You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
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!
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 theblog breakI 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!
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!
Jesus seemed always to classify people in two categories. He taught that there are two roads of life—the broad road and the narrow road. He said there are two destinies in life. He did not give a third alternative. He did not give any middle road. He said it’s either one or the other.
He said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
You cannot be neutral about eternal life, but a lot of people try to be. They try to ride the middle road—but there is no middle road. Jesus said it’s one or the other. He said if you’re not on the narrow road that leads to eternal life, then you must be on the broad road that leads to destruction. Every person is on one or the other.
Which road are you on? The broad road or the narrow road? One leads to destruction and hell; the other leads to a full life here and now and eventually life to come in Heaven. Which is it? It’s one or the other.
And I want to tell you, if I did not know which road I was on, I would make sure, no matter what it cost.
Notice that the broad road is a wide road. In other words, you can enter the wide gate and carry with you all your sins. You can carry your selfishness, your prejudice, your hate, your lust, your intolerance, your bigotry. There are no restrictions, no inhibitions, no rules.
The extremes of humanity are on this broad road. There are the immoral, the dictators, the murderers. But there are also some moral people and even church people on this road. The Bible says, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me’” (Matthew 7:22-23). They were on the broad road all along.
….. And all those people who tried to keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven, those who tried to ride both roads—all of those people are on the broad road, in the sight of Christ.
This broad road is also a crowded road. Jesus said there are many who go in by it. I think one of the greatest sins is conformity. We always hear, “Everybody else is doing it.” No other reason except everybody else is doing it. Conformity. Nobody has the moral courage anymore to stand alone.
If everybody in your room at school cheats, dare to stand alone and get a C if necessary. If everybody in your office lies, and if all the other salesmen tell lies in order to sell a product, or they cheat on their income tax, or they pad their expense account, dare to stand alone. If all the other employers are getting by paying as little as they can pay to their workers, dare to stand alone and be above board with those who work for you. If everybody in your community has racial prejudice, dare to stand alone and look through the eyes of Christ.
God doesn’t judge us by what others are doing. If you give your life to Jesus Christ, you may be the only one in your fraternity, in your sorority; you may be the only one in your place of business; you may be the only one in your room at school trying to live for Jesus Christ. But if you will take your stand for Christ, God will honor you and bless you, and He will open doors for you that you never dreamed.
This broad road—not only is it crowded and wide, but it’s deceptive. The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
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.
The psalms represent a priceless treasure trove of resources for relating to God in all circumstances. They instruct us in how to live, and they teach us great truths about God the great King, his sovereign rule over all things, and his plan for reconciling the world to himself through his Son Jesus, the Christ. With all their beauty and spiritually uplifting messages, here are 8 key takeaways from the Psalms.
1. The book of Psalms engages almost all of the great themes of the Bible.
Beginning with Psalms 1 – 2, the Psalter lays out the theme of — • The righteous versus the wicked and the importance of relying on God and his Word. • God’s sovereignty and rule over all people and nations. • The interplay between divine and human kingship. • God as a place of refuge for all.
2. As human words to and about God, the Psalms instruct us in myriad ways about how to worship God.
They teach us how to sing, dance, rejoice, give thanks, confess sin, grieve, express anger, make requests of God, proclaim God’s name far and wide, and more.
3. The Psalms teach us that God has sovereign rule as the great King over all things.
God rules over creation itself and over all nations and people groups — down to each individual person. As the sovereign King, God asserts his control over the most powerful forces in nature. He proclaims his authority over all the false gods of the nations, gods that were such a temptation for his own people time and time again.
4. The Psalms celebrate that God is a good God.
God is holy, loving, merciful, protective of his people, faithful, a keeper of promises, a giver of good gifts. He protects the vulnerable in society — the widow, the fatherless, the outsider, and the poor — and expects his representatives on earth to carry out this mission.
5. The Psalms praise God for being a just God.
The Lord vindicates his people, punishes evil, and cares for the marginalized. He opposes the wicked, whether individuals (e.g.,Psalms 1:4 – 6) or nations (e.g.,Psalm 2), and will mete out justice for their wickedness.
As long as we have unsolved problems,
unfilled desires, and a mustard seed of faith,
we have all we need for a vibrant prayer life. —John Ortberg
Mustard seed faith is sometimes a difficult concept but one that is very important to understand. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds found in the Middle East, but that smallest of seeds grows into one of the largest plants. Jesus therefore used this illustration several times to show us that even the tiniest grain of truefaithcan do very great things.
14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus,
falling on his knees before Him and saying,
15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill;
for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
16 I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”
17 And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation,
how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?
Bring him here to Me.”
18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him,
and the boy was cured at once.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
20 And He said to them,
“Because of the littleness of your faith;
for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible to you.”
—Matthew 17:14-20, NASB—
We see here the central need of faith, without which nothing can happen. When Jesus spoke about removing mountains he was using a phrase which the Jews knew well. A great teacher, who could really expound and interpret scripture and who could explain and resolve difficulties, was regularly known as an uprooter, or even a pulverizer, of mountains. To tear up, to uproot, to pulverize mountains were all regular phrases for removing difficulties. Jesus never meant this to be taken physically and literally. After all, the ordinary man seldom finds any necessity to remove a physical mountain. What he meant was: “If you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest task can be accomplished.” Faith in God is the instrument which enables men to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path. —William Barclay
Beloved, I think we can all agree that COVID-19 is affecting us a great deal in so many ways. We have been feeling as if things are totally out of control. Life as we knew it will never be the same. Our emotions may be wavering while we seek to hold onto our faith during these difficult times.
Having and holding onto true faith is difficult in hard circumstances, but it is possible. In our own physical strength we cannot move mountains. We can’t make something from nothing. We cannot by ourselves change someone’s heart and mind about something. We cannot pretend that the Coronavirus never happened or doesn’t exist. All of these things and more are under God’s care and control.
What we can do is rely on the fact that God knows what is best for us and rest assured that His ways and means are perfect. And if we believe—have true faith—in that fact, we will be able to pray with a faith that will steadily grow.
Just like that tiny mustard seed.
We may then understand that what we regard as unanswered prayers are actually part of God’s grand design to mold us into becoming who He wants us to be. And we will become content, completely and absolutely trusting that His ways are best.
Our pastor had recently died during open-heart surgery. Everyone in our congregation was grieving. I knew I must explain his death to our five-year old, but I was unsure whether he could understand. As it turned out, I need not have worried. He comprehended more completely than I ever imagined.
Our son’s reaction was initially one of stillness and contemplation. Then, suddenly, as a warm glow spread across his face, he smiled and responded, “Oh, Mommy, wouldn’t you like to go there—to heaven with pastor, to see Jesus?” I embraced him with a bear hug, as we talked more extensively about heaven, where our pastor now lives with Jesus—a home of beauty, where happiness abounds.
Jesus loves the children. Is it any wonder? Deep within the heart of a child, He identifies pure motives and innocence. He gave us instructions to receive the kingdom of heaven like a little child. That means we cautious adults are to exercise the same tenacious faith, intense beliefs, and confident trust that children employ. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:14-16).
Just what happens between early childhood years and adulthood to cultivate skepticism, agnosticism, or atheism? As we mature, we acquire more common sense and discernment. We learn to question everything, sometimes the very foundations of our faith. Did we experience mistrust from a dishonest person? Perhaps a major player in our lives deceived us. Intimidation may have convinced us that we will never measure up. Trauma possibly caused perpetual fear or terror. Life’s experiences gradually manipulate our attitudes and belief systems.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The responsibility for parents to teach their children about God and His saving grace is just as important, or even greater, than all their other preparations for life. Children who believe in their Savior and heavenly Father, will possess a foundation of faith that can be built upon as the child matures. Then, when faced with decisions and turmoil of adult living, reliance will be based on God and His promises. Jesus loves the children and He expects us to teach them to love Him, too.
The enemy giant “looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him” (1 Samuel 17:42). Goliath had an over-inflated view of himself as he scoffed and cursed at David for attempting to fight him, calling him a dog. Undoubtedly, the giant was looking for a bigger challenge for a sparring partner. Goliath had been shouting defiance for forty days, but no one else had come forward to accept the challenge. “Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (1 Samuel 17:11). When David declared he would fight the Philistine giant, King Saul warned, “‘you are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy and he has been a fighting man since his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33). David was deluged with criticism rather than confidence from men lacking their own personal courage.
David never doubted, nor did his faith waver, as he announced he would slay the giant (1 Samuel 17:47). During his early shepherding years, David killed a bear and a lion with his bare hands, giving credit to his Lord for the victories. God continued to empower David, tutoring the next king in His sovereign classroom, preparing him to one day succeed Saul. David grew up to be an effective, efficient, empathetic king, named “a man after God’s own heart.”
The difference between the boy David and all of the seasoned fighting men in the Israeli army, was that David took his Lord into battle with Him. God enables His children with strength and power regardless of age or ability. We are admonished to encourage those people God has assigned with kingdom work.
Believers are assured: “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). God provides the victory, just as He promised “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are so young, but set an example for the believers in speech and in conduct, in love, in faith, and purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Those who are young are admonished to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (v. 4:16). Have we lost our sense of wonder, our compelling spiritual innocence? Children know whom to trust. Their tell-it-like-it-is descriptions defy adult explanations.
As we keep our ears attuned to children, there are many things we learn from them: a simplistic approach to life, unbridled enthusiasm, and unashamed love. Catch their excitement and pure faith. Look for opportunities to participate in the spiritual education of a child. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that there is no fear or hesitation in their love of Jesus.
If Christ appeared physically in the presence of children today, they would run with eagerness into His arms, recognizing His love and splendor. Would we unabashedly follow their example? The question is ponderable, for Jesus provides a specific warning pertaining to our verbal and physical reactions to Him. “‘If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and holy angels’” (Luke 9:26, The Msg.).
Jesus is an undeniable fact of life, whose paths we must follow for success and joy. Children integrate spiritual lessons quickly and thoroughly. It is no wonder most adults would prefer to return to the innocence of their youth, a lifestyle abounding with trust and joy. We need never abandon Jesus’ gifts as we age, for He has promised abundant lives, lavished with grace and mercy for all who trust and follow Him. Let us re-evaluate our faith, prioritizing childlike singlemindedness, unreservedly accepting and following our Savior.
When you pass through the waters I will be with you.
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 theBible.is appbecause 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:
It removes distractions and shows us, with razor sharp clarity, what is really important in this life (Hebrews 12:2, James 1:27);
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).
Why does the doctrine of the Trinity matter to us today? And why have so many great Christians throughout church history fought so tenaciously in defending it? The answer is fundamentally rooted in one critical question: Do we know God?
Jesus said that knowing God is synonymous with having eternal life (John 17:3). And if we define Him on any terms other than how He has defined Himself in Scripture, we are nothing more than idolaters. That is why sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are regarded as cults. To inherit eternal life, we need to know God as He truly is. And the biblical testimony is clear: There is one God. He eternally exists in three persons. And all three persons are each fully God.
To put it another way, God is three distinct persons in one indivisible substance. In the words of the Athanasian Creed,
The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods but one God. 
And in this Trinity none is before or after another; but the whole three persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. 
The simplest way to comprehend the Trinity is to read the Bible from the beginning to the end. The word for God in Genesis 1 is “Elohim.” It is plural. The im ending on a noun in Hebrew is like s in English. The opening words of Genesis could be translated, “In the beginning, Gods.” The word-form of the noun is plural, and yet the reference is to a singular being. The description of God throughout the Old Testament is clearly to a singular being. The verb that goes with Elohim inGenesis 1:1is likewise singular.
The benediction God gave Moses for the priests to use seems to allude to the Trinity. Three times they were to invoke the blessing of the Lord.Numbers 6:24–26records it: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” The threefold appeal to “the Lord” suggests the Trinity. The seraphim Isaiah saw and described in Isaiah 6 cried to one another with this threefold exclamation: “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isaiah 6:3). Again, it seems to be an allusion to the Trinitarian nature of God.
One of the clearest Old Testament references to the Trinity isIsaiah 48:16, a prophetic verse spoken by Jesus Christ. It puts all three members of the Godhead together in one verse: “And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”
Repeatedly the New Testament refers to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together in the same passage, on the same level. In Matthew 3 we are told that as Jesus was being baptized, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove, and the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well–pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In John 14:16–17, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper . . . that is the Spirit of truth.” Jesus told His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). The final verse of 2 Corinthians says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).First Peter 1:2says that believers are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.”