Sovereign Encounter

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Sovereign Encounter

By Patricia Knight

It was a clear, cool, moonlit evening as I walked the pine needle strewn path toward the cabin in the woods. With each step I could detect the crunchy snap of exploding dry pine cones beneath my feet, the only distraction that pierced the quiet serenity of the evening. A full moon provided the illumination necessary to reveal the tranquil fresh water lake, a picturesque scene poking through the black silhouetted pine branches at twilight.

A thick plume of smoke emanated from the massive fieldstone chimney. Without a breeze on this calm evening, the smoke lingered in a vertical spiral, suspended high above the cabin roof, producing a pungent wood smoke permeating the surroundings.

I climbed the few steps to enter the screened-in porch, speckled with casual rocking chairs. In the silence I could nearly hear the relaxed conversations that had occurred in that intimate space over the span of many decades. A simple welcome sign replaced a lock on the front door. My tentative knocks resounded raucous in the silence of the night.

Upon entering the log cabin, I was greeted by rustic ambiance. A lively crackling fire filled the imposing fieldstone fireplace on the opposite wall. Fingers of heat reached out to entwine my cool body with penetrating warmth. Comfortable furniture encircled the fireplace, pieces obviously constructed of native materials, perhaps obtained from a nearby cedar swamp. Other furniture pieces were upholstered leather, a bulky style that engulfed a person who sat therein. Abundant blanket throws and casual decorative pillows scattered around the living space produced an emphasis of pleasant repose; the interior effused cheer and relaxation.

Once my eyes adjusted to the soft glowing lights, I viewed the form of someone snuggled into a high backed chair. As I spoke softly to avoid shattering the precious silence, perforated only by the sizzling of the fireplace logs, He arose to greet me. Though I had never met Him in the flesh, once we established eye contact, I readily identified the mysterious host as Jesus Christ, my sovereign Savior. Our glances locked in mutual acknowledgement. When I responded to His gesture to collapse in a chair close to Him, we conversed effortlessly, the manner in which best friends banter. Jesus had never been far away, for His main residence is my heart. This rare, personal encounter in a remote location afforded us an occasion of undisturbed fellowship.

There were no uncomfortable introductions or interludes communicated in our dialogue, only the magnetic affection of my Lord’s true character. I was in the presence of the Creator and sustainer of the universe, the Prince of Peace, and the Savior of my soul. Generously, Jesus was also my friend.

“You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). Jesus takes His friends into His confidence, just as He unconditionally welcomed my presence this evening. Interacting with Jesus in the tranquil atmosphere reinforced His authority and adoration; purity and perfection; glory and grace.

The minute Jesus uttered my name, my inner soul responded with excitement. Joy coursed through my thoughts and words. As He grasped my hands in His, I could easily detect the still-prominent scars on His palms, created from His heinous crucifixion two millenniums ago, a poignant reminder of His love and sacrifice willingly offered me, opening the way to boldly and confidently communicate with Him at any time.

Jesus was splendid and majestic, the King of kings who fully understood my human weaknesses. He verbally lavished me with love and grace, instructing me to continually grow in faith. Jesus reassured me of His intense interest in my development as His ardent follower, urging me to keep all of His commandments, and explaining that the more I love Him, the more my love will overflow for others.

He reminded me to share my interests and goals with Him, obediently depending upon His perfect plans and precise timing for answers to my prayers. He assured me that with every morsel of trust I place in Him, my Savior, I shall grow closer to Him.

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“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8, KJV).

As I evolve closer to Jesus in fellowship, He challenges me to remember, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-17). I didn’t want our visit to end in the idyllic environment engulfed by peace and shared affection. Exuberance and hope produced from being in Christ’s immediate presence renewed my body and soul.

I chose the remote cabin in the woods as the perfect retreat from the stresses of daily life. Psychologists agree about the simple act of projecting one’s thoughts into a familiar, peaceful scene in order to lessen mental burdens.

At first consideration, it would seem my vivid imagination had clicked into overdrive. The truth is, God mentally transported me to the cabin in response to my earnest request: for weeks I’d attempted Scripture memorization, but the meaning of one particular verse eluded my full understanding. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Repeatedly I had asked God to reveal the meaning of what seemed to be an odd expression in that verse.

As a result of my recent sovereign encounter, I now have a much greater understanding of the teachings in the verse I was struggling to comprehend. Once I physically dwelled in the presence of Jesus’ shelter, rest resulted from the overwhelmingly serene shadow that He cast across my life, reinforcing my trust in Him as the rock foundation of my life.

God desires that we seek knowledge of every teaching in His Word. Granted, His method of revealing truths to me for memorization purposes were unusual, but I must not limit my heavenly Father’s communication to my earthly expectations. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

It is impossible to literally worship Jesus at His side until we live with Him in heaven permanently one day. On earth He graciously permits us the mechanism of prayer. As we talk comfortably with our Lord, we are mentally and spiritually transferred to any number of beautiful, tranquil vicinities that appeal to us individually. The cabin scene is one of unsurpassed luxury for me. Where will you go for shelter and rest to meet with your Lord? It could be as familiar as your back yard or as reminiscent as a childhood memory. The most important factors in abiding with Jesus remain our willingness and obedience to pray, connecting us to our Lord anytime, anywhere.

“Jesus told his disciples … that they should pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). As we constantly share details of our lives with Jesus, we need withhold nothing from our trustworthy Lord and Friend. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

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Declare His glory, as you attribute to Him the splendor and majesty He deserves. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (2 Chronicles 16:11).

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Sex, Marriage, & Fairytales || Spoken Word

I am including this excellent video by Jefferson Bethke to my “The Marriage Triangle” tab. Listen as he vocalizes his poem, “Sex, Marriage, & Fairytales.” This is my favorite section:

So read Ephesians 5 whether husband or wife,
wife honor your husbands, husbands give up your life.

Just like Jesus gave Himself up for His bride the church,
So men lead by serving, by putting her first.

So die to self put your flesh on a life sentence,
Because you don’t fall out of love, as much as you fall out of Repentance.

Sex. Marriage, & Fairytales

By Jefferson Bethke

If you cannot view the video for any reason, go here to read the entire “Sex, Marriage, & Fairytales” lyrics.

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Renaming Sin

Shared from Ligonier Ministries blog.

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Renaming Sin

By James Boice

Three hundred years is a long time. What kept Enoch walking with God for three hundred years? He had an awareness of judgment coming. He had a sensitivity to the ungodliness of the age. And he drew closer to God as the reality of these things pressed in upon him.

Read the rest here.

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Sunday Praise and Worship: The Way

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Beloved, the one and only God of the universe is indeed the great I AM. How do we know this? Because He told us so when he revealed this to Moses:

Then Moses said to God,
“Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them,
‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’
and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’
what shall I say to them?”

And God said to Moses,
“I AM WHO I AM.”
And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,
‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Moreover God said to Moses,
“Thus you shall say to the children of Israel:
‘The Lord God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.
This is My name forever,
and this is My memorial to all generations.’ 

—Exodus 3:13-15

I love the song “The Way” sung by Jeremy Camp and how it praises and glorifies the great I AM. Please join me in singing your praise and worship of God, our great I AM! (Can you tell I just can’t say that enough?)

Shine, bright
Let Your glory fill this land
Lift high, the King of Kings and great I am
Jesus, You are the way

 Please excuse any ads that may appear before the video begins
If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

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The Marriage Box

Reblogged from The Isaiah 53:5 Project.

Marriage Box

Most people get married believing a myth that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, intimacy, friendship, etc. The truth is that marriage at the start is an empty box. You must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage. Love is in people. And people put love in marriage. There is no romance in marriage. You have to infuse it into your marriage. A couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising, keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.

Please visit The Isaiah 53:5 Project to read more great blog posts.

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THE MARRIAGE TRIANGLE: Two Lives Become One #lovewins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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In the Old Testament, God created the covenant to be a binding promise between two parties. A person in a covenant becomes identified with another person, and there is a supernatural co-mingling of two lives.¹ In the marriage covenant, the two separate lives of the man and woman become one as they are pronounced husband and wife.

Marriage as instituted by God

In the Old Testament, we read in Genesis 2:23-24:

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates this covenant message in Matthew 19:4-6:

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

God created marriage to be a covenant—a bond—as the way to fully unite man and woman as husband and wife. They are to stick together like Super Glue!1

Genesis 2:24 could be paraphrased as follows:

For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall stick like glue to his wife (forcibly intimating that nothing but death should be allowed to separate them) and they shall (become one flesh as they) enter into a covenant relationship.²

What does this mean in practical terms?

When two people commit to spend the rest of their lives together in a covenant marriage, they are in effect promising to do more than their best to serve each other. Did you get that? More than their best.

Contrary to the belief that it is a 50/50 partnership, marriage needs to be 100/100. Both husband and wife need to give 100 percent all of the time. I read this the other day and really like it:

Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got! —Dave Willis

Life is hard–much can happen on any given day, like work, family issues, sickness, and money problems. All of this “stuff” can easily take our focus off of the Lord and therefore off of each other. Marriage is not the easiest thing, but it is so satisfying when both the husband and wife are trying their best to give 100 percent of themselves.

Some days the wife may need to serve her husband more than on other days because his day isn’t going so well. Something happened at work that he feels is threatening his job. Or maybe the car needs some major repair work done and he is worried about finding money in the budget to get it fixed.

On other days, the husband may see how his wife is having a difficult time with something so he needs to give more of himself by trying to help her. Maybe one of the kids got in trouble at school. Perhaps she received the test results back from the doctor that confirms a serious health problem.

Any of these issues are difficult and can easily cause such distress that we either internalize our feelings or we can lash out at our spouses in frustration. Keeping the details to ourselves can be a huge problem because if we can’t say out loud what is bothering us, our spouse may think they have done something to bother the other. If we treat our spouse harshly because of something that is bothering us—and that “thing” is nothing your spouse has done—your spouse will start resenting you for that ill treatment.

This is where the 100/100 concept comes in.

When either husband or wife is feeling low about some situation, the other spouse can be supportive just by listening, even if it takes time away from another thing that was planned or needs to be done. Sometimes just talking about the issue out loud takes some of the pressure off. Other times some brainstorming between the couple helps focus on a point that wasn’t considered before because of the stress of the situation.

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Let’s not forget that there is one more party involved in our marriages: our Lord Jesus Christ.

How great would it be if the first thing husbands and wives did was pray together for wisdom and discernment to figure out the situation as God intends? This doesn’t mean that God will zap an answer to you right away, but the process of prayer can de-stress you so that you can think about things less passionately, more rationally.

Empathy and understanding can help alleviate stress about a situation. Humor can also be used at times. I read a great article at the Focus on the Family site titled, Bringing Laughter into Your Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott. This is an excerpt from that article:

Let’s face it, no spouse is immune to stress. We all feel like we’re coming unglued at times. And wise experts agree that the best way for anyone to cope is with a good laugh. “Humor makes all things tolerable,” said preacher Henry Ward Beecher. “Laugh out loud,” says Chuck Swindoll. “It helps flush out the nervous system.” On another occasion Chuck said, “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.” Arnold Glasgow said, “Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.” The point is that even when you’ve had a tough day, or should we say especially when you’ve had a tough day, you need to laugh. It will help wash away the stress and keep the two of you together when you’re coming unglued. So help each other to find something funny even when it’s not easy.³

The orange theory

When Rick and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor used this illustration to show how God created husbands and wives to complete each other. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (instead of cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way husbands and wives work together within marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone.

Let’s take a look at this in practical terms, using one of the examples I wrote about above. A husband tells his wife that their car needs some major work and he is worried about finding money in the budget for the repair. These days the first thought is usually to just use a charge card to pay for it, however, this couple has agreed to use cash whenever possible.

After praying together about this, his wife suggests several ways they can save enough money. She will buy groceries only on sale for a time. Or maybe she has been stocking up on sale items so that now she can prepare meals with what is in the pantry and the freezer. He might suggest carrying his lunch from home for a few weeks rather than buy lunch out, and even eliminate their once per week dinners out. Perhaps they have been able to afford manicures or frequent hair appointments for her, but she offers to stop those for a time, thereby putting that money toward the car repair.

Did you see how well the jagged edges of their orange fit together? Because the husband’s thoughts were initially so centered on the situation, he couldn’t immediately see how to handle it. After praying together, husband and wife together came up with good and workable ideas to save more money.

How not to keep score in your marriage

It is natural for us humans to keep score. Most of us want to know that we’re not the only ones putting forth a lot of effort. Husbands and wives need to avoid keeping score as to which one is getting more and which is getting less. Some days the husband will need to give more in serving his wife, while on other days the wife will need to do more to serve her husband.

Alvin, married 63 years, said, “Don’t consider a marriage a 50/50 affair! Consider it a 100 percent affair. The only way you can make a marriage work is to have both parties give a hundred percent every time.

And Kay, married 54 years, said, “… anybody that goes into marriage saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be 50/50,’ it doesn’t happen. You can’t live in the same house with the same person all those years and always divide it down the half.4

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In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he reminds them to:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3-4

I think all married couples would do well to keep this in mind as they learn to give of themselves, their time and their God-given talents to helping each other.

One plus one equals one may not be an accurate mathematical concept, but it is an accurate description of God’s intention for the marriage relationship. —Wayne Mack


1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage
2 CovenantMarriage.com: What is a Marriage Covenant
³FocusOnTheFamily.com: Bringing Laughter into Your Marriage
4 FamilyLife.com: The 50/50 Myth

 

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Sunday Praise and Worship: Hosanna (Praise is Rising)

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I don’t think it is possible to sit still while watching and listening to Hosanna (Praise is Rising) by Paul Baloche. If it causes pain to move to this beat—and I understand this personally—just close your eyes and allow your heart to absorb the words of praise and worship to our living God.

When we see You we find strength to face the day 
In Your presence all our fears are washed away 
Washed away 

 Please excuse any ads that may appear before the video begins
If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

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