Always There

Pouncing, playing and protecting. That’s a very accurate description of our favorite furry family member.

Minna, a one-year-old Rottweiler puppy, loves each member of our family with her whole heart. It’s evident in the way she lives: she sleeps lightly, springing to her feet at the slightest sound. She often detects things we never would have noticed. But nothing escapes her monitoring.

When someone is upset, she runs to him, nuzzling her big black head directly into his face with her warm, comforting tongue depositing kisses all over until  laughter abounds. Often, she detects emotions even the most perceptive humans miss.

And if anyone new approaches, she is watching the interactions like a hawk, ready to jump to our defense at an instant!

Minna demonstrates a lot about God’s character.

God never loses sight of what is happening to us, and He is always there to carry us through. Whether it’s a physical challenge or an emotional hardship, He is constantly there. He promises He will never leave nor forsake us. He means it – NEVER.  He will always be there, even if we don’t see Him immediately. He is present, watching carefully what is occurring, and seeing far more than we can see with our human eyes.

Dog people will attest to why dogs are called ‘Man’s best friend.’ People who know God say they could never do life without God.

I am so thankful I have both.

God uses Minna to comfort me in addition to His presence and peace. He will never forsake you or me.

 

He Is With HIM, Part VIII

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

 

A new day dawned. Silence prevailed. Jesus was gone, He had died by the will of the people. He had died a criminal’s death. The disciples had scattered and it was over. The region was rid of one more religious teacher.

“He healed, but couldn’t save Himself,” was muttered with scorn.

The Bible is silent about what went on inside the tomb.  It’s silent about what each disciple thought and in what condition was his heart.

But, as humans, we can imagine.  The agony, the disbelief, that this is how things ended.  “I must have been wrong about Him,” many might have repeatedly thought.

Maybe, it seemed, God was silent.

It was back to life as usual on this Sabbath day. A day set aside for worship and rest. A day filled with empty minutes perfect for pondering just what had transpired.

We can imagine those quiet moments when we wish something else, anything else, could captivate and consume our thoughts, our attention, our hearts.

It was time to worship God.  God that was now seen in a different light. How could this have happened? Did I somehow misinterpret? What’s to come?

God was there.

He was with His people. He was in the tomb. Just as He refused to leave Jesus in the tomb, He refuses to leave us alone, afraid, and in the dark.

Oh, we might spend some time in silent solitude, but He will break that silence at our request, in His timing.

This day was not the day for revelation.  People’s hearts needed more time to prepare for what would come. Although no one understood, God was there.  True to His promise in Deuteronomy, He had not left them.

 

Reflections:

How do I mistake silence for abandonment?

After Jesus was placed in the tomb, the Sabbath dictated everyone worship and rest. The people had been through the most horrible day emotionally, and now, they needed to bring their broken hearts, confused minds, and exhausted bodies to worship.

When God is silent what should I do? WORSHIP and REST.

Worship reminds us of the character and truths of God. That He is God. That He loves us. And, He is ultimately in control.

When we focus on God, we can stop worrying about the problem, because we are focused on the problem-solver.  We can forget fear, because we are focused on the One who casts out all fear.  We can feel our blood pressures return to normal as we realize it is God who controls the future not me, not some madman across the globe.

And after the worship?

After worship comes rest. Because we have shifted our focus, we are less stressed, and can find peace to rest spiritually, and also physically and emotionally.

The timing of Jesus’ death was no coincidence.  Directly after His body was placed in the tomb, people needed to make final preparations for the Sabbath and then follow the rules for the Sabbath.  While many thought God was silent that day, God had already given His people instruction on what they were to do that day: worship and rest. This is how He intended for them to get through that awful, confusing day.

When they followed His command, they were sure to make it through the day with the greatest amount of peace possible.

This lesson applies to us today. When I don’t know what to do, I should worship God and then rest.  I must shift my focus from stress-filled life events and all-consuming burdens of the heart to God. He will take care of it. I can trust in His timing and His protection.

Prayer: Dear God, How often I, like the people who were terrified and disheartened about Jesus’ death, feel overwhelmed by events and underwhelmed by Your presence. Direct me to look to obedience to You, which is where I will find peace, and trust in You. Thank You for recording this example to instruct me on how I should do life. Amen.

 

Thanks for reading! Please return tomorrow, for the next post.

He Is With HIM, Part V

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” Proverbs 16:20 NIV

Jesus’ final day as a free man. His last chance to instruct His disciples on what they needed to know, to do, and how to make life work.

Jesus knew His time with His disciples was limited. Note, His time left was His focus, not what happens when His time runs out.

As a cancer survivor who statistically is not supposed to be here, I can tell you, when you think the end is near, it’s easy to forget about others and focus on yourself.

Yet, Jesus utilized every teachable moment. He instructed His disciples to prepare for the Passover celebration. Even though He could have argued He was facing a personal crisis, He still obeyed God’s command to celebrate the Passover. (Luke 22:7-13)

He also seized this opportunity to instruct them through example on how to serve others: that no task is too low or too insignificant. (John 13:2-7)

He also foretold several key events that would be important to the disciples. At the time of instruction, His words may not have made sense, but they gave them much to sift through the rest of the disciple’s lives.

When the disciples recalled Jesus’ final actions as a free man, they would remember Jesus leading them in hymns (worship) and of Jesus going to Gethsemane to pray. (Matthew 26:30)

What a legacy Jesus left for His disciples, and for us!

Jesus’ faith that life was not all about Him, His wants, His desires, but about God’s will gave Him the courage to follow God’s instructions. Even when knowingly facing death, Jesus trusted God to help Him accomplish what needed done before He was taken.

And God met every need.

Even in the Garden of Gethsemane when the disciples fell asleep and failed at comforting Jesus and failed at keeping watch and praying – God provided His comfort to fortify Jesus to calmly handle Judas’ betrayal, His own arrest, and the disciples’ desertion.

And God never left Him.

 

Reflections:

Consider Jesus’ focus this day:  On the time that remained. How does that inspire you?

How often, when facing a crisis of heart or mind, do I consider not following God’s command? When that crisis hits, can I justify not going to church? Not serving how I promised? Or, not tithing? To borrow a quote from Proverbs 31 Ministry- Our feelings are indicators, not dictators. As difficult as it may feel, we need to follow Jesus’ example and follow God’s commands.

 

The last line of this devotionals reads, And God never left Him. God promises in Deuteronomy 31:6 that He “will never leave us nor forsake us.” Do you truly believe that promise?

 

Power Verse: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV

 

How do you define “being strong and courageous?”

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for the example of Your son. Thank You that You never left Him, even in a darker day than most of us could ever fathom, You were there.  Please help me to remain strong and courageous in faith and to practice what You command.  Thank You that You provide what I need each moment, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, March 21, for the next post.

 

 

 

Learning To Flourish

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

Earlier this week, I was blessed to travel out of the frigid temperatures, snow and ice to a much more temperate, wonderful climate.

The foliage of Jamaica is absolutely beautiful! On my first day, I simply sat on our room balcony, gazing endlessly at the various shades of green. A color my inner being needed to see and experience at this point in the winter. And the size of some of those green leaves, we just don’t have such large plants in Ohio!

I drank in the beauty of the huge hyacinth and elegant orchid blossoms, almost overwhelmed at such color. While I winter my tropical plants under a grow light in my basement, my home cannot completely mimic the environment required for these plants to flourish. I have received a few lovely blossoms this winter, but nothing the size of what I saw in Jamaica.

I think Christians are the same.  Put a Christian in harsh conditions, take away time from the Son, and we are likely to lose a number of blooms at best, or wither up and die at worst.

None of us is living in paradise (yet!) So, we must especially care for ourselves: spending regular time with the Son, feeding ourselves regularly from God’s word, and allowing God to support and prune us as necessary.

And just like the Ohio winters, harsh conditions don’t last forever.  Spring does eventually return, and with those longer, warmer days, even more opportunity to enjoy God’s refreshing of the earth, and our souls.

Reflections:

What is my personal formula for staying spiritually fit?

Even when I can’t see the Son, do I trust by faith that He is there and that I will see Him again?

Prayer: Thank You Father, that even in periods of harsh weather, You have not disappeared from my life. I need to patiently wait, believing You will carry me through the ‘winter’ and will grow me so my faith will produce beautiful blossoms and much fruit. Thank You for fulfilling Your promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, March 9 for the next post.