Raining Blessings

This is another devotional from Streams in the DesertIt made my eyes leak. 

Gen41-52-Daffodils

God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.
—Genesis 41:52

A poet stands by the window watching a summer shower. It is a fierce downpour, beating and pounding the earth. But the poet, in his mind’s eye, sees more than a rain shower falling. He sees a myriad of lovely flowers raining down, soon breaking forth from the freshly watered earth, and filling it with their matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:

It isn’t raining again to me —it’s raining daffodils;
In every dripping drop I see wildflowers upon the hills.
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town;
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining roses down.

Perhaps you are undergoing some trial as God’s child, and you are saying to Him, “O God, it is raining very hard on me tonight, and this test seems beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are pouring in, washing away and utterly defeating my chosen plans. My trembling heart is grieved and is cowering at the intensity of my suffering. Surely the rains of affliction are beating down upon my soul.”

Dear friend, you are completely mistaken. God is not raining rain on you—He is raining blessings. If you will only believe your Father’s Word, you will realize that springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers. And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your stormless and suffering-free life.

You can see the rain, but can you also see the flowers? You are suffering through these tests, but know that God sees sweet flowers of faith springing up in your life beneath these very trials. You try to escape the pain, yet God sees tender compassion for other sufferers finding birth in your soul. Your heart winces at the pain of heavy grief, but God sees the sorrow deepening and enriching your life.

No, my friend, it is not raining afflictions on you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Holy Spirit. And they are bringing to your life spiritual enrichment that all the prosperity and ease of this world could ever produce in your innermost being.  —J.M.M

Songs across the Storm

A harp stood in the calm, still air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;

A traveler bowed with loads of care
Struggled from morning till the dusk of evening glooms
To strum sweet sounds from the songless strings;

The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord,
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes;

And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform,
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes

While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm.

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Mortal Meets Immortal

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Envision that you are standing in the very presence of Jesus when He walked this earth, so close you could reach out to touch the Savior as He healed all manner of illness and disability. Most diseases in Jesus’ day had no cure. Imagine celebrating exuberantly with those individuals who, within seconds, were transformed from a life of physical or mental misery into complete health. Those who formerly depended on others to provide their most basic bodily needs were suddenly transformed to wellness and independent living by a mere word from Jesus.

A desperate woman who had suffered a hemorrhagic affliction for twelve years, had exhausted her finances consulting numerous physicians, with no relief. Her life was limited; constant bleeding rendered her unclean, preventing her from worshiping in the temple. She had heard that the Healer was in town, so she devised a plan. Her most critical aspiration was jostling through the tightly congested crowd pressing against Jesus. She was convinced that a slight touch of Jesus’ flowing outer cloak would be sufficient to transfer Jesus’ healing powers to her ravaged body. Whether the diseased woman’s scheme was pre-meditated or if she acted on impulse, we will never know. Of one fact we can be sure—she needed her plan to succeed.

“‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.” (Luke 8:45).

Being exposed wasn’t part of the woman’s plan. She commingled with the crowd engulfing Jesus, intending to quickly touch Jesus’ clothing, discreetly slipping away healed and unnoticed. It isn’t Jesus’ method to perform healings on demand. He came to earth as the Son of God to accomplish the will of His Father in heaven, to obey Him explicitly, and to bring glory to His name. Jesus wouldn’t permit the woman to recede into the crowd before He announced her healing and she made a public profession of faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Photo credit: Wikimedia

“Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me’” (Luke 5:46).

With crowds of people encircling Jesus, it was inevitable that several in the group casually brushed His clothing or unintentionally bumped against Him. Jesus knew the one who contacted Him hadn’t brushed His clothing accidentally. The woman’s touch was different and distinct; light but intentional. She probably stretched her arm to its maximum length from as far away as possible, believing that a delicate touch of Jesus’ garment would harbor sufficient strength that would transfer to her body.

When Jesus inquired about the person in the crowd who had touched Him, the disciples were incredulous. Peter addressed the peculiar question for all of them. “‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you’” (Luke 8:46b). The disciples thought it futile to seek out one elusive person among a massive crowd of admirers.

“Then the woman seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling at his feet. In the presence of all the people she told why she had touched him, and how she had been instantly healed” (Luke 5:47). Mortals cannot touch the immortal without phenomenal results occurring. The mortal is always empowered or energized; changes occur like fireworks illuminating a pitch black sky.

Jesus didn’t touch the woman; she reached out to touch Jesus, resulting in an instant healing.

“Then he said to her, ’Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’” (Luke 5:47-48). In the Gospel accounts this woman is the only individual Jesus addressed as daughter, a tender, loving term Jesus used to express compassion for her and praise for her faith.

When we approach Jesus in prayer, is it with a believing heart overflowing with trust? Or do we, like some in the crowd, doubt a brush with Jesus will have lasting consequences? We are commanded to exemplify a solid belief in Jesus, reflecting faith, convinced that Jesus has an ultimate purpose for our individual lives. “Confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).

The woman touched Jesus with intent, convinced that when she boldly reached out to Him, Jesus would respond with healing powers. Jesus never disappoints! Let us react in prayer like the suffering woman Jesus commended for her faith, unlike the crowds of complacent curiosity seekers who knew not the depth of love and power in their midst.

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“For God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

We may not physically stand in the presence of Jesus today, but He is ever-present in our lives, encouraging us to commune with him through prayer. Like the woman who was determined to touch Jesus’ garment, our outreach may be vague, even tentative, but with boldness and confidence we are privileged to call on Almighty God, knowing He answers each of our prayers. Jesus is just as accessible to us in prayer as His physical presence was real to the suffering woman. She approached Jesus with confidence and courage, the methods with which we are commanded to pray. The difference is that the woman walked toward Jesus physically trembling in fear. We are not to fear Jesus, but to reverence Him with a prayerful attitude of boldness and strength.

Jesus-Spotlight-50--AMPWithout a doubt, Jesus performs healing miracles in our current age. Jesus is more available to us today than He was to the people who solicited His attention centuries ago. We need not push through crowds to reach Him; our faint call of Jesus’ name alerts Him to our needs immediately, assuring us of His undivided attention. He then responds from His throne in heaven, adjusting His responses to conform to His sovereign plans for our individual hearts.

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Memorial Markers

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Now this day will be a memorial to you,
and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD;
throughout your generations you are
to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
 

—Exodus 12:14

Two years ago today, I enjoyed a day completely free of pain. Days like this are so unusual that I make sure to remember them by setting a memorial/memory marker for each of these times.

I’ve written about memory markers before. These are referred to in the Old Testament as memorials. God encouraged His people to pile up some stones in the places of special blessing as a memorial for them to remember things He had taught them and didn’t want them to forget.

The meaning of the Hebrew word for memorial (v. 7) is “to remember.” Given man’s propensity to forget it is little wonder then that memorials have frequently played an important role in biblical history. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses built an altar of stones to commemorate God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 12:14) . Now in today’s text we see God command his people to erect a memorial.1

I have my own version of these memorial markers to commemorate certain days or events I don’t want to forget by adding them to my cell phone calendar and setting alerts.

It is so easy to get caught up in the cycle of pain, thinking that’s all there is in my life. However, God gives me special days and occasions to remind me that He is always with me and will never let me go. So I cling to these memorial markers during the ongoing days of chronic illness when it often seems I will never climb out of the pit.

What this has done in my life has been remarkable. It used to be that I would mentally cry “I don’t understand!” But now, even though I still don’t understand (because I’m not God), I find myself telling Him, “I don’t get it, but I trust that You know what You’re doing and that’s good enough for me.”

You see, God has shown me that He wants me to remember that I can always count on Him. So on each of my pain-free occasions, I have made a new memorial marker on my phone calendar so I can recall the day (or event) and the outcome when I need encouragement.

Beloved, I want to encourage you today if you’re going through a tough time. It is so easy to be thankful when things are going well but understandably much harder to have thankful thoughts when everything seems to be falling apart.

I know what I’m talking about here.

I once read a devotional that confirms what I have long suspected. We were encouraged to store up the memories of precious times when we felt God blessing us with something special, and slide those memories out during the tough times.

In other words, remember the good during the not-so-good.

Here is the crucial part of trusting God: each time I choose to trust God during a particularly puzzling and/or frustrating situation, He demonstrates His faithfulness to me. Sometimes that means He answers a particular prayer in a particular way. Other times He fills me with the overwhelming sense that I can absolutely trust Him while He works behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like He is hearing me. This is where faith comes in.

During one of the toughest times in my life, God pointed me to Isaiah 26:3 and I cling to it to this day:

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“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

Beloved, how about you? Do you do anything to remember those sweet, special times where you can see the Lord at work? And if so, share how you commemorate those times in the comments below. 

1“Building Memorials to Remember God” from Sermons.Logos.com 

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Happy Mother’s Day

I’ve written before about how my Mom loved red geraniums and grew them in a large planter that was on the front porch of one of our homes. I bought some red geranium plants last year in memory of Mom and displayed one of them in an old corn planter that we have in our backyard. I loved the look of the vibrant red against the true vintage look of this planter, but as usual our ever-present breeze (aka strong winds) blew most of the flowers off, so I moved the plant to our front porch. At least I took a picture of it before all the flowers were gone! The Lord took Mom home in 2007 and I miss her more with each year that passes. This is for all the Moms out there: those who are still with us and the ones we can no longer hug but whose face and memory we carry in our hearts. Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day

Miss you, Mom …
red geraniums always remind me of you.

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How to Be Content

Have you wondered how it is possible to be content in this chaotic, sin-sick world? This is a wonderful piece by Sam Storms. Please visit his Enjoying God blog to read more great articles.

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The Secret of Spiritual Contentment

By Sam Storms

What could the Apostle Paul possibly mean when he says that he has “learned” to be “content” in whatever circumstance or situation he’s in? Here is what he writes:

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:10-13).

Key verse from this article:

The issue for us all is resting and rejoicing in Jesus to such an extent that neither poverty nor prosperity has any affect on us, whether for good or ill.

Read the rest here.

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Spring HOPE Collage

Doesn’t Spring feel like it’s taking forever to get here? In some parts of the country, it must seem like it’s still winter because the snow is still melting. Here in northern Arizona, our daytime temps hover between 50-60 but the ever-present winds make it seem much colder. No matter where we live in the U.S., I think we could all use a bit of Spring hope!

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. —Bernard Williams

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Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.
—Psalm 31:24

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The New Covenant Fulfilled

This is from J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible commentaries.

The Last Supper 18
Photo credit: Flickr.com


And when He had taken some bread and given thanks,
He broke it and gave it to them, saying,
“This is My body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of Me.”
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying,
“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

—Luke 22:19-20

The Lord took two of the most frail elements in the world as symbols of His body and blood. Bread and wine—both will spoil in a few days. When He raised a monument, it was not made of brass or marble, but of two frail elements that perish.

He declared that the bread spoke of His body and the wine spoke of His blood. The bread speaks of His body broken—not a bone broken but a broken body because He was made sin for us (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

I do not believe He even looked human when He was taken down from that cross. Isaiah had said of Him, “…his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 523:14); and “…there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).

For centuries the Passover feast had looked forward to the Lord’s coming and His death. Now He is in the shadow of the cross, and this is the last Passover. The Passover feast has now been fulfilled.

We gather about the Lord’s Table and search our hearts. What we do at this Table is in remembrance of Him. We look back to what He did for us on the  cross, and we look forward to His coming again. “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

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Believe!

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 If we really believed that God meant what He said – what should we be like! Dare I really let God be to me all that He says He will be?  —Oswald Chambers

There is a strong connection between the words believe and faith. They both come from the same root word in the Hebrew.

Faith (pistis) is a noun, something you have:

  • a firm persuasion
  • assurance
  • certain conviction
  • Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. —Hebrews 11:1

Believe (pistueo) is a verb, something you do, based upon that faith:

  • to trust in and fully rely upon
  • to accept as genuine and true
  • to be firmly convinced about
  • For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. —2 Timothy 1:12

True faith in God should lead to our believing in what He has done for us.

Some people will think: If I really could believe!  

but the point truly is: if I really will believe.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
 
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe stands condemned already
because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
 

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world,
but people loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light
for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
 
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done
has been done in the sight of God.
—John 3:16-21

Jesus places much emphasis on the sin of unbelief:

 He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue,
so that they were astonished, and said,
“Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?
 “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary,
and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
“And His sisters, are they not all with us?
Where then did this man get all these things?”
And they took offense at Him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor
except in his hometown and in his own household.”
And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
—Matthew 13:54-58

“This is a tremendous revelation. Note what it was that limited the power of God when He was here. It was unbelief! “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief. He did very few miracles there. My friend, the great problem with you and me is that we do not have faith to believe—and I’m talking about faith for the salvation of men and women. We need the kind of faith that believes Christ can save the lost. He is limited today in your own community, in your church, in your family, and in your own life by unbelief. And this is certainly true of me also. Our Lord states a great truth here. Let’s not bypass it.” (1)

Beloved, read that last verse again:

And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
—Matthew 13:58 

It should not surprise any of us that Jesus places so much importance on the sin of unbelief.

If you have any questions on how to be saved—in other words, in how to completely trust in Jesus—please read my A…B…C… page. And you are always welcome to email me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com. 

Related: http://gracethrufaith.com/topical-studies/spiritual-life/believe-in-your-heart/

(1) Copyright © 1983. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee

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Great is Your Faithfulness

Great is Your Faithfulness

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Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices: to dwell on our misery or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.” Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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