“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.”
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.”
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”
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!
Recently, the Supreme Court weighed in on the subject of Gay Marriage. Their decision was no surprise to me, nor should it be to any person who claims to be a Christian. This decision reflects our culture and where we are as a nation. Yes, we would like the laws of our country to follow our beliefs, but many of them do not. Our nation is not a Christian nation, though in past times it followed Christian principles.
What should be our response to this decision by the Supreme Court? First of all, we as Christians should forsake once and for all the idea that we can see people change through government action. Should we expect people to live and believe like a Christian when they are not Christians? The early church didn’t demand laws to show their beliefs. The early church understood the sinfulness of man. The way the early church changed the culture was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel changes the heart of a man. Unlike Jesus Christ, no government can give a man a new heart.
Secondly, we need to remember that Jesus made it clear how we are to relate to the culture around us. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said; “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-15)
Our lives should shine forth as a testimony of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. A light shines brighter as the darkness increases. There are two extremes in dealing with the sin that is so clearly accepted in our society. One extreme is to compromise our beliefs so that we become more acceptable to our society. The other extreme is to totally withdraw from our society. A light needs to be in the darkness to shine, but it doesn’t allow the darkness to overcome its light.
Thirdly, we need to think about our own personal lives and our walk with God. Yes, our culture has embraced sin and rebellion against God. In the midst of our concern, have we forgotten our own walk with God? When we get caught up with confronting our culture, it is easy to forget our own sin before God. The early church at Ephesus did a great job of separating themselves from the evil of their culture. Christ says of them: “Thou canst not bear them which are evil.” (Revelation 2:2) This church hated the evil that was a reality in the Roman Empire, but they had forgotten something in the process.
Jesus continued to speak to this church with some very convicting words: “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against, because thou hast left thy first love.” (Revelation 3:4) Have we left our first love? Have we forgotten our daily walk with God? If we are walking close to the Lord, we will have a greater impact upon the lives of those around us.
Fourthly, the Supreme Court ruling has no bearing upon our own marriages. Why is it that professed Christians have a divorce rate that is equal to those who don’t claim to be Christians? Yes, we have no control over the Supreme Court decisions concerning its view of marriage, but we can make our marriage one that honors God and His Word.
When God gave His instructions about marriage in Ephesians 5, He did so in the midst of a culture that allowed all sorts of immoral activities. God’s focus is upon our own marriage. We need to seek to love each other within our marriage and seek to fulfill Psalm 34:3 as a married couple. “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.”
Fifthly, Jesus Christ made it clear that we shouldn’t be surprised if we face persecution from the society around us. Before His death, He said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”(John 15:18) Our culture has no interest in the Biblical Jesus. Yes, it wants a Jesus who loves everybody, but they have rejected the true Jesus of the Bible. The Biblical Jesus loves, but He also is holy and He hates sin so much that He died on the cross for our sins.
Persecution can become very real as our society departs from any kind of Christian worldview. The early Christians were persecuted because they were different from those around them. God’s Word proclaims truths that our culture rejects and mocks. Will not our culture eventually reject anybody who believes on God’s Word and chooses to live their lives according to His Word?
One last response to this decision is that we can say with the Apostle Paul: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) We realize that death will be our entrance into the presence of Jesus Christ. It will be a time of joy and worship. We will no longer be exposed to the wickedness of this present world.
We can also say with the Apostle John at the end of Revelation: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” One day there will be a government which will exalt righteousness, holiness and truth. Jesus will one day return to reign as the King of Kings.
“Dear Lord, I see your Word being trampled underneath the feet of our culture. I know that this is only natural because of the fact that we are born into sin. Thank you for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the World. Please work through your people so that we can be an effective witness to those around us. Thank for your love that is patiently waiting for people to turn to you. Amen.”
“They forgot God their savior, which had done great things in Egypt;” (Psalm 106:21)
The terror of forgetting not only affects people with dementia, but also people who experience amnesia. The word “amnesia” comes from two Greek words which mean “without memory”. When a person loses their memory, they lose not only their past, but also they often forget recent events. This can create confusion, a lack of peace and problems with others.
In the spiritual realm, we can also suffer amnesia. This amnesia is much like the physical amnesia that people suffer. A person with spiritual amnesia may feel confused spiritually. They may become anxious. This person has some vague memory of God, but they have lost the vibrancy of the Christian faith.
The nation of Israel witnessed the power of God when He poured out the ten plagues upon Egypt. They saw his salvation during the night of Passover. They also saw God’s power when He parted the Red Sea. Throughout their wanderings in the Wilderness, God constantly provided for them. Would they remember these blessings from God? No! God says of His people: “They forgot God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;” (Psalm 106:21).
Israel suffered spiritual amnesia. They had forgotten God, His blessings, His promises and His commands. How did this happen? Israel had taken their eyes off of the Lord. Their focus was upon the heathen nations around them. They conveniently forgot God; so that they could live their lives as they pleased.
Today, we often suffer spiritual amnesia. We conveniently forget God and His Word when we choose to live our lives to please ourselves and not to please God. We open the door to sin when we suffer from spiritual amnesia. Thankfully, God has provided a cure for our spiritual amnesia.
Jonah, God’s prophet, had a case of spiritual amnesia when he decided to forget God’s command to go to Nineveh by going the other direction. God disciplined Jonah when He placed him in belly of the great fish. While there, Jonah repented of his spiritual amnesia with these words: “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” (Jonah 2:7)
Like Jonah, we find ourselves experiencing tough times as a result of our spiritual amnesia. We realize that forgetting God has brought us to a place of desperation. We often make matters worse by trying to resolve the matter without God. We feel that we are quite distant from God. What can we do in this situation?
First of all, like Jonah, we need to see our desperate situation. Jonah understood that his spiritual amnesia had created this problem. He was now awake to the fact that God was His only hope. He was suffering the consequences of his sin. We begin to experience the cure for our spiritual amnesia when we see our hopelessness without the Lord.
After recognizing our hopeless situation, we need to remember God. Jonah chose to remember God in the most difficult time of his life. Remembering God means that we remember not only who He is, but also all that His has done for us. The list below gives us some truths that we often forget when we suffer from spiritual amnesia. How many of these have we forgotten? Will we choose to remember these?
God’s love for us
The Gospel of salvation
God’s view of man
The Indwelling Holy Spirit
Thirdly, Jonah remembered the gift of prayer. From inside the fish, Jonah found a prayer closet and poured out his heart to God. Jonah’ s prayer was not casual or flippant. It was desperate and dependent. Spiritual amnesia results in little or no prayer. God places us in a tight spot; so that we can not only remember Him, but that we also remember the gift of fervent prayer. If our prayers are dry, it is a sure sign that we are suffering from spiritual amnesia.
Have we seen the reality of spiritual amnesia in our life? God will go to great extremes to bring back our memory. He is waiting for us to turn back to Him, and remember Him!
“Dear Lord, I often choose to suffer with spiritual amnesia. I forget your presence in my life, as well as your commands and your blessings. I focus upon myself and my desires. I have a fear of man instead of a fear of you. Anxiety fills my life because I have forgotten your peace. Despair fills my life because I have forgotten your joy. Like Jonah, I need to remember you again. I need to seek you with my whole heart. Thank you for your forgiveness. Please keep me close to you so that I may not suffer from spiritual amnesia again. Amen”
Do you remember as a child when you would cling to your dad or mom when you felt danger approaching? “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.” (Psalm 63:8) The words “followeth hard” have the idea of clinging unto the Lord. When danger, temptations and sorrows approach, the best response is to cling to Our Heavenly Father. He alone can carry us through the tough times.
The world is a dangerous place for every child of God. We face a variety of dangers, including temptations from Satan, the lusts of our own flesh, and pressures from the world to conform. Because of these dangers, we need to cling to our Lord each step of the way. When we let go of the Lord, we not only find ourselves being exposed to dangers from without, but also the dangers from within our hearts.
The first aspect of clinging unto the Lord is total dependence upon Him. We know that within ourselves there is no hope to face the dangers and pitfalls of this life. When crossing a very busy street, I would cling to my Dad’s hand. I was completely incapable of crossing the many lanes of traffic alone. The cars were large and moving fast. I completely depended upon my Dad to navigate me to the other side of the street.
All through the Word of God, we see people who forsook their own ability and completely depended upon God. David when he battled Goliath totally depended upon the Lord. Like David, no matter how big the danger before us, we can cling unto our Heavenly Father. He will never push us away.
Joseph continually faced pressure from Potiphar’s wife to commit adultery. The pressure was great to yield to this temptation, but Joseph continually depended upon God. Daniel could have compromised his faith several times while in Babylon; yet he depended totally upon God. Ruth could have lived a life of great despair, but she depended upon God in the midst of all the trials she faced. We have the same Heavenly Father that each of these had. We can and need to depend upon Him.
A second aspect of clinging unto the Lord is our complete love for Him. Peter’s denial of the Lord occurred when he placed his love for himself above his love for the Lord Jesus Christ. After the resurrection, Jesus emphasized this truth to Peter when He asked him three times: “Do you love me?” Jesus wanted Peter to know that there was great safety in clinging to Him in love. Peter would face innumerable trials, but he clung to the Lord in love.
How close are we to God? Have we left our first love like the church at Ephesus did? When our love grows cold God seems distant. We don’t speak to Him with words of affection. We don’t open His Word with enthusiasm. We live our lives as though God is not there. This lack of love creates greater opportunities to fall into temptations, to doubt God’s love and provision, and to live a selfish life before others.
Loving God means that we need to stay as close to Him as possible. We want to listen to His Word. We enjoy our times of communion with Him. We are not ashamed of Him, but we are proud to call God, Our Heavenly Father.
A third aspect of clinging to God is to recognize the dangers of this life. Last year, while in Australia, I came across a joey with its mother kangaroo. The joey was lying close to its mother; however when I came closer to the joey, the joey recognized danger. He immediately leaped to its feet and jumped into his mother’s pouch. The joey found complete safety in his mother’s pouch.
Do we recognize the dangers in our life? Jesus constantly warns His followers of the ways of this world. He knows that we can easily become apathetic and careless in our spiritual lives. We don’t see the need of clinging to the Lord because we have become insensitive to the dangers around us and within us.
God is always there to uphold us, as long as we are always ready to cling unto Him. He holds His arms out as though saying: “Come unto me, I will protect you. I will love you. I will guide you through this situation.” We mustn’t let pride, self-will, ignorance, and busyness keep us from clinging to our Heavenly Father.
“Dear Heavenly Father, I have crossed many dangerous roads in my life. Sometimes, I have chosen to cross those roads without you. This has created difficulties for me and others. Thank you for the many times, that I have clung to you and you took me through those dangerous roads. I know that in the future I can depend upon you regardless of what happens. Thank you for first loving me; so that I can love you in return. Amen”
Dear Readers, very rarely do I include writings from other sources in my blog; however, this new Kindle Book by David de Bruyn is a very worthwhile read for all parents and grandparents. The title of the book is: “Save them from Secularism: Pre-Evangelism for Your Children.” This Kindle Book is presently being offered free. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BWRDT7Q
I have known the author since he was a child attending our church in Johannesburg, South Africa. David presently is the pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Sandringham, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Enjoy this one chapter of the book. It is my prayer and desire that you will download the whole book.
Chapter 2:Parental Piety by David de Bruyn
The first and greatest commandment is followed by a commandment to teach children to do the same (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Our goal as Christian parents should be nothing less than to help shape our children so that they will, by grace, become ardent lovers of God. We have said this happens not merely by telling our children to love God, but by shaping the child’s imagination. Probably one of the first analogies the child’s imagination receives is the analogy of his parents’ piety. This provides him with a picture of what it is like to be in a relationship with God.
Before a child knows anything about justification, penal substitution, or the nature of God, he knows what a relationship with God is like. Or at least, he knows what his believing parents express it to be like. The religious imagination of child is shaped by being exposed to his parents’ piety, and it is their example that gives him his first introduction to how God is to be loved, and if God ought to be loved.
This is probably why right after telling Israel that they are to love Him with all the heart, soul and might, God tells them that these words about loving God ultimately “which I command you today shall be in your heart.” That is, these words are to be internalized and understood and practised by the parents themselves first. Following that, verse 7 kicks in. “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.”
Certainly, this teaching will take the form of direct instruction. However, our concern in this book is how the non-discursive, non-cognitive faculty of knowing is shaped. Certainly then, part of the teaching is the fleshed-out example of love for God seen in the parents.
Loving God ultimately can be thought of as ultimate dependence, ultimate devotion and ultimate delight. When we love God ultimately, we regard Him as ultimately reliable, ultimately valuable, and ultimately desirable. We do not trust, commit to, or rejoice in anything besides God as an end. All else are means: He alone is the end.
In a family, this kind of love for God is seen in very tangible ways. When in the middle of a health or financial or emotional crisis, Dad says to the family, “We can be very thankful for what God has given us. Let’s turn to Him now in prayer, and ask Him for grace”, that lesson speaks to little hearts in powerful ways. Gratitude and contentment say more than 100 sermons. When Dad says, “We’ve barely got petrol in the tank, but we know God wants us to worship Him. We’ll trust that God will enable what He commands.” And do you know what God loves to do when those little eyes are watching that act of ultimate dependence? Provide. Supply. Protect.
When the child is groaning about a sore throat on Monday morning, and Dad says, “Get out of that bed, and get ready, you are going to school!”, he is teaching the importance of education. But when the child has the same groans about a sore throat on Sunday morning, and Dad says, “Well, just take it easy and rest this morning,” he has taught something else. He has taught that education takes priority over worship. He has taught that our devotion to education ought to exceed our devotion to God.
When Mom will drive from this side of the city for swimming to that side of the city for tennis or ballet, to the other side for extra maths, and back again for soccer, and finally home, racking up a good 100 kilometres in the process, the child might learn that Mom and Dad like him to have activities. But when they say, “We can’t go to the Wednesday Evening service, it’s too much driving, and petrol is getting more expensive”, he learns about priorities. Petrol costs and driving time aren’t an issue if it is extra-murals or education, but very high hurdles if it is church. He has just learned how committed one should be to God, and it is not an ultimate commitment.
Children know what we love. They see it when our eyes sparkle when we talk about what delights us. They see how we anticipate the things we really love. They see how we reminisce over the things we love. And they see how we connect those things to God, if we do. They see what our attitude is towards the things of God.
If Dad’s sighing heavily as everyone gets in the car on Sunday, but he’s cheerfully buoyant before the start of a rugby game on TV, he communicates which brings more joy. If Mom is humming away while she copies photos to Facebook and makes scrap-book albums, but looks like she’s eaten lemons during the singing of hymns, she communicates what brings her joy.
And make no mistake, those little eyes are on you in corporate worship – do you enjoy and understand those hymns, or do you just mouth them? Do you love God’s Word and read it with hunger? Do you communicate your relish for the Word before and after? They notice when you’re soaking in the Word, and they notice when you’re looking at your watch. And later on, they might remember that you don’t do that during a movie.
Before we tell them so, we show our children what we think is reliable, valuable and desirable. God says there is only One who deserves that kind of love. That should be the day-in, day-out message of our homes.
Growing up my Dad gave me a love for travel. Every year, we would plan and then execute a trip. One year we went to the New England states. The next year, we went down to Tennessee and then to New Orleans. Another year, we travelled to the Grand Canyon. Every trip had its difficulties, but I don’t regret any of our travels. These trips gave me an opportunity to learn new things and enjoy new experiences.
Our life on this earth is also one great journey. Our journey begins at birth and continues unto death. We may encounter different experiences and roads in our journey. We will face joys and heartaches, pain and pleasures, companionship and loneliness. However, this journey is not to be travelled alone. Where will we find help in the difficulties of our journey?
God gives to His children (those who believe on Jesus Christ, as their Lord and Savior) five great promises to help us in our journey. God’s promises are only effective in our lives when we believe them and act upon them. The road ahead is unknown, but if we know God and His promises, we will successfully navigate the road ahead of us.
God’s promises are seen in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not; for 1) I am with thee: be not dismayed; 2) for I am thy God: 3) I will strengthen thee; yea, 4) I will help thee; yea,5) I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
1, When I am lonely, God promises his presence. God will never leave me. “I am with thee.”
One of the most lonely experiences in life is at the airport. There are people everywhere and yet you are all alone. Everybody is hurrying to catch their flight, sleeping, or catching up on their reading. No one seems to care about others.
Life is much the same way. Everybody gets caught up with what they are doing. No one seems to care. We face our trials alone. We face our heartaches alone. We face our decisions alone. Does anybody care? Yes! God assures His children that He will never leave us. He is walking life’s journey with us. He will guide us when we are making decisions. He comfort us when we have sorrow. He will give us the strength to endure our trials. God’s presence enables us to continue on our journey with confidence, hope and joy.
2. When I am discouraged, God promises a personal relationship with Him. “For I am thy God.”
Discouragement means that we have lost heart. In the midst of our journey, we just want to quit everything. We may want to quit our walk with God. We may want to quit serving God. We may want to quit our work or even our family.
God knows how His child can easily lose heart in the difficult times of life. He assures us that we will always belong to Him. Our circumstances may change. We may change, but God will always be Our God. He will always be Our Father. He will always take a personal interest in our lives. He will encourage our hearts through the most trying times by saying to us: “I will always be your Father. I am going to get you through this. Trust me no matter how dark the journey may seem. I will bring light to this darkness.”
3. When I am weak and feel that I can’t continue, He will strengthen me. “I will strengthen thee.”
Life is much like a race. There are times when we feel strong and then there are other times when we feel as though we can’t do any more. We have nothing left in us spiritually, emotionally or physically. We just can’t go any further. However, our Heavenly Father gives us His strength to continue on. Paul understood this when he said: “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) When we feel that we can’t go any further, we can always lean hard on His Everlasting Arms. He will carry us.
4. When I am in need of spiritual, emotional or physical help, He will help me. “I will help thee.”
In my travels, I occasionally find myself lost. I don’t know where I am and I don’t where I am going. My natural response is to try to resolve my situation on my own. This only makes the problem worse. I lose time and become even more lost than before.
Likewise, we often find ourselves needing help in our journey of life. However, pride keeps us from calling out to God. We want to resolve the difficulty ourselves. David, the Psalmist, understood the need to call out to God when he said: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)
We may think that our problem is insignificant to God. Perhaps, we think that God isn’t interested in us. God is our Father! He does want to help us, because He knows that His children need help every day. When we need help, we must never hesitate to run to the waiting arms of Our Heavenly Father. He will never hesitate to help us.
5. When I stumble or fall, He will pick me up. “I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
Many years ago, I experienced my first car accident. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. The front of car was totally smashed. The car looked as though it would never be driven again. However, I had the car taken to a body shop and after two weeks time, it looked as though the accident had never occurred.
In our life’s journey, we also have accidents. Most of these accidents are self-inflicted because of our sin. We have fallen in a ditch filled with guilt, pain, and sorrow. How can we get out? God assures us that when temptations come, He is there to bring deliverance. When we sin, He assures us of His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Dear Lord, I thank you for my great salvation through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank you for this journey called life. Yes, I have experienced loneliness, pain, weakness, and discouragement; yet you have always been there with me each step of the way. You have brought joy in my sorrow. You have brought encouragement in my times of discouragement. You have brought hope in my despair. You have brought strength in my weakness. I have cried out to you, and you have answered. Thank you for taking a personal interest in my life’s journey. May I always glorify you each step of the way. Amen.”
Hurt and discouragement are realities in every person’s life. We have felt the painful arrow of someone’s words. We have experienced being misunderstood or betrayed. Discouragement settles into our lives as an unwelcomed guest. Even our friends can do nothing to relieve us of our painful hearts. We don’t know where to turn.
King David had these very same experiences in his life. He had enemies who were out to get him. His few remaining friends pushed him into a deeper despair by saying that God had abandoned him. He shares his experience in Psalm 3. This Psalm begins with David expressing the helplessness of his soul: “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.” (Psalm 3:1-2)
The words: “There is no help for him in God.” cry out for an answer. We have all faced discouragement because of circumstances, people who don’t like us, and our own actions. However, when those who are closest to us give up hope for us, what are we to do? We often crawl into our shell and nurse our broken heart alone.
In the midst of the darkness of his soul, David looks up to God. Has God abandoned him? No! He finds his hope and encouragement once again in God. He reaffirms his faith and trust in God: “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” (Psalm 3:3)
God is his protector (shield) in spite of his enemies.
God will be glorified, in spite of his circumstances.
God will lift up his soul unto joy and encouragement in spite of his despair.
After David reaffirms his trust in God, he then cries out for God to act in his behalf. “I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah” (Psalm 3:4) God is waiting for us to cry out to Him. Our Heavenly Father knows all about our enemies, pain, trials, and discouragement; however, He chooses to wait until we humble ourselves before Him. Our crying out to Him is saying: “Lord, I have no where else to turn. I desperately need you. Please come and deliver me.” God will hear our cry and respond.
David’s situation has yet to change, but he has changed. He knows that God is working everything for His glory. David no longer faces sleepless nights turning his bed. “I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.” (Psalm 3:5) We don’t have to lie awake at night worrying about our enemies, future and tribulations. Sleep comes when we remember that the Lord is our shield. Nothing can enter our lives that doesn’t first pass through his loving presence.
The dread of each day would no longer be a part of David’s life. “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.” (Psalm 3:6) We don’t have to wake up in the morning filled with fear of what will happen. God is in control. He is the One who restores our confidence and hope. Each day is a new opportunity to bring glory to God who has lifted up our soul
David concludes with confidence that God will show His justice upon his enemies. “Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone;thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.” (Psalm 3:7) When we turn to God, we are free to allow Him to deal with those who have committed evil, whether it be against us, or others. We are free from bitterness when we commit them completely to the justice of God.
Turning to God has caused a transformation in David’s life. In the beginning of the Psalm, David’s soul is downcast and hopeless, but at the end of the Psalm, he proclaims that he is greatly blessed by God. “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” (Psalm 3:8)
God transforms our despair into joy, peace, comfort, courage and blessing. God’s ears are always open to our cry. Are we ready to cry out to Him?
“Dear Lord, I have a heavy heart. My life seems hopeless. Those around me say that I am beyond your help. Yet, I know that you hear my cry unto you. Your Word tells me that you are my Protector. Help me to hide behind your shield. Give me the grace to live for your glory. Thank you for lifting up my soul no matter how low it may go. You alone can restore my hope, my joy, my courage, and my purpose in life. Thank you for hearing not only my cry, but the deepest sighs of my soul that I can’t express outwardly. Amen.”