Does Anybody Really Know Me?

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Return of the Flock” by Anton Mauve (19th Century) From the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
     Why do we feel alone?  Does anybody care?  Does anybody understand what we are going through?  Where is God in all of this?
     In this life, we often feel that people really do not know the “real me”. They know our superficial self, but they do not our real person. We go days on end feeling as though we are an unknown cog in the wheel of life. What does God say about this?
     “He calleth HIS OWN SHEEP BY NAME, and leadeth them out.” (John 10:3) What a comforting thought! Our Good Shepherd knows us! In God’s eyes, we are not a number, but we are the objects of His love! He knows what we are thinking. He knows our sorrows and joys. He knows our defeats and victories. He knows our loneliness and confusion.
     His knowledge of us is based on His love and His commitment to take care of us. For this reason, He is there to take us by the arm and say: “This is the way, walk ye in it.”  (Isaiah 30:21) God knows us intimately and He knows the pathway that is best for us. Not only does He show us the way, but He walks with us as we travel the path that He has laid out for us.
     As Christ’s sheep, we do not have to walk alone. Jesus knows us and He knows the way! The question is: “Will we travel with Him, as He leads us each day?”

PARALYZED BY GUILT

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Guilt can paralyze us! Guilt can cause us to doubt God. Guilt can kill our joy and peace. Guilt can isolate us from others. Guilt can even bring us to the point of taking our own lives.

What causes guilt in our lives? Guilt is caused by our own sins. Guilt also occurs because of regrets in our life. We think of things that we could have done in our life that we never did. Guilt is also caused when we feel as though we failed those whom we love.

Guilt never brings us to God, but takes us further away from Him. We often confuse guilt with conviction. Conviction comes from God. His purpose is to bring us back to Himself. His conviction says: “Yes, you have sinned, but you can repent and confess your sin to me and you will be completely cleansed and forgiven” (See 1 John 1:9)

Guilt doesn’t come from God, but from within ourselves. Also, guilt can come from others who want to manipulate us to do their bidding. Lastly, guilt can come from Satan, who is called the “accuser of the brethren”. Whatever the source of our guilt it must not find a home in our lives.

What can we do with our guilt? “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.” (Psalm 25:7) We can take our sin and guilt to God and leave it there. His mercies are new every day. When we come to God with a repentant heart, He will never send us away unforgiven. He assures us time and time again of His love and mercy. He will never hold our confessed sin against us.

A Prayer Concerning Our Guilt “Dear Father, I thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. I thank you for your love that never quits on me. You know the regrets, the guilt, the sins that have come into my life time and time again. You have seen the results of my guilt. Yes, I have tried to deal with my guilt on my own, but without success. Father, you alone can take my guilt and shame from me. You alone can restore the confidence, joy and peace in my life when I deliver all my guilt unto you. Thank you for your work of restoration and cleansing in my life. Amen.”

God’s “911”

Photo of Lake Huron by Rachel Drury.
Photo of Lake Huron by Rachel Drury.

An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police , fire department or ambulance. When these emergencies arise, we call “911” with the expectation that help will come quickly. Sometimes, there is a failure in the system and help is delayed to the peril of the caller.

However, where do we turn when everything is falling apart in our life?  God has provided a “911” number for us to call. Psalm 120:1 says: “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.” Yes, God is always available to accept our call. There are no delays. There is no indecision. God is ready and able to help us when we are in distress. Let’s take a closer look at how God’s “911” works in our lives.

1. The cause of our cry– Life can become overwhelming at times. We feel that we are drowning in the midst of our very difficult circumstances. We do not know what to do. We feel helpless. There is no human resource that seems to help. We wonder where is God in all of this. We realize that the only hope we have is to cry out to God in faith.

2. The content of our cry– Crying out to God means that we are desperate. Our cry  reflects total dependence upon God. Our cry says that we surrender the control of our life to Him. Our cry says that we have faith that God alone will know what to do in the midst of our distress.

3. The object of our cry– We often pour our hearts out to others. Sometimes, we keep everything to our selves. However, God alone is able to handle our situation when everything seems to be falling apart. We cry to Him because of who He is. He is all-wise. He is all-powerful. He is love. He is merciful. Yes, God alone is the one to whom we should cry when there is no place to turn.

4. The response to our cry– What more encouraging words can we hear in the midst of our pain than: “and He heard me.” God is not deaf to our cry. His ears are wide open to hear our cry. He is eager and ready to respond to our cry. It isn’t a question: “Will God hear my cry?” but “Will I cry out to Him?”

When we dial God’s “911”, we will receive help, strength, guidance, and hope in the midst of our difficult situation. In life’s emergencies, don’t forget to call God’s 911. He is waiting for our call.

Eighteen Blessings from Our Heavenly Father

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“Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all of His benefits.” (Psalm 103:2)

One of the greatest results of our salvation is that we are adopted into God’s family. We now can call God, Our Father! The Fatherhood of God is more than a doctrine, it affects every aspect of our lives. Being God’s child places us in a position to enjoy many blessings from our new relationship. Sometimes, we forget these blessings because we become too busy, or we focus on ourselves instead of our Father. Let’s look at just a few of the blessings that our Father gives to us. May our hearts abound in love and thanksgiving to Our Heavenly Father for all that He has done, and is doing in our lives.

BLESSINGS FROM MY FATHER
1. His Great Salvation-“Whosoever believes in Him (Jesus) shall have eternal life.”
2. His Adopting Us into His Family. “We cry, Abba, Father”
3. His Constant Presence-“He never leaves us, nor forsakes us.”
4. His Listening Ear-“Ask and it shall be given unto you.”
5. His Mercy-“For His mercy endures forever.”
6. His Patience-“The LORD is longsuffering.”
7. His Love-“Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.”
8. His Forgiveness-“Who forgives all your iniquity.”
9. His Strength in My Weakness-“My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
10. His Word-“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”
11. His Family-“For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
12. His Promises-“For all the promises of God in Him are yea.”
13. His Discipline-“For whom the Lord loves, He chastens.”
14. His Home in Heaven-“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
15. His Cleansing us from Our Sins. -“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
16. His Abundant Joy-“Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.”
17. His Knowledge of My Life and My Heart-“O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
18. His Grace is Sufficient for Every Need-“My grace is sufficient for thee.”

“Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for adopting me as your child through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. You have blessed me above and beyond anything that I deserve. Help me never to take your blessings for granted. Thank you for being my Father, today, tomorrow and forever! Amen.”

Ten Reasons to Thank God for the Valley

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The valley is a place that we never choose for ourselves, but God chooses it for us. His plan for our life doesn’t just include the blessings and the mountaintop experiences.  His plan includes the valleys. At times, we are so deep in a valley that we forget God and His promises.

The valley challenges our faith in many areas, including our trust in God, our steadfastness in Christ, and our love for God and others. When we enter the valley, we struggle with having a grateful heart before God. We look at our dire circumstances and feel numb. We feel as though we are watching a tragedy unfold and we are one of the main characters. We lose our focus upon God as we travel deeper into the valley.

After the initial shock of entering the valley, we realize that we need to cry out to God. We ask for deliverance. We ask for relief. We ask for strength. We ask for wisdom. However,  worry and fear are still affecting us spiritually. Why is there no relief? Have we neglected to thank God for our valley?  How can we travel through the valley with an ungrateful heart? Giving thanks to God helps to give us perspective concerning the valley. Gratefulness enables us to see the valley as a place of abundant blessings from God.

As the song writer wrote: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” What are some of the reasons that we can thank God for the valley.

1. The valley gives us a thirst for God. Nothing can satisfy our soul in the valley but God Himself. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) The valley causes us to run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley creates a thirst that only our Heavenly Father can fulfill.

2. The valley gives us a broken and contrite heart. The valley has a way of bringing us down to our knees. The valley shows us our weakness and need for God’s help. Our heart becomes broken and humble before God. Nothing is more special in God’s eyes than when His children come to Him in complete desperation.  “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

3. The valley gives us an eternal perspective concerning life. Often we are so involved in the things of this life that we forget our glorious future with the Lord. When God takes us into the valley, our perspective on life is changed. The eternal suddenly becomes much more important in our lives. “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

4. The valley causes us to search our hearts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (Psalm 139:23) The busyness of our lives often keeps us from reflecting upon our hearts. We go through the motions and neglect to take inventory of our lives. When God takes us into the valley, we find ourselves looking for answers. This helps us to search our hearts as to our past, present and future.

5. The valley can often bring marriages and families closer together. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he (Lazarus) whom thou lovest is sick.”
(John 11:3) Tragedy and heartache can bring families closer together or further apart. In the case of Lazarus, his death brought his family closer together. When one member of a family enters into a valley, it is a great opportunity for others in the family to travel with their loved one.

6. The valley tests our friendships. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) The valley exposes the true loyalty of a friend. A true friend doesn’t run away when their friend enters into the valley, but they encourage him. They do whatever they can to help their friend. There are many so-called friends who are exposed in the valley because they watch from the sidelines as their “friend” travels the painful road in the valley.

7. The valley gives us a hunger for the Word of God. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71) When times are going well, we read our Bibles out of obligation, but when we enter the valley we read our Bibles out of necessity. The Word of God opens up to us with its promises, comfort and even conviction.

8. The valley is a place where Jesus becomes our sweet companion. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) The valley is a place where we may feel lonely, but we are never alone. We have a companion who walks every step of the way in the valley with us. The walk in the valley is difficult, but we can find it pleasant because we experience a closeness to the Lord that we don’t normally.experience.

9. The valley broadens our ministry towards others. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) God’s ministry of comfort, strength and encouragement in our valley enables us to have compassion upon others who are in the valley. When we respond to the valley in God’s way, we will find many doors of ministry that will become open to us.

10. The valley enables others to minister unto us. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:” (2 Timothy 1:16) The valley enables others to reach out to us. We become thirsty for encouragement and people see this need and refresh us. They can refresh us with their presence, with their words, and with their prayers.

Yes, the valley doesn’t seem attractive when we first enter; however, as time goes by, we learn the secret of the valley. This is a place of great blessing. This is a place of experiencing God’s love. This is a place of spiritual growth. The key to having the valley become a very positive experience is to thank God for this time in our lives.

“Dear Lord, I didn’t ask for this valley. I didn’t expect this valley. Yes, this valley has been difficult; however I thank you for this valley. It has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade. You have used this valley in my life in so many ways! Please don’t ever stop your work in my life. Thank you for the your wisdom, tenderness, strength and love that I am experiencing in this valley. Amen.”

Jesus: Our Companion in the Valley

Near Fontana Dam, TN.
Near Fontana Dam, TN.

 

The valley is often a place of loneliness. We may feel that nobody understands exactly how we feel. As we experience sleepless nights, the loneliness and darkness of the night seem to settle like a foggy mist upon us. The hopelessness of our situation paralyzes us . Where can we find hope, comfort and companionship during these dark hours in the valley? The answer is Jesus!

Jesus gives us this promise in Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  No matter how dark the night, He will not leave us. No matter how deep the valley, He will not leave us. No matter how painful the path, He will not leave us. As we trod through the valley, Jesus promises to walk every step of the way with us!

The valley no longer is a cold, dark, lonely place when we seek after the Lord and become aware of His presence. David faced many valleys in his life. God used the valleys in David’s life to create a longing for fellowship with Him. In Psalm 42,  David expresses his longing for God. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2)

The valley may not be our plan for our lives, but it is God’s plan for our lives. He knows how easy it is for us to drift in our relationship with Him. We can even slowly fall into the sin of the church at Laodicea. This church had become lukewarm because they no longer saw their desperate need for Christ. In our Christian life, there are times when we become lukewarm. The Lord sends us into the valley to restore our passion for Him.

Many of us would say that some of the sweetest times in our lives is our valley experience. Yes, the valley seems painful, lonely, dark and confusing, but it is also quite sweet. It brings us once again to the feet of Jesus. We become broken before our Lord. We don’t pray out of obligation, but out of desperation. We cling to Christ and He takes us unto His bosom and brings great comfort to us.

Christ’s presence changes our whole outlook of our valley. No longer is the valley a place filled with sorrow and bitterness, but a place to accept with joy. How does Christ change our valley from a place of bitterness to a place of sweetness?

1. The valley is a place of darkness, but Christ changes it into a place of light. “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12)

2. The valley is a place of anxiety, but Christ changes it into a place of peace. “My peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27)

3. The valley is a place of confusion. but Christ changes it into a place of understanding. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

4. The valley is a place of heartache, but Christ changes it into a place of comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

5. The valley is a place of rejection, but Christ changes it into a place of enjoying His love. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

6. The valley is a place of sleeplessness, but Christ changes it into a place of rest. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

7. The valley is a place of sorrow, but Christ changes it into a place of joy. “And ye now therefore have sorrow:but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:22)

8. The valley is a place of uselessness, but Christ changes it into a place of ministry. “and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2)

9. The valley is a place of weakness, but Christ changes it into a place of strength. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“Dear Lord, thank you for making the bitterness of my valley into something very sweet. Thank you for walking through this valley with me. Thank you for allowing me to draw closer to you during this very difficult time. Though this valley is not my choice, your way is always the best. Thank you for not only taking me into the valley, but also through the valley. Your presence has made all the difference!  Amen”

Lessons from the Valley

Cape Verde Islands- Photo by Mark J Booth
Cape Verde Islands- Photo by Mark J Booth

Recently, I have entered into a deep valley. This valley is not of my choosing, but it is of God’s choosing. God knows exactly what He is doing in my life. The process of becoming more like Christ is not always pleasant. The valley is a place where we meet fire, pressure, and the unknown. The great thing about the valley is that we are not traveling this valley alone. David, who faced many valleys, wrote: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: FOR THOU ART WITH ME; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

As I have reflected upon these past days, I am learning several lessons. As James wrote: “My brethren, COUNT IT ALL JOY when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4) There is joy in the midst of the valley because the Lord is still working in our lives.

At fifty-eight years old, I find myself having to learn new lessons and review old lessons. I am a slow learner, but God is a very patient teacher. He knows what to bring into our lives; so that Christlikeness becomes a reality in our lives. Every valley is different and there are new lessons to learn in each valley. Here are some of the lessons that the Lord is teaching me as travel through this valley.

1. I have learned that every valley is God’s special plan for my life. Joseph didn’t choose to become a slave, but it was God’s special plan. He understood this very clearly when he told his brothers. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph’s brothers did evil when they sold him into slavery; yet God took that evil deed and used it for good.

As I plod through this valley, I am thankful that God is still working in my life: Paul understood this when he wrote: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) I am an object of God’s working. He knows the right instrument to use to make me more like Jesus!

2. I have learned that the Valley is a Place of Fellowship with Christ. Communion with Christ can elude us in the good times; however, in the valley, it is essential. The valley shouts to us: “Go to Christ! Go to Christ!” Our need for Christ increases our desire for him. David wrote: “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” (Psalm 63:1) When we thirst for Christ, He is always there to satisfy our thirst. When we run from the valley of His choosing, we lose those very intimate times of fellowship with Him.

3. I have learned that I can show my vulnerability before others. The valley has a way of causing us to be broken and humble before God and others. As a result, people see that we are vulnerable. Those who love us will see this vulnerability and try to bring comfort, healing and encouragement into our lives. Naomi showed her vulnerability before Ruth. As a result, Ruth left all and became her dearest friend.

Sometimes, we try to show how strong we are while traveling in the valley. There are people who would be eager to help us in our travels, if only we expressed our need. There is nothing wrong in letting people know that you are traveling through a valley. I am thankful for those members in our church who have seen our vulnerability and have ministered encouragement and love to us. Jonathan had a great ministry of encouragement to David because David showed his vulnerability to Jonathan.

4. I have learned that I need intercessory prayer. When things are going well, we don’t ask people to pray for us. However, when we enter the valley, Paul’s words: “Brethren, pray for us,” easily fall from our lips. I still don’t understand how prayer works, but I do know that it does work. There are many pitfalls in this valley, and yet the prayers of others have taken me through each pitfall.

5. I have learned that tears are perfectly appropriate. I very rarely cry, but when something or someone you love is hurting, tears flow naturally. Jesus said: “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Comfort comes from the Savior who shed His tears for the people of Jerusalem. He sorrows for the same things which causes us to have sorrow. The tears show that I love those things which Jesus loves.

6. I have learned the great comfort that comes from the Word of God. The valley causes us to have a greater desire to read the Word, but it also gives us a greater ability to allow the truths of God’s Word to speak to our hearts. When things are going well, we may read the Bible, but when we are in the valley the Bible becomes a life-preserver. We hold unto its truths as though our lives depend upon it. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)

As I continue to travel this valley, I am thankful that I don’t have to travel this valley alone. Not only is Jesus walking with me, but my wife is walking right beside me. There will be more lessons to learn and relearn; however, I have the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth. His name is Jesus!