30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 18 –Character of God – He is Good!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

To think that a Holy God would be ready to forgive the unholy is truly beyond words.

Scriptures of the Day:

Psalm 86:5

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.”

Psalm 100:5

“For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 27:13

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.”

To think that a Holy God would be ready to forgive the unholy is truly beyond words. That He would make promises to those who cannot keep them and fulfill them to their children, as well, is absolutely incredible.

But that is just who God is. He is good and there is nothing vile in Him. Nothing. We tend to think of good as getting our way or being blessed. But the definition of good as it refers to God is not like that.

God’s holiness is hard for us to fathom. We can explore analogies to try and comprehend what is must be like to be 100% pure, but it is beyond us.

Perfect King of kings, enthroned in His majesty, cloud filling the temple, chose to leave His throne and rescue His creation by dying for them. We defied His words, disobeyed His commands, were ungrateful enemies. And He set His love on us. He is good.

Lord, thank You for redeeming us from the grave and setting us free from the sin that destroys us. You are good, righteous, Holy, perfect, beautiful.

Day 20: Uncovering the Goodness of God When Life Hurts

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We are often unaware of all the good God is accomplishing while we are surrounded by troubles.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 10:23

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Romans 5:3-4

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Psalm 119:68

“You are good, and do good” 

In a barren wasteland covered in snow, we don’t often think there is life underneath. All seems lifeless, suffocated by the layers of ice and snow. But when the “Son” rises and shines on all of creation, everything underneath the surface is exposed and brought to life.

I don’t know where the errant theology slipped in that everything should be perfect in my life, but it did, almost unnoticed. I felt like I was owed a comfortable life because I was one of the King’s daughters who ordered my life in a way to please God. Yep, if I am honest I really thought that. Subconsciously perhaps, but the expectations of my heart came to the surface.

It feels like a slap in the face when circumstances reach a painful climax that leaves us stunned and disillusioned. It was not what we were expecting.

Suddenly in a landscape we did not anticipate, we are lost. We manage to remember the faith we profess, but our deceitful hearts silently question why and sometimes start to cover over hurt that we don’t dare expose.

In this crippled state, we feel engulfed by our emotions and the world feels blurry. Basic functioning is hard. But in the bittersweet place of brokenness there is a seed of hope that looks to our Creator. We want to believe Him, but we are afraid to have our “hopes” let down.

Confusion sets in as we try to understand what being “good” means when we consider the character of God. We live in a world that lives by the mantra, “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours”. “You be nice to me”, and vice versa. So when things happen that don’t feel “nice”, we cry “unfair”. But let’s consider what might be going on underneath the surface . . .

This God who allowed his people to be enslaved for 400 years also parted the sea and defeated their enemies. The slavery they bemoaned saved their lives from the famine in their own homeland. I am sure there were times where God’s people saw this, but the burdens they bore distracted them and made them forget.

This same God who gave His people over to Babylon also restored them. He destroyed all living creatures on the face of the earth, but kept a remnant alive on the ark of every beast of the earth along with Noah and his crew.

So often we have no idea all that God is doing behind the scenes. He is not surprised by our dilemma. He knew about it already and He wants to carry it for us. And maybe what we despise He actually has a divine purpose for allowing it in and it will ultimately bless us.

I don’t know why Job had to suffer so much. I don’t really get why satan was allowed to ask God to destroy poor Job. That’s because so often we tend to think from our flesh. It does not make sense that any suffering at all could be defined as “good”. Flesh cannot fully understand the ways of a Holy God.

Flipping our perspectives upside down, the Holy Spirit reveals what we really deserve and we accept the plan our Creator has for us. We belong to Him and He will heal all our pain and redeem it for His glory and our good.

The theme of discipline and redemption occurs many times in Scripture, and the discipline is not necessarily a lack of kindness. In His faithfulness, He disciplines those He loves. All hardship is to be endured as discipline by a loving Father. Discipline is a tough word. None of us like it if it is punitive.

We are often unaware of all the good God is accomplishing while we are surrounded by troubles. We wonder why we have to go through it all in the first place.

We do not have to be hypocritical and fake and pronounce when evil occurs in our lives that it is good. Of course it does not feel good. But in the Master’s hands, what was meant for evil will be turned into good. That is just Who He is.

Have we lost someone we cared about? Have we suffered a horrific trial in our lives? In every pain, there is One Who identifies with us and chose to walk that path first. It will not be wasted.

Like Job, who said, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him”, may God help us to trust God at all times. A goal for a perfect life void of pain is a shallow goal focused on self. But when we consider that we were made for His pleasure, we find our greatest peace in surrendering to His plan even when it includes pain.

We hold firmly to God’s hope because of the character behind His promise. He cannot be unfaithful. It is impossible for Him to do so.

Lord, You are good all the time. Thank You for being our everpresent help in time of trouble.

Day 3: Where was God?

 

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When we are wounded by life’s uncertainty, God loves to be our hero who uses the pain to wreck our religiosity and cause our hard hearts to become soft again.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 6:15-19

15 “And so by persevering, Abraham inherited the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and the oath serves as a confirmation to end all dispute. 17 In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, 18 so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” 

In the midst of the biggest heartache of our lives, our faith in God is under siege while voices around us as well as the voice of our own heart betray us and beg us to accuse God for the calamity that has come upon us.

Given everything we have, still we feel we have a right to it all.

In His sovereign wisdom, God created us without the ability of being able to control anything and with no certain promises in this world accept Himself. We all want to be able to count on something in this life and it is sometimes frightening when we cannot.

This human condition of dependency causes us to engage in many futile efforts of trying to overcome our dependent status. We can begin attempting to control our life or others, becoming angry with God, people or circumstances that we cannot control, or maybe at the end of ourselves, we bring our hurt to the only One Who can heal us – the One Who designed us to be in relationship with Himself.

Our genius God who made us to depend on Him did not do it with any other motive than love. Our hearts drift away – that is the norm. And when life is hard, our hope begins to fade, too.

So where was God when we suffered our biggest sorrow, illness, financial woe? I know, I know. If I say “he was there”, that is hard to understand. If He was there, why didn’t He stop it?

This question has caused many to doubt God’s goodness and yet the very same part of us who craves independence from God wants dependence if it means He can fix all of our problems. A little hypocritical, perhaps.

God is not insecure. He does not need us, but He loves us so much that He gave His own life for ours and lets us choose how we will live. He gives us a free will and although he is in complete control of the universe, we have the ability to choose sin or obedience. Death or life. There are consequences for those choices and when we or other people in our lives choose sin, we will be impacted. Is God to blame for that?

In the darkest moments of my searching for God in our mess, the LORD showed me that there were many layers in my heart. Layers of hurt, doubt, unbelief. I said I believed in God. But there were layers tucked beneath that could not fully trust the God Who could allow such pain in.

When we are wounded by life’s uncertainty, God loves to be our hero who uses the pain to wreck our religiosity and cause our hard hearts to become soft again.

I did not want my faith hurt or my children’s faith hurt from the actions of their father. The fact that he professed to be a Christian made our trauma even worse. In that place of desperation for healing and crying out to God that He would help me to raise my children and keep their hearts and faith strong, the LORD amazed me.

He did not remove my problems but He did change our hearts. Over and over again His promises stood out. They were not just nice sounding, fluffy wishes. They were real. They were for us. And they were accessed by His Holy Spirit, revealing the truth and helping us to believe and hold on to each precious promise.

“I would have despaired if I had not believed I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Those words from the Psalmist cut my heart wide open. Oh, God. I want to believe that my life will not always be a heap of ruins. God can do a lot with a willing heart who asks for help to believe when everything seems hopeless.

If someone has hurt you seemingly irreparably, know this: God is for you. He does not change, He is incapable of lying. Every single one of His promises are for you, if you will just persevere.

I can hear some saying impatiently, “I need that promise now”. So do I, friend. So do I. But when we begin to trust His promises He also reveals our need to trust Him with what is best for us. What we consider mercy might not be mercy. What we consider blessing might lead us to a curse. Father knows best. He is our Promise Maker & Promise Keeper and His ways are perfect.

As we move on toward maturity in Christ, we are no longer like little children who need to be given what we demand in order to feel loved. Instead, we stand in awe at the character of our God – unfailing, perfect in every way, and the fact that He would offer us promises at all – the ones who violated His perfect law – and we can only worship with gratitude.

Surrendering our hearts to Him and asking Him to help us trust Him when we don’t understand – is complete freedom. He is able to enable us when life is hard and turn our ashes into a thing of beauty.

I wrote the song, “Layers” last year out of this testimony of surrender that God led me through. I pray it encourages you, today, as well. Peel back the Layers of your heart and lay them at His feet. Expose and surrender the hurt and fears before the One Who wipes away every one of our tears.

Oh, Lord! You are so beautiful, so faithful, so good! Thank You for Your precious promises. Help us to cling to You and to Your promises and to never grow weary in doing so.

Holy Week: “Good” Friday

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Matthew 27:45-46

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

1 Peter 2:24

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Not every culture refers to Good Friday as “good”.  To the casual observer, God being crucified cruelly on a cross is not a good thing.  The day when God the Son chose to be rejected by God the Father in order to save the entire world is not adequately described by the word “good” either.

In His justice and righteousness, our Holy God exacted a punishment and a consequence for sin.  The wages or cost of our sins was death.  We were in need of an intermediary, but the perpetual slaughter of animals could not cleanse us of our habitual sin pattern.

In the middle of that desperate need, God provided Himself as the sacrificial Lamb. Bearing all of the abuse, infirmity and suffering in all the world, He, for the “joy” set before Him, chose to pay our debt.

How is it that we should obtain such grace?  That the One Who made us and saw every sinful inclination of our hearts would look on us with love and choose to die, knowing we were enemies and cheering on His death?

One of my biggest pet peeves is fake people – when people pretend to be my friend but talk about me behind my back or secretly plot harm against me.  They think I do not see. Christ was not fooled, either.  We are all just as guilty of unfaithfulness before our God Whose costly sacrifice was given on our behalf, even while we faltered in our devotion to Him.

Jesus did not entrust Himself to any man, but He gave Himself for every man.

The most powerful Being was the most humble, lavishly loving those Who were not worthy of such love.

With such a sacrifice offered for us, may God help us to die, too – to sin – and live Holy lives to bring Him glory and others to salvation.  His death seemed like an end, but Christ conquered death in dying when He overcame the cross and the grave.  Now that is not just good news, but the best news ever.

Lord, thank You for dying for us.  We can never thank You enough.  Help us to live grateful lives, spent sharing the message of the cross and the empty tomb.  You are Good, God, and all You do is good.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Choice of a Good Name

Proverbs 22:1, 4, 29

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great wealth, good favor more than silver or gold. 4 The reward for humility and fearing the LORD is riches and honor and life. 29 Do you see a person skilled in his work?  He will take his position before kings;  he will not take his position before obscure people.”

2 Corinthians 6:3

“We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

Acts 24:16

“This is the reason I do my best to always have a clear conscience toward God and toward people.”

Colossians 4:5

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities.”

A good name in the sight of God and man is more valuable than anything this world can offer.  But a good name is not the pursuit of popularity, nor is it a desire for approval from man.  Today as I read Proverbs 22, it is choosing a good name that stands out to me.  No one wants to be thought of in a bad light, but we also cannot control people’s perceptions.  So how do we choose a good name?  A faithful walk with God.

Solomon offers clues later in the same chapter about the pursuit of humility and fearing the LORD as being the most prized approach in life.  The fear of the LORD and humility are not “put on”, so how are they chosen?  We really cannot exhibit godly characteristics apart from God infusing them into us.  Humility is a recognition that we are completely incapable of anything good in and of ourselves.  It is not just a mental assent to this fact, however, as our posture is affected when we see how very needful we are of God.  So, how do we see our need of Him?

Attaining humility is not possible on our own.  We are the complete antithesis of humility, but with God all things are possible.  He often uses circumstances to affect our understanding and to produce in us what is pleasing in His sight. Sometimes we do not appreciate His methods, but we are also unaware of what He is accomplishing in us.

The fear of the LORD has been greatly misunderstood.  Recognizing that I am deserving of judgment and was instead extended mercy is the beginning of the fear of the LORD.  The fear of God can keep people at a distance from Him or it can affect us powerfully to draw nearer, prostrate and humbled by his greatness.  In this awe and a reverence of our Holy God, we conduct our lives with an accountability of all aspects of our lives laid bare before Him.

This month as been excruciatingly challenging for my family for many reasons.  In the midst of the difficulties, yesterday I paused and thanked God.  I also wept and surrendered to Him.  Had we not had some of the challenges that humbled me, I would not have been brought to the realization of what God showed me.  These momentary struggles are changing us for His glory. Sometimes pain is the best tool as it fashions us to be more like our Father.  But more than just circumstances, the discipline of seeking Him is a tool that places us in His hands to be transformed.

We are never done seeking Him and we never arrive.  Consistently walking before Him is a necessity.  Added to this foundation of humility and reverence of God is a call to be skilled.  Not so we can boast about our accomplishments, but as we seek to be faithful to our God, we need to develop all of the talents and skills He has placed in us for His glory.  It is not the seeking of our fame or acknowledgement, but the diligence of growing all of our God-given abilities for use by our Master.

However He wants to use it all is up to Him, but consistency, faithfulness, fear of the LORD, and humility speak to those around us of who we are in Christ.  Ultimately, we are hidden in Him and His Name becomes our own.  Representing Him is the highest honor we can have in this world – the best choice for a good name.  The good name we pursue is not our given name, but the name of Christ alone.

Lord Jesus, it is You we glorify – You who we want to please and be like.  Help us to never cease seeking to know You more and to embody Who You are to this world.  May we be found faithful and make You famous.

Worshipful Wednesday: My Healer

Psalm 30:2

“O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”

I am overcome today with praise for my Jehovah Rapha, the LORD Who heals me.  This morning when I awoke I realized I did not have the normal pain that has been my close companion for years. Actually, the pain has been dissipating the past couple of weeks and I wondered if God could be removing the physical burdens I bear daily.

Diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases, I have learned to live within the confines of the illnesses that hold me captive.  When I go outside of those boundaries, I hurt.  My sweet son sees when I am in pain and we have a routine where he tries to help me get going in the morning.  Daily living has been difficult, but I press on.  In moments when I have felt I could not bear the burden any longer, God’s strength carried me.

The LORD has healed me many times over the years and with each affliction I only drew nearer to my God.  While my flesh was beaten, my inner man clung to God and His promises.  Physical suffering is discouraging and greatly affects our ability to be effective.  Like walking in mud, progress seems insurmountable.  The lessons learned in each struggle, however, produce a treasure of a closer walk with God, even if they leave us with a lasting wound like Jacob when He wrestled with God.

I confess that I was afraid to even hope that He might be healing me.  I often did not see that He had already been healing me spiritually.  The thought of being delivered from the prison of pain I have lived through seemed to be too good to be true.  Surrendering my life to His hands, I rested in the truth that whatever God allowed into my life would serve to bring Him glory and fulfill His purposes through me.  Whether He wants to heal me for a day or for years, I thank Him and trust His decision.

It is a humbling experience to be physically afflicted and we can feel forgotten.  But if we had never experienced the pain, we would not have the gratitude for God’s deliverance.  We tend to take things for granted until what we assume is ours is taken away.  God in His wisdom knows what we need – both blessings and burdens.  Perhaps the most beautiful lesson learned through my health ordeals has been to be surrendered to whatever the LORD’s will is.  Whether sick or healthy, it is all about His glory in every circumstance.  Either way, He is our Healer – healing us inwardly or outwardly through it all.

Lord, I am overcome by Your faithfulness.  Who are we, that You should notice us at all?  And yet You want to heal us and draw us nearer to You to help others be healed, too.  Thank You, God!

Good Friday?

John 19:17-24

17 and carrying his own cross he went out to the place called “The Place ofthe Skull(called in Aramaic Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him along with two othersone on each side, with Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the crosswhich read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.” 20 Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldierand the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.24 So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says,They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.”  So the soldiers did these things.

Responsibility.  The aim of teens who long to be “free”, and also avoided by most.  Sure, we want responsibility that we perceive as helping us gain preferences in life, but taking on responsibility for others is not seen as something to be desired.

Seldom would we find someone willing to bear the responsibility for everyone else when he was innocent Himself.  Even children sense the injustice and want people to know when they are blameless.  For Christ to willingly permit sinful man to torture Him when He was guiltless and had all the power in the world at His disposal is beyond words or understanding. This is wrong that an innocent man should die – how could it be called “good”?

The God of the universe allowed man to kill God.  And not just a quick death, either.  Painful and humiliating.  Why did it have to be that way?  When I contemplate Christ’s suffering on my behalf, I wish it did not have to be so graphic, so hard. But God knew fully what was to happen long before it ever was.  He could have changed the circumstances and He did not.

The timing and the manner of His death were in His will.  Our sins were destroying us – vile and condemning our souls to Hell – He took that suffering for us; the perfect, spotless Lamb bore all of our sins.  The weight of the world was upon Him and He bore it with humility and love.

How can this day be called “Good”?  Logically we know that the redemption of man is the best news ever, but the term “good” makes me think of how Holy He is.  Holy and yet nailed to a tree.  It is a day of solemn reflection that One so Righteous was cruelly crucified.

When a soldier sacrifices his own life and lays it down for another, there is gratitude for the precious gift given, but no rejoicing in the lost life.  Our celebration of His resurrection is coming, but for now, I want to bow before my King of Kings with overflowing thankfulness that He would die for me.  What a Good, Holy, Perfect God, who would suffer for our sins willingly and do this with joy in His heart.

Lord, thank you for coming to save us from our sins so we could know You!  Help us to never take such a sacrifice for granted and to walk in obedience with You all our days.

When Fear Faces Faith

Isaiah 8:11-13

“Indeed this is what the LORD told me.  He took hold of me firmly and warned me not to act like these people.  ‘Do not say, ‘conspiracy’ every time these people say the word.  Don’t be afraid of what scares them; don’t be terrified.  You must recognize the authority of the LORD who commands armies.  He is the one you must respect; He is the one you must fear.'”

2 Kings 6:17

“Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he can see.” The LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw that the hill was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Recently I noticed within myself an anxiety.  Fears creeping in over the atrocities all over the world and what it could mean for my children, friends and family, God’s church, this nation. It is certainly human to have such dread when daily we see evil being committed.  But we who are found in Christ do not need to fear what the wicked dread.

It sounds ridiculous to say, “don’t fear”, when people, crazed with hatred fueled by religion are increasing in numbers and attacking at whim.  Until we truly understand how mighty our God is, how He is omniscient, omnipotent, the only One with whom we will have to answer about how we conducted our lives.  It is then that we recognize temporary threats as nothing compared to the greatness of our God.

Still our faith is tested when we consider that nothing happens apart from His permission.  How could God allow evil to continue?  Why does He not squash them in the midst of their evil campaigns?  To ask such questions is to refute the wisdom behind God’s plan, which includes free will.  Although He permits us to choose how to live this life, He holds promises for those who still trust in Him and persevere in that faith, despite the seeming victory of the evil all around them.

The battle is the Lord’s, and it is a spiritual one.  We see the flesh and often cannot see what is transpiring in the spiritual realm.  But, oh to peacefully, sweetly trust in our Maker’s strength, wisdom and promises.  No matter what things look like to our naked eyes, what God is accomplishing even through evil is unbeknownst to us.  Trusting in His goodness and sovereignty is where we can have peace in all circumstances.  Knowing Him and His revealed will is a compass, enabling us to see His purposes are far above are own.

We desire peace on earth, Jesus said there would not be peace – not because He did not want peace, but because He knew the hearts of men.  We essentially want earth to be Heaven, but it is instead a temporary stay in which our eternity is decided.  We fear death, while Jesus, who chose to face the fear of death for us, said death no longer has any sting. Dwelling in the flesh makes it difficult for us to think with a Heavenly mindset, but we have great hope because God warned us about the things transpiring even now and has revealed the end to us, as well.  He knows the end – isn’t that great news?  Here’s a hint – the bad guys do not win!

God is calling us to trust Him with our fears and also trust that whatever He allows into our lives, He will enable us to walk through it and use it for our good.  But what if anxiety is persistent, despite our faith in God?  Our flesh may struggle with fear still, despite all we know about out amazing God – who uses evil and good for His purposes.  We find compassion in our LORD Jesus, who experienced anxiety when He contemplated what He was about to endure, sweating drops of blood – but he did not allow that anxiety to keep Him from doing God’s will.  He saw the greater purpose and trusted God.  If we focus on God and His character instead of the trial at hand, we will have victory – He’s got it all in His hands.

Lord, open our eyes to see that nothing escapes Your notice and You are in complete control.  Our trust is in You alone, Lord.