Comfort in Affliction

Hello friends! I originally thought I would be back blogging full-time by now but health issues continue to plague me. I ask for your patience and your prayers as I share two or three short posts—like this one—each week until I feel able to devote more time to my blog. The Lord continues to be my All in All as I cling more tightly to Him.

Remember your word to your servant,
    in which you have made me HOPE.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
    that your promise gives me life.

—Psalm 119:49-50, ESV

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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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Let’s Reach Out with the Gospel to Women Victimized by Abortion

One of the great devotionals I receive daily via email is from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspective Ministries blog. Amid all the disgusting information uncovered in the videos that reveal how Planned Parenthood has been selling body parts from aborted babies, we have neglected an important fact. There is a huge population of women who are mourning the loss of these babies. I’m sure all this news and the videos being splashed abundantly around the internet are dredging up horrific memories.

Randy Alcorn’s article is an excellent reminder that we need to keep these women in prayer and reach out to them with the Gospel message.

Let’s Reach Out with the Gospel
to Women Victimized by Abortion

by Randy Alcorn

Millions of women and men, both in society as a whole and in our churches, are suffering under the guilt of abortion. The heavy emotional burden of abortion isn’t limited to those who’ve had one. A schoolteacher in her forties said, “Advising my daughter to have an abortion led me into a long, suicidal siege. I’m not over it yet.” [i] (Another group of people affected are those who work in abortion clinics. Check out this article,“Mugged by Ultrasound,”about why so many abortion workers have turned prolife. Wow. Also, see Justin Taylor’s blog for the sixth video released about Planned Parenthood.)

I encourage you to read through the following perspectives from Diane Meyer, a close friend of ours. In fact, she’s like a third daughter to me and Nanci. She lived with us when our daughters were small and she was a young unwed mother. We had the joy of seeing her come to Christ, and helped her place a baby for adoption.  (Just this last year she was reunited with her 33-year-old son and it was our privilege to be there with Diane’s family and the adoptive parents.)

Read the rest here.

Shared by permission of Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org

 

The closer His embrace

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He has chosen not to heal me,
but to hold me.
The more intense the pain,
the closer His embrace.
-Joni Eareckson Tada, A Place of Healing:
Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering,
Pain, and God’s Sovereignty

My Times Are in Your Hands

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But I trust in You, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.” 

My times are in Your hands.
—Psalm 31:14-15

Once again, I struggled to unscrew the top from a jar but the stubborn cap refused to budge. Just as I was getting ready to call on Rick for help, it came loose.

I hated having to ask Rick for help so often, but the arthritis in my fingers and carpal tunnel problems with my wrists cause difficulties with the simplest tasks. Daily my frustration grows as I witness different parts of my body getting weaker and sometimes even breaking down. These days I can’t even get down onto the floor or up again without great pain and difficulty because of my bad knees.

Why do things have to be this way? I silently ask God, but I already know the answer: “Trust Me, child, I’m always here to take care of you.”

What would we do without the promises of such a loving God who faithfully guides us through the trials of life? He knows everything about us, which means He understands our limitations. He has intimate knowledge about how much we hurt and He is always with us to comfort our painful and grieving body and spirit. He holds us close to His heart in His ever-powerful hands.

I know my God takes care of me—I believe this without a shadow of doubt. I guess my real problems start when I focus on my problems instead of on God. He realizes my pain and frustration and provides the best comfort possible through His Word. How often I have been in despair and found in Scripture the very words I needed to calm my heart.

Imagine the strength in God’s hands. Now picture those same hands pulling you close in a calm and comforting embrace. His strength is our strength, and can get us through those frustrating times when nothing seems to go right.

Beloved, our times are in God’s hands because everything in our lives is under His control.

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My Peace, My Comfort, My Hope

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I would have despaired
unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and let your heart take courage;
yes, wait for the Lord.
—Psalm 27:13-14

Beneath His Wings

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On this Thankful Thursday, I once again have the delightful privilege of showing you more of Pat Knight’s writing. Thank you, Pat, for sharing your heart with us!

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Beneath His Wings

By Patricia Knight

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The common loon commands a constant and interesting presence on our lake waters in Maine for three seasons during the year. The loon is a large, pre-historic bird whose back sports a stunning polka dotted and striped white pattern superimposed on black feathers.  In the summertime as soon as the chick’s eggs hatch, they leave the comfort of the land nest for a life-long existence on water. The brown, fluffy young are initially the size of a ping-pong ball and equally as buoyant. In the early stages of life the loon chick spends quality time riding on its mother’s back. As the baby loon nestles into the feathers, the mother enfolds it beneath her wings, providing rest from constant swimming, warmth from her body heat, and protection from prey.

The concept of a mother bird providing comfort beneath her wings is used as a metaphor to describe our heavenly Father’s power and protection.  “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1) .What a beautiful, comforting picture of God’s great strength, where we hide for protection, unencumbered by the cares of this world.  God provides us with strength during a trial, not immunity that spares it from happening, so that His glory and provisions are exalted.

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There is no time limit for God’s protection, but simply stated, “Until the disaster has passed.”  Some tragedies consume a relatively short span of time while others require that we depend upon God’s strength and power as He fights our foes for years. God is gracious; His love and comfort are limitless. He will never leave His children to their own resources.  If an animal instinctively cares for her young, surely our Creator will keep His promise to provide His children’s needs. “And, God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

There are many instances when we crave a comforting hug or a reassuring promise.  We may be emotionally needy as we navigate adversity, perhaps when dealing with attack or loss issues. Equipped with our own energies, we are unable to kindle hope.  It may be our reaction to either withdraw from human contact or to act out our emotions with unusual aggression. God is willing to meet our needs with His marvelous grace and love, allowing us to relax in His exceptional, shielding care.

“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:7). It is difficult to sing when consumed with fear. Only when our needs are met and threats diminished are we able to relax and express our joy in song. Because God assumes our anxieties, we can sing with confidence that He will supply our inner peace, as He hides us from all danger.

After curing a slave girl possessed of an evil spirit, the Apostle Paul and Silas felt the full fury of her owners who could no longer profit from her fortune-telling abilities.  A crowd was incited, marketplace justice was served, and the men were stripped and beaten, then thrown in jail. The jailor fastened the men’s feet in stocks for extra security. Bloodied and in pain, sitting in a dark, damp dungeon, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God at midnight, naturally attracting the attention of the other prisoners.  “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26).

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Traditionally, if a prisoner escaped, the life of the jailor or a guard was demanded in his place. For the jailer to take his own life would shorten his personal humiliation for the act occurring on his watch. Paul stopped the jailor just before he fell on his sword, assuring him that all the prisoners were still accounted for.

As a result, the jailor remembered hearing that Paul and Silas were preachers. With the earthquake and his own impending death so close, he wanted to know about the way of salvation. Paul and Silas were given the opportunity to explain the good news of the Gospel to the jailor and his family. Immediately, they were all baptized. In turn, the jailor washed the men’s wounds and fed them a meal in his house.

In order to sing under such strained and pained circumstances, Paul and Silas had to be confident that God was in control of their lives. They had vision and trust beyond their current situation. This wasn’t Paul’s first encounter with harrowing injustice.  He had been thrown in jail before and then miraculously released. At another time he was beaten and left for dead.  It was Paul who admitted, “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”(Philippians 4:11). He had personally experienced the comfort of God’s protective wings.

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How do we react in stressful situations? Do we immediately call on God, who promises to shield us beneath the protection of His massive wings? The birds of the world and their offspring instinctively provide the object lesson for our protective relationship with our Lord. Call on Him in your time of need and you will find His wings open wide, waiting for you to claim a sheltering refuge there for as long as necessary.

What reassurance, to be hugged by God!

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