Finding God in the Valley (2 Cor. 12:9)

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And He said to me,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

This morning we requested prayers for our youngest daughter.  She is 8 years old and for the past 2 and half years she has lived in pain due to chronic migraines.  She’s just started a new regimen that has her taking a total of 15 pills a day, and we requested prayers that this might finally be the answer.  Of course we’ve requested prayers many times on her behalf over the duration.  In the prayer this morning, this verse was mentioned, and I have to admit it was very difficult to hear.

I know I’m not alone. I know that there are many who pray and pray for healing for themselves or for a loved one, and that healing never comes. It can be devastating to watch a loved one suffer, and it’s easy to get angry at God.  Why? Why is He allowing this to happen? As I mentioned, it was hard to hear this verse this morning. That’s not what I want to hear! It hurts.

breathe… say a silent prayer for strength and understanding… breathe… pray some more…

Peter wrote “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19) I see people looking at my daughter and gaining strength.  I see the example she sets in how she handles the tremendous amount of pain she lives with. I see the effect of people who send her cards and lift her up in prayer, all the while strengthening their own faith and walk as they work to serve her.

I ran across this quote and it’s something I need to take to heart:

it is imperative that the God of the mountaintop also be the God of the valley. (emphasis mine) The apostle Paul requested three times to be healed of his “thorn in the flesh.” The response from the Lord? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The sufficiency of God’s grace is found in that we can endure suffering just as Jesus endured the Cross! Jesus endured for the “joy set before him” (Heb. 12:2), and God’s grace allows us to do the same. Our affliction is purposeful and passing, and although we may not be able to understand it, we must cling to God’s goodness and follow the pattern of his Son.

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Unsearchable, Awesome God (Isaiah 40:28)

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Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable

What an incredible truth! Our God is the eternal One. He is self-existent.  He is the God of Heaven, the One who spoke the world into existence (Gen 1). Our God is a God of power and great might.  He does not tire, nor grow weak, but actively works in the lives of men.  He provides our needs (Matthew 5). He gives strength to the weak. He heals the sick. He grants peace to those who follow after Him.  He listens to and answers prayers. We see all these “pressures,” and “responsibilities” and yet He never buckles.  He never needs a vacation or calls in sick.

The verse says “His understanding is unsearchable.” One commentator wrote:

it is infinite, it reaches to all persons and things, and therefore he cannot be at a loss to provide for his people, or plead their cause; nor can their case be unknown to him, or he want either power or skill to help them.

The Lord Himself said “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

We don’t understand why things happen or don’t happen, but that’s okay, because we know and trust the One who does.  Not only does He know the “why,” He can handle the “how.”  Not only that, He promises “…that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

Praise God!

Peace, Blessed Peace (John 14:27)

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Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Hectic days. Being pulled in 13 different directions as a spouse and parent. Frustrations. Heartbreaks. Dirty floors and empty cupboards. Overdue bills. Car trouble. The never ending loads of laundry…

There is so much to pull us down until we have no energy to pull ourselves back up, and nothing left to give. Perhaps we even start to buy what others have been telling us “There is no rainbow at the end of the storm” or “The light at the end of the tunnel is on coming traffic.”

In the midst of all this though, we can have peace.  We can be okay. Because in the end, what? John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” (Emphasis mine) That’s all we need to know. We can go to bed and rest peacefully because with Jesus it’s okay.  We can get up and deal with the day’s troubles and be okay – He wins.  And so will we if we follow after Him. (Rev. 2:10)

Lifeline to Heaven (Hebrews 4:16)

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Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This week I’ve gotten to spend time with one of my oldest and dearest friends. When we get together, my husband knows to settle in and get comfortable, because our conversations never last less than a good hour at least.  I’ve been friends with this particular lady since early high school, and while I will not divulge the secret of that time frame, suffice it to say, we’ve known each other a long time.  When we get together often all we are doing is talking.  We talk about our kids, about jobs, about common friends and acquaintances.  We talk about interests, old problems, new joys. We just like to talk!  By sharing with each other, we are strengthening our friendship, and I believe that is why we have remained friends for so long and why after long periods of time apart, we can always come back together as if it had only been a couple of days.

Are we like that with God? Paul encouraged Christians to pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).  Do we realize the importance of our prayer life? Do we recognize the fact that our prayers go to the very throne room of God? So why do we neglect such a privilege?  After all, prayer is our lifeline – our means of communication with the Father.  Our “calls” never get dropped, our “messages” never get lost in cyber space. He doesn’t ignore us, He never goes on vacation, and He always answers. We strengthen and grow our relationships with other people through communication, but for some reason, we often let the most important relationship of our life go cold because we just won’t “pick up the phone.”

Thinking on these things, ask yourself – how’s my prayer life? Do I talk more and easier to my friends than I do to my God? If so, what am I going to do about it?

1 Corinthians 9:16-17

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For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship

I came across this passage this evening and it hit me really hard.  What is my attitude  as I strive to work for the Lord and His church? Is it joyful service, or is it grudging duty? Is it a “get to” or a “have to”?  What does God see when He looks on my heart?

I want to praise God for all that He has done.  I want to rejoice in the privilege of working for Him.  I want the Psalmist’s words to echo and ring true in my life:

I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:1-3)

As I think on my attitude, tonight David’s prayer is my own:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)

1 Timothy 2:1

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Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men

Paul encouraged Timothy to prayer, and we should take that encouragement and admonition to heart.  When we pray, do we realize that our words are going directly to the throne room of Heaven? What an amazing privilege we have! “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:16)

It’s not just about praying for our own needs and desires, but – as our text states – we ought to pray for “all men.”  Take some time and study these Scriptures:

  • Job 42:11
  • Ephesians 6:18
  • James 5:16
  • 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
  • Esther 4:15-16

Today, I’d ask that you would lift my young daughter up in prayer.  She is 8 years old and has suffered from chronic pain for over two and a half years. The Lord knows her pain, and has heard many prayers on her behalf.  I ask that you join in those prayers.  For now, He has not healed her, but I know that His glory has shone in her life and in the strength she has shown.  It is my prayer that He will one day heal her but in the meantime that I gain strength from her example of steadfast faith and endurance.

Proverbs 1:8

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My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother;

Often we read this verse, and we look at our children and we say “See! God says you are supposed to listen to me.”  But there’s more. Before we get too quick to point this out to our children thinking our work is done, we need to remember that this requires something of us as parents as well.  In this, there is an implied command that parents are to teach their children.

Notice Moses’ admonition:  ““Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  (Deut.6:5-9)

And again in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,”

Do we do this? Do we spend the time teaching our children about God and His law, or do we sit back and expect the Sunday school teachers and the preachers to do that? Do we understand that if we don’t take the time, then someone else will.  And we wonder what is happening to the faith of our youth…

Do we take the time to pray with our children and over our children? Do we pray for their faith? Do we pray that God do great things through them? I read an account today of a father who prayed that his children not just be good, but that they become “great men who will do great things for a great God.”  That’s my prayer. When we think of our children and dream of what their lives will be, does that list include – first and foremost – that they be strong Christians who will be of benefit to His kingdom and will bring many souls to Him? Do we aspire that our boys will become elders and our girls will become wives worthy of such men? Do we teach them what would be required of them in order to do that? We take the time to encourage them in other interests, what about spiritually?

“I am not raising my kids to survive the world. I’m raising them to change it.” That’s what I want for my children.

Psalm 18:30

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As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

I looked this one up in the Greek and I love the amazing promise that I read!

His way – path, course, road

is perfect – it is entire, complete, without blemish, whole, sound; gives the idea of integrity and truth

the Word – commandment, speech, word

is proven – refined, cast, fine, purged, pure, proven

He is a  shield– protector, defense, buckler

to all – whole, all, any, every one

who trust – to confide in, to flee for protection, to make refuge in, to hope in

His path is perfect.  Jesus proclaimed “I am the way” (John 14:36). He will not steer us wrong.  Thinking of the truth and integrity of His Word, we can picture a goldsmith whose gold is pure.  He is a shield and a protector to everyone who would look to Him for refuge.  If we will just make Him our refuge, if we will place our hope in Him, He will not fail us.

Matthew 24:35

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Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

People have been trying to destroy the Word of God for centuries! In Jeremiah’s day, the king Jehoiakim actually took a knife, cut out offending pages and threw them into the fire! (Jer. 36:22-23). The early Christians were brutally persecuted. Acts 8:3 saysAs for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” But notice what happened (v. 4) Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

I found this really interesting:

“Attempts to destroy the Bible have always been a part of this remarkable book’s history. In 303 A.D., for instance, the Roman Emperor Diocletian issued an edict to destroy all Christians and their Bible. The persecution that followed as a result of this edict was one of the most brutal in Roman history. Toward its end, Diocletian ordered a monument to be erected and on it had these triumphant words inscribed, “The name Christian is extinguished.” Twenty-five years later, however, Diocletian was dead, his successor Constantine had legalized Christianity and had ordered Bibles prepared at government expense.

In 1776, Voltaire, the French philosopher, announced that, “One hundred years from my day, there will not be a Bible on earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity-seeker.” Yet, one hundred years later, his very own house and press were being used to print and store Bibles by the Geneva Bible Society. Ironically enough, at a public auction held one hundred years to the day of Voltaire’s prediction, the first edition of his work sold for 11¢ but a Bible manuscript was purchased for over half a million dollars!

Modern times are no different. In spite of fierce attacks by secular philosophies and totalitarian governments, more Bibles have been printed in more languages than any other book in each year of the 20th century.”

Why has it withstood all of these attacks? Because the Word of God is truth.  Because we need it.  Because it has vital information about salvation and how to obtain it. (2 Pet. 1:3; Acts 4:12)  Because by it, we will ultimately be judged (John 12:48)

Psalm 33:12

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Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance

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If you continue reading in the text, you’ll find that God looks down on all the people of the world and He considers all their works” (v. 15) The psalmist recognizes that it’s not military might or physical strength that protects people and their leaders, it is God. Verse 18 says “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy,”

In the physical world, we see God’s hand. He chooses who will be president or king or leader of the countries . He allows good and He allows bad. Psalm 22:8 For the kingdom is the Lord’s, And He rules over the nations. I believe that what and who He allows is based on what is best for the people at the time. Remember that chastisement is still an expression of love!

If we look at this verse in a spiritual sense, we see a nation not defined by borders, language or culture. We see a nation defined by their devotion and obedience to the Living God. Paul reminded us in Phil 3:14, 20 “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus… (20) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ’

We cannot begin to count the blessings that come from being citizen’s of the Lord’s nation, His chosen people. The greatest of which is salvation.