This is part 4 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.
“But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Loneliness has a way of seeping into the soul uninvited, slowly sapping our stores of joy until a gaping emptiness remains. Loneliness assaults us in the dead of night or kicks us in the gut as we jostle our way through the madding crowd. It metastasizes through our hearts and minds, increasing our susceptibility to temptation.
“I just wish someone understood…”
“Not a single person has walked in my shoes.”
“I don’t have anyone to talk to…”
“Even my wife doesn’t get it…”
“Everyone I see on Facebook is out having a good time, but I don’t have any close friends.”
“Since my husband betrayed me, I can’t trust anyone ever again.”
“I don’t think God hears my prayers anymore…”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever felt misunderstood or forsaken? Continue reading →
This is part 2 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.
One of the greatest tragedies for a young child is to grow up without a good father. For one thing, fathers provide protection, establish balance, and are often essential to a child’s understanding of how men and women should behave toward one another.
Fathers are a vital part of the family unit.
In ages past, fathers often treated their children as though they ought to be seen and not heard, rarely showing affection and often remaining aloof. This explains why many of the old preachers and pastors framed God as wrathful and distant. In our current culture, many hear “God is our Father” and do not believe He actually exists or cares because their own fathers are likewise absent or uncaring.
How we view earthly fathers directly affects how we relate to our Heavenly Father.Continue reading →
The Thanksgiving holiday fast approaches here in the United States. Thanksgiving recipes abound, turkeys are running for cover, and plans are being made in earnest for that fourth Thursday of November. I love the trend of the past few years of posting one thing to be thankful for each day in November, as it puts our hearts in tune with the blessings God has given us.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Welcome to mile marker 25 of the #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)
Someone out there is struggling alone. (At least, they feel alone…) It might even be you.
If you’ve ever heard the Beatles’ song “Help!” You’ll recognize their lyrics in the title. We do need help from “somebody,” and not just “anybody.” We need help from the Lord.
When life gets hard—it does, and it will, if it hasn’t already—we find ourselves in a state of loneliness. Our eyes and heart look down, our feeling of isolation grows, and we cast desperately about for support. The danger is in looking for help in all the wrong places—drugs, alcohol, friends, weapons, etcetera. Hills may offer high ground and hiding places, but they are incomparable to strongest helper of all—the Lord.
How is the Lord a strong helper?
He made heaven and earth.
There is a tendency to gloss over this point. Consider, for a moment, the vastness of the earth and the far more incomprehensible reaches of the universe. Yeah, the God that I serve made all that. Now, flip that around and consider the invisible atom or the microbes that can only be observed under high-powered microscopes. The God I serve is so observant, that he knows the number of all those trillions of microscopic entities. No problem of ours is so great he cannot tackle it, nor so minor that it escapes His notice.
He doesn’t sleep.
When the prophet Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and defied the prophets of Baal, he had a good laugh when they made futile supplications to a non-existent God. “Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18.27)
Our God never has to be roused to hear our prayer. He knows what we need before we ask Him; He just waits for us to bring our troubles. While we are asleep, God is still working. He never sits idle.
He is our keeper.
A keeper is, by definition, a guardian or caretaker. God is our guardian. The remainder of the Psalm emphasizes some of the ways in which God guards and cares for us. He watches our goings and comings and is concerned with every moment of our life, and the lives of the billions of people around us. Warren Wiersbe writes,
“In writing about the sun and the moon, the psalmist was saying several things. To begin with, in that part of the world, the burning sun is menacing (2 Kings 4:18-19; Jonah 4:8), but at night, the sudden drop in temperature is both uncomfortable and unhealthy, if you lack warm covering. Day and night, our Father is with us to shelter us from that which could harm us. The Jewish people followed a lunar calendar (81:3), so the writer was also referring to days (the sun) and months (the moon). From day to day, from month to month, from season to season (Gen. 1:16-18), from year to year, our Father is with us in the many challenges and changes of life.” (To read more, click this link to visit Bible Gateway.)
Are you seeking help from God first or do you come to Him only at the end of your tether?
Go to the One who is all-powerful, all-seeing, and far wiser than any human who has ever, or will ever, live upon this earth.
It could be today you feel alone and helpless. No mountain is too isolated, no storm too strong, no prison so impenetrable that God cannot reach you.
It’s almost over! Tomorrow we reach the finish line of our 26-day #encourage marathon! I hope you will join me on Facebook, Twitter and here at Elihu’s Corner as we reach the end.
Feel free to download and share the graphics of these verses/passages on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage), or email them to a friend who needs encouragement.
Make some time to copy down these posts. Some of them are a bit long, but it only takes a few minutes. Ask your kids to do it with you. Don’t just be encouraged, encourage others!
If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list. All these posts will be available here under the #encourage tag. You can also type #encourage in the search window at the top of the page.
Welcome to mile-marker 18 of our #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)
Someone out there needs the Lord. (That would be all of us…)
If you look back at your life, do you ever recall a day in which the sun did not rise? You may not have seen it, or a storm may have been so dark that you barely registered it, but did the sun fail to rise?
I’ve been alive since 1981, and I’ve never failed to see a new day. The sun always rises. It is even more dependable than death and taxes.
Who created that flaming orb? Who ordained the seasons and the earth’s rotation? What does it reveal about Him? The only thing more constant than the sunrise is the Lord who made it. If He is more dependable than the sunrise, can we count on Him to fulfill His promises? Can we trust Him to be there for us when we face trouble? Can we rely on Him to be present in our despair?
This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
We are nearing the end of this series! As I indicated in my post about light, these last few posts are focusing on the greatest lights of all. I’ve talked about love and hope. Today, we are going to talk about the Bible.
There’s a new trend among Christians to say that the New Testament is not the inspired Word of God, but consider: the Apostles were handpicked by Christ, witnessed His death, burial and resurrection and possessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit led them as the toiled to bring people the gospel. God has always preserved His message for generations yet unborn. The Bible is His preserved message for us, and I am thankful that I have ready access to it. There are more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient historical document. God protected His message and I trust that He would not leave us in the lurch.
The light of truth
The Bible—all 66 books—brings us the light of God’s truth. Sometimes I wish that God’s expectations were laid out for us in a neat little list, but then we would seek to justify ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search it out. God wants us to dig through His Word and learn step by step, day by day, what He wants for us. It’s a life-long endeavor, but those who seek, find.
Truth is not relative. There is one truth: God’s.
Knowledge of God
Why do we study the Word? Our primary purpose should be to knowthe Lord. Every book teaches us about Him—His faithfulness, His steadfast love, His justice and His mercy. We see His hand working with the proud and the lowly. Nobody can thwart His plans. We learn that we can truly trust the Lord in all circumstances.
In the Bible we see God has had a plan for us from the beginning of time. We see how salvation is to be received. We learn how to obey God the way He wants us to obey. We just need to have open eyes and a heart set on seeking His will and not our own.
I am thankful that God has preserved His Word for me and for the rest of the world. I am thankful for this beacon of truth that hasn’t been destroyed.
This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
An innumerable horde of creatures besieged the city of Minas Tirith. Dark clouds fill the sky. Ominous pounding reverberates through the courtyard as the orcs and Uruk-hai attempt to penetrate the large doors. The situation is desperate. The men quake with fear but stand ready to fight. The stench of death surrounds them. Despair is palpable.
Pippin, the hobbit, turns to Gandalf the wizard and says, “I didn’t think it would end this way.”
Gandalf looks kindly at the hobbit and remarks, “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”
Pippin’s face reflects his confusion. “What? Gandalf? See what?”
“White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”
“Well that isn’t so bad,” Pippin says.
Gandalf smiles. “No. No it isn’t.”
In that dark and desperate moment, Gandalf gave Pippin a glimmer of hope—an expectation of better things.
In another scene, the Rohirrim (the cavalry) appear on the hillside. As the horses begin to move forward into the fray, rays of sunshine break through the gloom as though hope for victory has finally come.
That particular series of books and movies overflows with scenes contrasting light vs darkness, and despair vs hope. On some level, we can all relate to these moments. How often have you been at the brink of utter ruin, only to be saved from destruction? Has life ever seemed purposeless? meaningless?
For the Christian, we remember that life for us was aimless before Christ. Without Him, we faced death (and life) without hope. In our cushy country, most of us have never faced starvation or persecution—at least not since the end of World War II. There is this sense that all will be well. There is confidence that the government will protect and provide. Either that or we’ll pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. That’s misplaced confidence.
What would happen if all those “supports” were suddenly destroyed? In what or in whom would people place their hope?
We have an unshakeable hope. A confident expectation for better things. And it isn’t here in this decaying world!
What is the Christian’s hope?
A hope that defies circumstance.
One of the things that perplexed the Romans during the rise of Christianity was the peace with which the Christians faced death. No matter how much they persecuted, threatened, tortured and imprisoned them, the Christians would not renounce their faith nor beg for mercy. They had confidence that God would deliver their soul if not their body.
The Romans hoped that persistent persecution would destroy the church, but it didn’t. It flourished! The people saw hope reflected in the lives of those Christians and they were hungry to have that same confidence.
Hope that anchors our soul.
When a ship lowers its anchor, it’s very hard for that ship to go wandering off with the tide. It may move around a little in its place, but the anchor keeps it from being carried off by the wind and waves.
Our hope is like that anchor. When circumstance and the deceitfulness of the world push us about, our hope holds us in place so we do not wander away from God.
The Hebrew writer refers to hope as an anchor in the following passage:
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
~ Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV
Hope in God’s Faithfulness and steadfast love.
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Lamentations 3:19-24 ESV
The above passage is one of my favorites. It eloquently expresses why we can trust in the Lord: he is faithful, his love is steadfast, his mercy never ends. Do you know anybody like that on earth? Have your friends ever let you down? What about family? The church?
Humans will always fall short. We aren’t perfect. Our minds get overwhelmed, our bodies ache and break, our emotions take over. God isn’t frail like us. He is sure, strong and steady. He will never leave us or forsake us.
Placing your confidence in God is a secure choice. We can trust Him. We can have hope because of his trustworthiness.
Hope for eternal peace.
This world is essentially a foreign country for us. It’s a place where we are forged. God wants to know if we really love Him. He wants us all to be with Him in heaven, but many don’t want anything to do with him. They want their way. They want to satisfy themselves.
I was “they” until I decided to put my hope in something better. It’s easy to fall into the rhythm of the world and make a home here—especially when circumstances are wonderful. But with each new day I have to remind myself that this too shall pass—the good and the bad. Every day.
My hope is in a place where my spouse and my children won’t be threatened by thugs. My hope is in a place where those who’ve gone before me are waiting. My hope is in a place where I will finally be face to face with my creator, surrounded by his perfect glory. I’ll get to see Jesus, the one who saved me from eternal death.
I have hope. And I am so thankful to God for giving me a confident expectation for better things.
This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
One of the things we take for granted is our opportunity to worship in peace. While there have been incidents with lunatics walking into church buildings and opening fire, that is a relatively rare occurrence. We do not have to worship in catacombs as the early Christians did. We needn’t fear being dragged into an arena to be consumed by lions. We are free to worship every week. If you’ve read about Corrie Ten Boom or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, you know that during World War II, they were locked in concentration camps and prisons. It’s hard to go worship with other Christians when you are imprisoned. They still found ways to encourage and worship, but they were still isolated.
Saying we are thankful is one thing; showing we are thankful is quite another. If we regularly put off going to worship, are we thankful for the opportunity or do we take it for granted? Let’s make it our aim to be there as often as we are able.
Today, as we go before the Lord in worship, let’s do the following:
Give thanks for the opportunity to be surrounded by others who love God.
Give thanks for Jesus’ sacrifice that brings us salvation and freedom as we take the Lord’s Supper.
Give thanks for your brothers and sisters in Christ who fellowship with you.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
For the past two days, I have been listing reasons why I am thankful for a particular thing, but today I’d like to do something a little different. I am thankful for God’s unfailing love, but there are such a vast array of scriptures on this attribute of God. It would take me a long time to discuss all the aspects of God’s great love. Even then, I’d surely miss something. So for this post, we are going to focus on one particular passage: Psalm 107.
What does it mean to be steadfast? It is defined as “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.” Does that describe God’s love? Yes! His love is unwavering, unfailing, and dutifully firm.
He is faithful even when we are faithless. He is merciful when we deserve only justice.
Who knows how many millions of words we shall speak and write in our short lifetimes. What percentage of those words will be spent praising and speaking of our Lord?How often do we give thanks for His great love? It should be in my daily prayers, but often forget to thank Him for his love. I thank Him for his grace, my salvation, and the blessings of this life, but I need to remember to give thanks specifically for His unfailing, steadfast love.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
Has the Lord redeemed you through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ? Give thanks!
Have people come to serve the Lord from all over the world? Give thanks!
(I want you to notice something as we look at Psalm 107. There are two repetitive themes or phrases: “they cried to the Lord—He delivered” and “thank the Lord for his steadfast love.”)
Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Have you ever been in a “wilderness period” in your life? It could be a time when you are in a holding pattern or a time when there was no one to worship with. It’s a lonely time, but one in which we become more dependent on the Lord. We understand more fully the breadth and width and height of his great love. Give thanks for those times!
When you sought the Lord and longed for Him, did He leave you hanging? No. He satisfies us with his unfailing love (Psalm 90:14).
The Lord showed His love while we were still sinners.
Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.
So many pictures come to mind in the above verses, but I will focus on this: We were prisoners of sin and darkness. Through Christ, the bonds of sin were broken. Thank God for His Son and freedom from sin!
It also brings to my mind this song:
“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, his mercy rains.
~ Chris Tomlin
Give thanks! We are set free. We have been given mercy instead of justice!
Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
This section brings to mind the Israelites in the wilderness. They complained to God about their plight in the wilderness and he sent fiery snakes. Many died and were near death. They asked Moses to pray to God to remove the fiery serpents, and the Lord did. How often does our greed or our complaint bring greater trouble? More often than we care to admit! And yet, God is patient with us because, like a good Father, he loves his children and remembers that we are but dust.
I also like this section: “offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” How much time do we spend speaking and singing of all the wonderful things God has done for us in this life compared to how often we complain about all the things going wrong? I am going to try something and I hope you will join me. (If you are around me regularly, please remind me of this if I start to grumble about some inconvenience). When you get ready to complain about something, find something to be thankful for instead. Instead of grumbling complaints, let’s shout our blessings.
Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end.[b] Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out,and as they sailed he [Jesus] fell asleep.
And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger.And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
Is Jesus in the boat with you? Is He dwelling in your life? When the storms of life are raging about you, does He bring tranquility to your heart? Give thanks for the peace that passes understanding! I am so thankful for these accounts and these Psalms because life so much like an ocean—unpredictable and ever-changing. Sometimes there is calm and peace; other times the waves threaten to crush us. Only God has power over our lives. I can have peace knowing He is in control. I am thankful that He loves me so much and brings such reassurance.
He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish.
When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.
Be wise with me and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.
Where would we be if God did not love us? What would life be like without God? So many people think that bad things happen because God doesn’t care. They are looking at things backwards. The terrible things of this life happen for a reason. The first reason—there is evil all around us in the world. Countries full of poverty are usually destitute because of the greed of other men. Women are raped because of the lust of men. Men are killed because of the violence of humanity. What about “natural disasters?” Let me ask you this: is this world meant to be our eternal home? Natural disasters remind us of God’s great power and our powerlessness. When has a scientist ever stopped a storm? The destruction, the brokenness, the heartache remind us that this is temporary. They draw us closer to a far better country with a ruler who is always fair and just. A King, a father who loves us with an unfailing love.
Give thanks to the Lord. His steadfast love endures forever.
I posted this on our Facebook page this morning, and I wanted to share it with those of you who are not on Facebook as well.
Word of the day: endurance!
Definition: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity. From Merriam-Webster.com.
In the effective prayer post yesterday, I talked about praying for and encouraging the “strong” Christians. These are the people who are like rocks—strong, undaunted and seemingly unbreakable—but they are not unbreakable.
Today, I read this passage in Hebrews:
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Hebrews 10.35-39, ESV, emphasis mine
You might be under great duress. You may be discouraged and frustrated with all the apathy towards God and His truth. I know that I am.
If you are overseas and under persecution, my prayers are with you. Don’t give up. Have courage: the reward is far greater than the suffering.
Press on, my friends. Press on to know the Lord. Press on towards the goal which is an eternity of knowing God as He knows us. I look forward to that day.
This is a hard race. Pace yourself and run through the pain.
If you haven’t sent a card or email or text of encouragement to the person you are praying for, you might want to include this passage from Hebrews.