportunities abound in many ways for ‘all’ of us to make ‘hero’s choices!’ With exceedingly more challenging events going on in this world: with strange weather patterns, hurricanes and storms that have displaced many  and damaged their livelihoods,and with todays ‘national leadership disasters as well’ that bring down much difficulty on the people of each nation, with pestilences and viruses springing up, and cancer becoming an ever growing diagnosis,with people having to work harder on their jobs and getting less for their work, and many losing their jobs because of ‘economic cuts’, and with traditional families under fire – there is great opportunity for ‘all to be exceedingly joyful in all their tribulations?’

OK, first of all, we need to all have a full understanding that ‘happy’ is not ‘joyful’ and ‘joyful’ is not necessarily ‘happy’. Of course the young family who has recently lost their mother to cancer is not ‘happy’, but because of a promise made to them of life everlasting- yes, they can have joy.

How do we have joy, even ‘exceeding joy’ in all of our tribulations? Deep down inside, we want to have joy. We all long for it. But instead we…sigh and cry!

I believe, the same way that God saw His children of Israel when they were under such great bondage under the Egyptians, He sees us.  GOD sees it all! Is that the comfort through it all? “Our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…”2 Corinthians 7:5,6. Nevertheless God…

We might begin to think that God is ‘slack concerning His promises’, and the enemies, ‘Doubt’ and ‘Fret-ful’ and ‘Discouragement’ come in like a flood, and did I mention ‘Fearful’ as well? And we lose our joy. But it is not true –

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9.

He sees a much bigger picture than we can imagine! How we need to see these characters of ‘Doubt’ and ‘Fret-ful’ and ‘Discouragement’ and ‘Fearful’ as enemies out to destroy the work that God wants to do in these last days. We  often think we’ve got these enemies under control, and they just keep coming back!

But we’ve got our Swords, the word of God,  “For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war…” Psalm 18:31-33.

He teaches our hands to make war! He teaches our hands to pick up His word, to pick up a hymnal and read the words, and He teaches us in our troubles; (which is what He did for me when I was afraid and discouraged in my battle with cancer!)

Then something amazing happens – we have victory, “I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed. I have wounded them, so that they were not able to rise; They have fallen under my feet. For You have armed with with strength for the battle You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.  You have given me the necks of my enemies!” Ps. 18:37-40. Exclamation point mine!)

I love that, “You’ve given me the necks of my enemies!”

Not through the easy times, but through the battles and tribulation, He shows up. Not necessarily to take the trouble away, but to be with us in it! And His holiness surrounds us in our trouble as we turn our faces to Him. And He purifies and cleanses us in it all, from all the ‘filthiness of the flesh and the spirit'(2Cor. 7:1) and He draws us to Himself like never before,

in intimacy…

There is more conversation with Him, and an open ear to hear His voice. Words come out of our heart like, “I love You Jesus, ’cause You first loved me!” You find yourself ‘in love’ with the Lord, and none of this would have happened had not the trouble come.

and He shows us that the continual victory over these nasty enemies will come as we continue to do two things: give thanks to God, and sing praises, which will only come if we keep ‘training our hands for war’ and keep picking up His word!

And we, then, like Paul can say, “I am not just joyful in all my tribulation, but I am ‘exceedingly’ joyful in it! God has touched my heart and I am changed.”

“Peace I leave with you…” I must tell you more about Jenny…

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. This is the peace that Jesus can give.

my friend Jenny, … she has this peace.

Though unexpectedly, in one day 5 1/2 years ago, for some unknown reason, (not sure exact causes, virus of the spine, etc.) she became paralyzed  from the neck down.

Jenny has peace, even though she has a tracheotomy and  needs help with breathing, thus making communication difficult,

And even now, Jenny still has peace, even though – unable to be home, around her family and her girls, because of need of  a new home health care rotation and provision for it,  she has been in a hospital for 9 weeks!

AND being in a hospital, brings on multiplied complications, so Jenny now has issues with excess fluids from simply being in a bed, unable to get in her ‘chair’ and move more. Just last night, Jenny had to be rushed to ICU for a procedure to clear out the fluids.

DESPITE ALL OF THAT, not to mention the fact that if she is cold, she cannot pull a blanket up, or if she is thirsty she cannot lift and take sip of water to her lips – despite all of that, (and I am a witness of this), Jenny has the peace of God!

She has a ‘peace of God, which surpasses all understanding’ (Phil 4:7). And especially, which surpasses all my understanding and the nurses and even the social workers who have been unable to help her to get home. Who make comments like, “I don’t know how she does it?” or “I almost broke out in tears, when I had more bad news for her,  until I saw how well she is taking everything…”

Well, I know that it is God in her. But she doesn’t just KNOW God. She lives in His presence. It’s as if I am able to witness  visuals of  many truths about God and a life of faith, through her life! Through extreme affliction, this woman has spoken these words to me: “I consider it a privilege that God would choose me for this trial.”  Now, that is a life of faith.

God has shown me so many ‘pictures’ of His truth in Jenny’s life:

For one, many of us know the story where Martha was having Jesus over and others, and she was busy and getting everything together, working hard; she was ‘distracted with much serving’ (Luke 10:40),  and she approached Jesus and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42.

You see, Jenny is not busy, she is ‘with the Lord’ and He is ‘with her’. She ‘believes God’ and she is not ‘anxious for anything,’ unlike me. She has a peace that passes all understanding!  When I ask, “Jenny, what can I do to help you get out of the hospital? Do you want me to make some calls, etc.” Jenny’s reply, “Just pray.”

So much has been taken away from Jenny, however, she has chosen to remain at the feet of Jesus and it will ‘not be taken away from her.’ God is showing me so much gentleness, as well. Jenny IS Phil 4:5:“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”

Gentleness is not an easy quality, especially when things aren’t going our way or when we need other people’s help. We are not always gentle.  I have prayed for years, “Lord, help me be gentle! Help me be gentle in my responses with my kids and with my husband.” I am not ‘naturally’ gentle.

However, I must let the gentleness that comes from this woman be known to you! Her voice is quiet, it is gentle,  and it is always expecting the work of the Lord! She always sees the Lord working for good even when things seem to be getting worse – from her perspective, she is encouraged and feels God is bringing her closer and closer to healing.

Jenny is Psalm 62:1, 5: “Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation… My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him, He only is my rock and my salvation; …” Her expectation is in God and in Him alone. I have prayed endless times, “Increase my faith!” Could God possibly have answered that prayer by giving me this special friend?

She is a picture of the  sheep who knows her ‘Shepherd-King’s voice, as in John 10:3,4 when ‘the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”  So much so, that when we were reading in Song of Solomon chapter 2, I mentioned that the maiden in the story reminded me of her. In the verses, the maiden was talking and said,

“My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away. For lo, winter is past, The rain is over and gone, The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come…” Song of Sol. 2:10, 11, 12.

Jenny then told me that her name, ‘Jenny’ means ‘fair one’! These words were written for Jenny. “Rise up, my love, my fair one. For lo, winter is past…”

And, I believe these words are for me as well, and perhaps you: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away. For lo, winter is past, the rain is over and gone…” How so many of us feel like our ‘winter’ has lasted forever, that the ‘rains’ of life never cease to pour. However, Jenny, whose very name means,  ‘fair one’ believes with all hope, all expectancy. And her faith has helped increase mine and hopefully yours as well!

This verse has come alive to me, “But since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak…” (2 Cor. 4:13). Jenny spoke with faith, and now I believe with her and speak! And this is what I speak, simply the word of God, it says it all:

Knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus,…For all things are for your sakes, that  grace, having spread through the many,

may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God!” ( 2 Cor. 4:14, 15. exclamation point mine!)

Yes, Thanksgiving is abounding in us even when the circumstances don’t change, because our God has poured out His grace to sustain us, His  sufficient grace is now spread through the many, (that’s me and you) through this  life who trusts God. I trust God with more fullness and have a more thankful heart, how about you? How can we not?

We can say together, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body….” 2 Cor. 4:8. But how much more so for Jenny.

Jenny continues to turn to the Lord in her not so ‘light affliction’ and in so doing she is a picture to many of us, of what a work of the Spirit looks like. There is no beauty in earthly standards, but there is a far exceeding beauty. We witness this truth,

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” 2 Cor 4:16,17.

My response? And perhaps yours…

“we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18.

All I can say is, “Dear Lord, Thank you for Jenny,  and her willingness to wait on You and to trust You and hope in You. Have mercy on her Lord Jesus and heal her so she can walk right out of that hospital, never to need that chair again. And thank You for using her life to ‘spread Your grace through the many, causing thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God!’ We love You and thank You, in Jesus’ name, Alleluiah, Amen!”

We wonder, “Is God IN control?”

We wonder, Is God IN control?” Somehow we imagine Him outside our inside world. But He is IN control, and not only that, He is in CONTROL!

The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms;  He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!'” Deut.33:27.

This is hope. God – a refuge. God – with everlasting arms.God – able to destroy our enemies.

“But I can’t see Him. How can I have hope?” You might say?

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us…”

Hope does not disappoint, when you and I hope in God.

You see, when you and I hope in God, the Holy Spirit begins to minister His unfailing love to us – not once and for all – but moment by moment when we keep all that we are, heart, soul, and mind , on Him.

But we think, “But what about tomorrow?”, “How am I going to pay this bill?”, or “How am I going to get through college?” or “How will I ever…?”, or,  “What do I do with this child?”, or  “What about this  seemingly hopeless situation?”

What did Peter tell us in 1Peter 1:13? “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest you hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”

“Gird up! Rest your hope fully”… so I am to take all my hope and rest it on the grace that is brought to me at the revelation of Jesus Christ. I am to take whatever hope I have and rest it on the unmerited favor that God has for me revealed in Jesus.

“Well, then, I need revelation, and I need it now!”

God’s spoke to Job out of the whirlwind after he was instructed to ‘Gird up’ or ‘prepare himself like a man’ Job 38:3. Do you ever wonder, was it Job who was in this whirlwind, (for we know from the 37 chapters before that Job’s life WAS a whirlwind),  but  out of it, came the Lord to speak to him? What are the words of God that He spoke to Job out of the whirlwind? TODAY, I need to hear Him:

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, And caused the dawn to know its place, That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it?…”Job 38:12,13.

“Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?  Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this.”Job 16,17.

Mind you, Job has lost all his belongings, his wife left him with no comfort,  each of his children have died, his friends are judgmental and harsh, and Job is suffering with boils and extreme  pain! How is God speaking to him?

He is reminding Job, “I am in control.”

“Have you entered the treasury of snow, Or have you seen the treasury of hail, Which I have reserved for the time of trouble, For the day of battle and war? By what way is light diffused. Or the east wind scattered over the earth?” Job 38:22-24.

God is Sovereign. Are you in need?

“Yes,” you might answer. Do you have God? “Yes, I have the Lord!”,  Then,”you have all you need,” are the words of the pastor. So, in our present need, as a child cries to his father, or a nursing infant cries for his mother, we cry,”Increase our faith! Increase our faith!”

And You give us the Psalm to speak-You answer by giving us the very words of the prayer that we need to pray:

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy pace of the tabernacle of the Most High, God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn…The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

“Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah? Psalm 46.

God IS in control, and He has calmed and quieted my heart by His transforming word. “Lord, though ‘the earth be removed’, so to speak, and ‘waters roar and are troubled’, the river of life that You have placed in my heart, the Holy Spirit, has reminded me, today, once again, as a ‘very present help in trouble’ that You, the God of Jacob are my refuge! I do not need to be afraid. YOU are in control. Yes, Lord,

 “You, will keep me in perfect peace Whose mind is stayed on You, Because I trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD is everlasting strength.” Is. 23:6.

And that is how we can ‘rejoice in the Lord, always’, He’s got us in His everlasting, ever-loving arms, and He knows those who trust in Him. We can ‘be still’ because we know… He knows.

He gave me words to pray,from the hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’…

Sometimes, there are no words, and we are not sure what to pray, especially for long term prayer needs, so I have found that while thinking of an old hymn, I can pray with much more meaning.

The hymn is one of the oldest known hymns, written as early as the 7th Century BC –  “Be Thou My Vision”.  However, every word of it is an appropriate prayer for us in the 21st Century!

This hymn itself is a prayer, and every word of it, to me,  is like the next breath to get me through the toughest of trials,

“Be Thou My Vision, O Lord of my heart;/Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;/Thou my best thought by day or by night, /Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

These words bring to mind the verse that says, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your heart.” Jer. 29:13.

So, I pray, “Be my vision, be my sons’ vision, be my daughters’ vision, be our vision. Lord, put us  in full view of You, and may we  give You Your rightful place as Lord. Use these trials and this time of affliction to draw our thoughts to You, Lord.  ‘Thou my best thought by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.’

That, in our broken state, we have thoughts of You throughout our day;You are my best thought-day or night: You are the Light that shines through this present darkness, (John 1:9), illuminating all that You are: You are the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ (John 1:29), and in our time of great thirst, You give us living water, and it will become in us ‘ a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life,’ You are the Bread, You are the One that…, ‘in Your presence is fullness of joy!’

‘Be thou my Wisdom, and thou my true Word; /I ever with thee and thou with me Lord;/ Thou my Great Father, and I thy true son,/Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.’

“My wisdom, their wisdom, be, at this time of trouble, ‘Be Thou my Wisdom!‘.‘Thou my true Word…”Lord, This can so easily be a time of confusion and doubt, but Your true word gives us wisdom and reminds us our position in You. You are always with me, You are always with them because You, Yourself have said,

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. And that we would remember that we can boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”Hebrews 13:6.

“O Lord, and that this time of difficulty would bring those who are not in that position yet to call you their ‘great Father’, that they would humble themselves and receive Your love for them and be adopted in as Your child. That they may be able to say, ‘and I thy true son, Thou in me dwelling and I with thee one!’

“Be thou my Battle-shield, Sword for my fight,/Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my delight; /Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my High Tower, /Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my Power.”

We all agree, sickness is bad, but sometimes the treatment is worse than the sickness, ‘Be thou my Battle shield, sword for my fight’  was on my mind a lot during chemo. So, these are the words I pray for those suffering in their treatment:

“Be their Battle Shield, be my Battle shield. Be the sword for their fight and mine! Lord, that You would be their dignity, through this time of tearing down, and You would be  their delight. Lord, that You would be my delight.  Lord, this is a time when there is no strength in ourselves. Be our soul’s shelter, Be our High Tower!”

Praying in the Spirit and thinking on the words of this hymn truly do the work of ‘Raising me heavenward, O Power of my Power.’  So that is how I pray for those going through trial: “Holy Spirit, by your mighty power, raise them above the pain with more and more of Your grace, ‘O Power of my Power!’”

There are rich treasures in brokenness, but you can’t experience them by reading a book, so God blesses us with brokenness so we can say with all our heart:

‘Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;/ Thou mine inheritance, now and always;/ Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, /High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.’

When we are well and healthy, we don’t always see God for the treasure that He is. 1Peter reminds us that suffering helps us to ease our grip on sin, (covetous and greed to name a few). “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1Peter 1:6,7).

God strips away a lot, at times,  however, He begins opening our eyes to what is really lasting, ‘Thou my inheritance, NOW and ALWAYS!’

“Lord, that is my prayer, that Jesus becomes ‘first’ in the hearts of those who are suffering pain, that Jesus becomes and remains ‘first’ in my heart! ‘Thou my inheritance now and always!’

What a fabulous hymn to pray with. It is so rich and full-and there is even more:

High King of Heaven, my victory won,/ May I reach heaven’s joys, bright heaven’s Sun!/Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,/ Still be my Vision, O Ruler of All’

“Lord, that we in our brokenness see the victory: ‘High King of heaven, my victory won. May I reach heaven’s joys bright heaven’s Son’…(!) Rev. 1:5, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  (Amen and Amen.)

Yes, Lord,this is how I pray:  “You are in control! You know what You are doing even though it makes no sense to us. I pray for myself, and others facing huge difficulty, Lord,  that no matter what happens we will keep our eyes on You, trusting You; be our Vision, be our Wisdom, be our Battle Shield,  be our Sword, be our Dignity, be our High Tower,  that we would see You as our rich Treasure and acknowledge You as our High King of heaven! You are Ruler of all,  so, in trusting You always, ‘whatever befall’ may You receive the glory! May we trust in You,  for You alone are ‘Ruler of all.’

‘Heart of my own heart,Whatever befall,/ Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all,’

In Jesus Name, Amen!”