Blog Update

You will keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.

─Isaiah 26:3

The photo above was taken last November in Morro Bay, California. When we lived in California, we spent many wonderful weekends camping on the central coast, and Morro Bay was one of our favorite places. For those who recognize this view, that is Morro Rock behind us.

I had hoped to be back to my previous blogging schedule by now but my days have become busier than I could have imagined back in June. Rick is still struggling with his leukemia but now has some other health problems as well. All of this is very concerning and requires chemotherapy plus even more doctor and lab visits.

I cherish my current role as Rick’s caregiver and need to devote my time and attention to making sure he is comfortable, happy, and gets to all the various appointments on time. We have been a team for almost 22 years, dedicated to loving and caring for each other as need dictates. Rick was my “chauffeur” for years while I battled daily, debilitating migraines. Now it is my turn to take care of him and walk with him through this confusing time. 

But as scary as all of this feels, we both look to our Master Physician to guide Rick’s doctors in making the best decisions about his care and treatments. We are confident that as we trust in Him to carry us through this confusing time, He is always with us, surrounding us with His perfect peace.

I am not sure when I will be back to blogging, and in the back of my mind, there is an “if” — if I will ever be able to do so. I have been and will continue to keep that in prayer because my desire has always been to carry out what God gives me to do.

Beloved, I am keeping you in prayer, and thank you for your continued patience with me! 

I’m still here!

For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us;
nor do we know what to do but our eyes are upon You.
—2 Chronicles 20:12

Wow, I can’t believe that I am still on the blog break I started at the end of June. So much has happened since then that actually began months before. The image above has been my desktop wallpaper and this Scripture passage is what has carried me through. I often find myself praying “I don’t know what to do but my eyes are upon You.”

Rick is thankfully doing better but he still has a ways to go. So many people have been praying for both of us, and we are utterly grateful for those intercessions. God has been so faithful to carry us through this scary time, and we give Him loads of praise and glory.

I am still in super low energy mode but the Lord has gifted me daily with sufficient energy and joy to be able to take care of what needs to be done that day. This often makes my eyes leak as I contemplate His grace and mercy. Since early January, Rick and I have been living what we know to be true: that our God is always with us, no matter what is going on. 

Even though I want to get back to blogging, I am not able to spend the amount of time on my blog that is needed. As I said in my last post, I’m not sure when I’ll be back to my blog because that depends on so many things right now, but I will be back! In the meantime, please remember:

God is good ALL the time! And all the time God is good!

Blog Break

Life does have its ups, downs, and turns, doesn’t it? Rick and I have once again seen that happen as our life has taken a sudden turn to the ultra-busy. We are in the midst of lots of doctor visits to address some serious health issues that Rick has been going through, so I feel the need to take a blog break for a few weeks. As I’m sure you all know, trekking to this doctor and that specialist—not to mention the inevitable lab work—takes a lot of time, and it is often hard to decompress afterward. I am finding that I need more rest and nap time, which helps me recoup the necessary energy to really be there for Rick.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back to my blog because that depends on so many things right now, but I will be back!

Where’s Your Treasure? Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Today I am sharing from the Bible Study Nerd Blog.

Where’s Your Treasure?
Three Questions to Ask Yourself

By

Captain Jack Sparrow is not only a surprisingly clever pirate; he’s also a surprising judge of character. He tells young William Turner that he’s on his way to being a pirate because he, among other things, is “completely obsessed with treasure.” Will balks at this, only to have Jack wisely respond, “Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.”

The truth is we’re all completely obsessed with treasure. We’re actually wired that way. God designed us to be active worshipers, and treasure is simply shorthand for the object of our worship. Since our hearts are always actively worshiping something, they’re not neutral; nor do they accidentally stumble into worship. They choose it. And, as Captain Jack points out, treasure is far more than just material wealth. For this reason, the Sage of Proverbs warns, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it springs the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23) Likewise, Jesus warns that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). The question I want you to think about today is, Where is your treasure? To answer, carefully ponder three questions and invite the Holy Spirit to examine your heart.  

1. What makes you happy?

Think about the times when you are the happiest. Or, perhaps, what you look forward to the most. When are you the most content and peaceful? What automatically brings a smile to your face? What events or occasions are non-negotiable in your life? What is your favorite part of your day? Don’t feel guilty if every single answer wasn’t Jesus. James tells us that “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” God, the Giver of the gifts you enjoy, gives them to us for our delight. However, because our hearts have been perverted by sin, we often take the good gifts from our loving Father and make them objects of our worship rather than reasons to worship the Giver. To assess whether these good gifts have become your treasure, we’re going to need a couple more questions.

2. What makes you angry?

3. What do you fear?

Read the rest here.

Life in Exile

Photo credit by Tammi Rhoney

When you pass through the waters I will be with you.
─Psalm 43:2

Life in Exile 

By Tammi Rhoney

Many of us with chronic illnesses and pain feel like we live life in exile, separated from the rest of the world because of the isolation caused by our illnesses. With the Coronavirus causing havoc around the globe and forcing businesses, schools, churches and restaurants to close, others are going to feel the isolation and loneliness that we live with on a daily basis. I have suffered with Myalgic Encephalomyletis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), a severely debilitating complex chronic illness that has kept me mostly housebound for twenty-seven years, almost half my life. One friend accurately named M.E. “the leprosy of the twentieth century.” It’s easy to become discouraged because we feel so disconnected, but God has a reason for our captivity.

In the book of Daniel, when Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were held in captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, they sought to glorify God and refused to eat the king’s food and bow down to his golden image (Daniel 1:8, 3:18). They knew the Lord and wanted to obey, worship and glorify Him, even in very difficult circumstances, and they chose to trust God no matter what the outcome. God had a reason for their captivity and that was to bring glory to Himself.

The same is true for us. We worship the same God as in Daniel’s time.  While in captivity with our illnesses, we can find new ways to glorify God and worship Him. I enjoy listening to the dramatized Bible via audio on the Bible.is app because it takes less brain energy than reading and brings God’s Word alive with music, sounds and voices.  We can listen to on-line sermons, memorize and meditate on short Scripture verses, send cards to others and call someone who is lonely when we feel up to it. The more afflicted we feel, the more important it is to spend time in prayer, praise and worship to God each day and keep our focus on Him and not on our circumstances. Psalm 16:8 says, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  

There are some similarities and differences between Daniel and his friends’ life in exile and our daily exile caused by poor health. One main difference is that we know God sent Israel into exile as punishment for their sin, while today’s chronic illnesses often are not God’s punishment for specific sins, but part of living in a fallen world. Both are from God’s Hand (Job 2:10, Isaiah 45:7). Scripture says that God is completely Sovereign and free to do as He wills for His own glory (Psalm 15:3; 103:19). His Sovereignty determines the length, duration and severity of our illnesses, just as He determined the duration of captivity for Daniel and his three friends. If it is God’s will, He chooses when and where to deliver us, how and when only He knows (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Daniel and his friends didn’t know that they would be delivered from the fiery furnace and lion’s den, but even if they were killed, they still intended to remain true to God (Daniel 3:16-18).

They also didn’t know that a theophany of Christ would appear with them in the furnace that was heated seven times hotter than normal (Daniel 3:19, 25). God chose to reveal His awesome power in and through them as their clothes were not even singed and there was no smell of smoke on their garments (Daniel 3:27). Dr. Bill Barcley, our senior pastor, said, “God reveals His power and glory in and through us, especially in times of trial and through our perseverance.”

We’re never alone; God promises to be with us because we are His very precious, redeemed people (1 Peter 2:9). Remember that God says, “I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1-3, ESV). Yet God doesn’t always save His saints from death or disease. Our calling is to trust and obey Him and leave the rest in His Hands.  As Paul proclaimed, weakness is one of the ways God displays His strength and power through us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Life in exile is fruitful because:

Even as believers, we are a very sinful, idolatrous people, but thankfully our sins are covered by Christ’s precious blood (1 John 1:9).

Sometimes God chooses to remove all distractions from our lives so that He becomes our most important and treasured possession.

While life in exile is not fun, it’s sometimes necessary in God’s plan. We should ask Him to help us give thanks to Him for this time of refining in our lives and for how He’s going to use these fiery trials for our good, the benefit of others and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Strength for the Journey

Strength for the Journey

By Pat Knight

 Snowflakes or samples of DNA illustrate exceptional individuality. There are no repetitions with either. God created each person with specific physical attributes, personalities, emotions, and the desire to seek Him. Our Lord endows us with free wills, allowing us to make exclusive decisions. We are not puppets on a string merely doing the Lord’s bidding. Though it must break His heart, God permits us to ignore or resist Him, bumbling through life without His guidance.

During our struggles and trials, God offers His superior strength and power, without which we must depend solely on our temporary resources. God’s strength moves mountains of trouble and maintains the universe in perfect order. Extraordinary fortitude is available to each of us when we appropriate God’s immense strength. It is not bullish or intimidating, but comprised of quiet gentleness merged with power. God always uses His strength appropriately, combined with love and compassion to help us overcome obstacles.

Teaming our uniqueness with His strength, we possess the ability to accomplish great feats in God’s name. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians12:9). The Apostle Paul witnessed God supplanting his human frailty with almighty strength. Paul had a physical problem for which he sought God’s cure. Rather than heal him, God eclipsed Paul’s weakness with the promise of His sufficient strength. Paul admitted, “‘for when I am weak, then I am strong’” (v. 10). Paul knew the secret of dealing with his infirmity was to supplement with God’s endless supply of strength.

Humans are exceedingly shortsighted. Though God is acquainted with the future plans for our individual lives, we cannot see beyond this very minute. Our Lord knows whether we will benefit more from healing our physical disorders, or by lavishing us with His abundant strength to triumph beyond our afflictions. Paul placed his priorities and his full faith in God. Then he followed His Lord into a victorious life full of spiritual accomplishments, traveling over the known world as a missionary, preaching the Gospel until the end of his life.

“Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

God is immutable—incapable of compromise or change, no less powerful or loving than when Paul lived on earth. Our physical or emotional weakness may be for the purpose of encouraging others who hurt as we do, the individual work which God has chosen for us.  “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). The Apostle Paul demonstrates that contentment is learned behavior, a choice we make to depend on God’s guidance and the riches of Christ. We are surrounded with people willing to throw cold water on enthusiastic ideas. If those whom God chooses to endure illness or hardships were to transform into encouragers with heavenly strength, God’s love would be exponentially transported throughout the world in a contagious manner.

Each unique, spirit-filled Christian is enabled by God to develop and perpetuate a distinctive style of encouragement in order to disseminate God’s love. Those empowered by God and permeated with His strength, have the capacity to distribute joy and peace to a hurting world. We are challenged to exercise our gift of free will to project encouragement, enthusiasm, and ebullience. Only by experiencing the strength He provides, are we able to reach out to others in a way that is honoring to God, who created us as in His image to represent the holy and righteous characteristics of Jesus. 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).  God and believers working together have the ability to affect change in this world, as we elevate God’s name and purpose. With such awesome, privileged life goals, our troubles pale. The more we perform God’s will for our lives, the less we concentrate on self and our temporary troubles.

Paul provides an example of how to focus less on our physical problems and gain victory by accessing God’s strength. God desires to demonstrate the fine art of victorious living. With great expectancy, request to be instilled with God’s strength and steadfastness. He will then intervene to provide “exceeding, abundantly beyond all we ask or think according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV). Jesus patiently awaits your trust and obedience. He delights to work in you and through you to shine the light of His splendor and supremacy into a dark world.

No Plague Near Your Tent: Reading Psalm 91 During a Global Pandemic

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity.

No Plague Near Your Tent: Reading Psalm 91 During a Global Pandemic

By William R. Osborne 

It is not often in human history that words like plague and pestilence become household terminology, but here we are. As strange as these words feel on our tongues, they are not as uncommon in the Bible. For example, Psalm 91 speaks directly to the notion of plague or pestilence three times, boldly claiming, “For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” (v. 3), “You will not fear . . . the pestilence that stalks in darkness” (v. 6), and finally, “No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent” (v. 10). While we as Christians glory in the declarations of the psalm, we can’t help but notice the current “plague” creeping ever closer to our neighborhoods and homes. Does Psalm 91 make promises that are not being fulfilled? How do we read Psalm 91 during a global pandemic?

Images of Comfort

While the original setting that gave rise to this psalm eludes us, the first-person statement in v. 2 reveals that the author speaks these words of hope and comfort as one who has personally experienced refuge and security by trusting in God in the midst of fearful circumstances. Indeed, Psalm 91 opens with a beautiful picture of God’s people dwelling in the shelter and shadow of the Lord. We are thrust into a metaphorical world where God is a refuge, God is a fortress, God’s faithfulness is a shield, and God even has wings that provide security.

The important thing to remember here is that the psalmist is creating figurative relationships between God and the created world that forge a new reality for the fearful. These creative images draw us out of our fear-entrenched perceptions into a new world that redefines our source of protection and peace. Verse 3 plays into this figurative imagery by likening us to a bird that will escape the net of the “fowler,” a term used to describe a bird-catcher in ancient times. In a parallel line, we are told “he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence.” Just as the first line of this verse should be understood as figurative language communicating a general picture of deliverance, so should the second.

The mention of pestilence in v. 6 is also imbedded in a poetic structure that leads us away from forcing the language into a straightforward reading. Verses 5 and 6 are in a parallel structure that looks like this:

A – You will not fear the terror of the night,

B – nor the arrow that flies by day

A’ – nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

B’ – nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

The intentional parallel between night and day in v. 5 is picked up and developed in v. 6 with the ideas of darkness and noonday. Poetically, phrases like “night and day” or “dark and light” are called merisms. A merism is when an author poetically uses opposite terms to figuratively communicate a total or complete concept. Consequently, like the reference in v. 3, the language of v. 6 should not be stripped of its poetic and figurative quality.

Read the rest here.

Do We Really Want To Be Better Comforters?

Sharing today from Penetrating the Darkness.

Do We Really Want To Be Better Comforters?

What factors deepen and expand our ministry to hurting people?

Valid answers include a sound grasp of Bible knowledge, identification and exercise of our spiritual gift(s), and a willingness to sacrifice our convenience and time precisely when others most need help. But there’s one answer I’d put first: our own suffering.

Whether our affliction comes in the form of physical maladies, adverse circumstances outside of our control, or emotional anguish (such as major depression), our pain brims with the potential to serve others more effectively. The late pastor and author Ron Dunn went so far as to say, “Your greatest area of usefulness may stem from your greatest area of pain.”

Why is that the case?  Suffering that does not make us bitter makes us better. It breaks our hearts, increasing our empathy with others who hurt. We’re more likely to show compassion when we’ve “been there, done that.”

Allow me to illustrate.

Examples of Pain’s Potential to Expand Our Ministry

While strolling alone on a beach near his home, the forlorn pastor considered suicide. He thought to himself, “I can’t take any more hard knocks. I can’t imagine how things will get any better.”

A worried friend of the pastor showed up at the beach, knowing that’s where the pastor went when he needed to sort things out. The friend didn’t condemn his depressed companion for lack of faith, or dish out superficial solutions. Instead, he walked alongside him for a long time, listened as the pastor vented, told him he loved him and prayed for him.

The friend’s presence incarnated God’s love and instilled hope within the distraught pastor. Here’s how the pastor described the effect: “Within minutes, my life started coming together again. I started thinking clearly for a change. A ray of hope burst through the dark clouds that had been hovering over me. I began seeing solutions to some of the things harassing me, and believed again that God would help me.”

What prompted the compassionate response of the pastor’s friend?

His own past experience with pain.

The comforter had gone through a rough patch in his life a couple of years before. He knew firsthand how downcast a person of faith could feel, and had experienced the sustaining power of God’s Spirit. He remembered how God had mobilized people in the body of Christ to reach out to him when his own future seemed hopeless. The comforter’s own brokenness had kept him from a self-righteous, judgmental attitude toward his hurting friend. Instead of offering glib, snap-out-of-it advice, his listening posture and heartfelt prayer lifted the rocks off his friend’s chest.

*******

Joni Eareckson Tada has been a quadriplegic since a diving accident in her teens. God chose not to heal her body. Yet over the decades, she has written best selling books offering a sound theology of suffering, interspersed with stories from her life of God’s sustenance. She has shared the gospel of Christ in speaking engagements all over the globe. She founded Joni and Friends, an organization that provides support and resources for disabled persons and their caregivers. Her organization also trains local church leaders on ways to care for the disabled within their own community. Her ministry to needy people isn’t huge in spite of her disability, but because of it. In her case, God has received more glory by redeeming her pain, rather than by eradicating it.

Read the rest here.

Peter: Restoration from Shame

Shared from Today in the Word.

Peter: Restoration from Shame

Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. —John 21:17

Sometimes we wish for a remote control with a giant rewind button. If only we could start the day, the conversation, or the relationship all over again, we would do it differently!

Peter longed for a second chance with Jesus. The unresolved shame of his denial gnawed at him. Jesus understood Peter’s shame and reconstructed the circumstances under which they had first met. The sea, the boat, the long night without fish—all were in place. Jesus called out from the shore and the nets came up overflowing. Peter got the message. Jesus was inviting him for a redo!

This second chance meant confronting the shame of his failure. Peter watched Jesus’ hands breaking bread just as they had that fateful night. The Master he had denied served him breakfast. Reliving those events must have brought all his shame to the surface.

Read the rest here.

3 Keys to A Christian Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity

3 Keys to A Christian Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Ryan Thomas

“There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). That was easier to believe a couple of weeks ago. Although this certainly isn’t the first time a crisis has captured the world’s attention, few to none have had the sort of global impact as the advent of Covid-19. Maybe you have noticed a change in your mood. Going to the store makes you anxious. Troubling questions have begun to surface with greater regularity and intensity. Why has God allowed these events to happen? Where is this all headed? How do I find him in the midst of this madness?

In times like these, it is easy to become so glued to our televisions that we effectively mute God. Coronavirus and its deadly impact have flooded mainstream media coverage. Social media is awash with humorous memes about social distancing. And living somewhere between the humor and the horror, perhaps you are wondering, what am I to do?

Unless we are careful to peel our eyes from our screens and open our Bibles, inclining our ears to hear the Lord’s voice speaking to us from his Word, other voices will dominate the conversation. That doesn’t mean that the Bible should be our only source of guidance. It won’t answer every question about the Coronavirus—or any virus, for that matter—because even if the Bible does encourage handwashing (upon penalty of death, no less; Exodus 30:21), its purpose lies elsewhere. We still need experts to weigh in on the various medical, social, political, and economic factors. In other words, Christians should be diligent hand washers, not because of Exodus 30:21, but because infectious disease specialists say it is one of the best ways to prevent viral spread.

What we will find in Scripture to help us through this unique time is everything we need to know in order to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We’ll find guidance that applies whether our best-laid plans go awry or the world turns upside down. In fact, as Christians, you and I face the same difficult choice today that we faced yesterday, and will face again tomorrow. That is, will we trust in and follow Jesus?

So what does that look like in the face of rapidly changing response plans, ominous projections, and much uncertainty about the future? What, in short, should characterize your response?

1. Faith, not Fear

The point isn’t that we never feel afraid, but that we act in faith rather than react in fear. Fear is consumed by circumstances. It sets its gaze upon the horizon in a tireless search for trouble. “I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life” (Psalm 31:13). Fear always looks out, but never up.

That doesn’t mean that faith is ignorant. No, it knows the trouble that surrounds it, but nevertheless chooses to look up to God in faith. “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help” (Psalm 31:22).

Read the rest here.