Hope Amid the Ruins (When Everything Falls Apart)

ruins

Ruins tell the story of decay, neglect, and destruction. We can also face times of ruin and decay. We feel hopeless and in despair. The Prophet Jeremiah experienced a time in his life when he was in the midst of the ruins of Jerusalem. Babylon had destroyed the city. All hope was gone. How did Jeremiah handle this hopeless condition? How can we manage our desperate situation?

Jeremiah, amid the ruins of Jerusalem, looked up to God. He said in Lamentations 3:21: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” He knows in himself there are no answers: ” My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:” (Lam 3:18) Jeremiah knows in himself there are no answers; however, he knows that his hope is in God alone.

When we are facing hopelessness in our lives, our only hope is in the Lord alone. We must take our eyes off the ruins around us and in us. Our focus can only be on the Lord. Jeremiah focuses on five attributes of God that bring great hope in his life in spite of the ruins around Him.

1. God is Merciful– “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22) God’s forgiveness brings restoration and hope in our life. As we come to Him with a repentant heart, He takes the mess of our life, and He restores us

2. God is Compassionate. “because his compassions fail not.” (Lam. 3:22b) His compassion gives us a reason for hope. He takes our hopeless situation, and in His love, He rebuilds our life.

3. God is Faithful– “They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness“. (Lamentations 3:23) God’s promises give us hope amid the ruins of our lives. God’uses His promises to rebuild our lives.

4. God is Omnipresent. (He is with me) “The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore, will I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24) God’s presence gives us hope. He walks with us amid the ruins. He is with us throughout the rebuilding project of our life.

5. God is Good. “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” (Lamentations 3:25) God’s goodness brings hope to us. We know that God will take the ruins and make our life into something beautiful and glorifying to Him

What will we do amid our hopelessness? Will we stay defeated and discouraged, or will we look up to our great and mighty God? Jeremiah discovered great hope in a hopeless situation, and so can we!!

REFRESHMENT FOR THIRSTY SOULS

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Imagine wandering in the desert. You are hot, tired, and extremely thirsty. As you are in despair, you come upon a spring of water! There is joy, strength, and encouragement because of the water! YOU ARE REFRESHED. Are we like that spring of water in the lives of others? Do we bring refreshment to their lives? “For they (Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achalcus) HAVE REFRESHED MY SPIRIT AND YOURS.” (1Co 16:18): God used these three men to REFRESH others. Will we be a spring of water to someone in despair, discouragement, or depression? Here are ways that we can bring refreshment to others.

1. We can refresh others by our presence.
2. We refresh others by our words
3. We refresh others by our prayers
4. We refresh others by our example
5. We refresh others by our kind deeds
6. We refresh others by forgiving them.
7. We refresh others with our love.

“Dear Lord, help me to look beyond myself and see the needs of others. There are people around me who need to be encouraged. Others need emotional healing. Some people need a friend. Guide me so that I can be a refreshment to others as you daily refresh my soul. Amen”

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 do not know the “real me.” They know us superficially, 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 love and His commitment are the basis of His knowledge of us. For this reason, He takes us by the arm and says: “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?”

Waking Up with Jesus (The Joy of Morning Prayer)

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Sunrise on the Canadian Prairie: by Mark J Booth

How we start our day often dictates how we view the rest of the day.  There are many days when I feel confused or even anxious.  I feel like I am running on empty.  What is the problem?  Perhaps, I have forgotten the pleasure of starting my day with the most important person in my life, my Heavenly Father.  The Psalmist, David, understood the importance of starting the day with a time of prayer with the Lord.  “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)

1. Morning prayer is a pleasure because it reminds us of our need of God.  David lived his life with one trial after another.  These trials were a constant reminder to him that he needed his Heavenly Father daily.  When we start our day with prayer, we are saying to God: ” I need you throughout this day.  I need your wisdom.  I need your strength.  I need your protection.”  Morning prayer enables us to come to God with all humility

2. Morning prayer is a pleasure because it reminds us of the greatness of God.  David recognizes the greatness of God when he writes: “Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God.” (Psalm 5:2)  David constantly writes about the attributes of God.  Morning prayer enables us to start the day focusing upon God.  We remember that our God is faithful, merciful, loving, holy, just, all-powerful, omnipresent, all-knowing, and wise.  We also remember that He is our Father, who wants to take care of us throughout the coming day.

3. Morning prayer is a pleasure because it enables us to sort out our priorities.  David says: “I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)  David was a man after God’s own heart because he had the proper priorities in his life.  David started his day by seeking direction from God.  His relationship with the Lord was the top priority of His life.  When we start the day with the Lord, we are saying to him:  “My relationship with you is the most important priority in my life.”  Wrong priorities create confusion and very anxious days.  When our relationship with the Lord is right, everything else will fall into its proper place.

4. Morning prayer is a pleasure because we can share our burdens with the Lord.     David writes: “Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies: make thy way straight before my face.” (Psalm 5:8)  David faced many enemies.  These enemies were a great burden upon David.  We begin our day with many burdens.  We have burdens in our family.  We have burdens at work.  We have financial burdens.  We have health burdens.  We have many other burdens.  Our morning prayer time is a great opportunity to cast these burdens upon the strong arms of our Heavenly Father.  “Cast thy burden upon the LORD and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”  (Psalm 55:22).

Every day begins with a great opportunity to talk to our loving Heavenly Father.  When you love someone deeply, it is a pleasure to start the day with them.  Prayer is not a chore, but a pleasure.  God is always available to listen to us, but are we ready to speak to Him?

“Dear Heavenly Father, there are many mornings that I forget to take the time to talk with you.  I have forgotten the pleasure I derive from spending this time with you.  You are patiently waiting for me every morning.  You are always ready to listen.  Help me to come to you each morning with an open heart, remembering that you also take pleasure in hearing from me. Amen”

A Prison of Mine Own Making: Am I a People-Pleaser?

old-prison-2-1093527-mA prison is a place of confinement, a place without freedom, a place of loneliness. Nobody would voluntarily enter a prison. However, many people have entered into a prison of their own making.  This prison is the prison of being a people-pleaser.  A people-pleaser is one who desires to please others before pleasing God. By trying to please others, they face the great problem of trying to please competing interests.  A people-pleaser doesn’t make decisions in light of what God says, but what others expect.

We are susceptible to become a people-pleaser. It is natural for us to want others to like and accept us. Being a people-pleasure is difficult because there are many competing interests that are coming from various directions. What one person thinks is the right decision; another person takes the opposite view. As a people-pleaser, we live our lives by the opinions and demands of others, instead of seeking to please our Lord God.

One Christian who found freedom from the prison of being a people-pleaser was the Apostle Paul. In his ministry, Paul constantly received criticism from others. Paul could find acceptance with various people by surrendering his ministry to the opinions of others. However, Paul chose not to enter the prison of being a people-pleaser. He found freedom by desiring to please only one person, God, His Father. “Even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

The Lighthouse at Port  Sanilac, Michigan.  Photo by Mark J. Booth
The Lighthouse at Port
Sanilac, Michigan. Photo by Mark J. Booth

How can we find the freedom that Paul found?  First of all, Paul understood the danger of being a pleaser of men. He knew that it would be impossible to please God, if he was always seeking to please people with their ever-changing opinions, desires and goals. He also understood that men, being sinners, could not always see life from God’s perspective. Paul knew that when he kept his eyes upon what men thought, he would soon forget to keep his eyes focused upon God.

Secondly, Paul understood that God was his Master. We don’t serve ten masters or twenty masters. No, we serve one Master. Our goal is to please the very One who loves us and knows what is best for us. We submit to Him as Lord. Yes, in living for our Master, we may serve others, but our eyes are always upon pleasing Him. When we become a people-pleaser, we no longer are submitting to the Lord as our Master. Many people have ruined their lives because they sought to please others at the cost of pleasing the Lord God

Thirdly, people are very quick to wrongly judge our motives; God knows our motives because he knows our every thought and attitude. Paul understood that God is the One who will ultimately test our hearts. God knows not only what we do, but why we do it. A people-pleaser can’t please everybody thus they feel frustration and guilty. People are often quite harsh in their judgment of our actions. God sees our hearts. If our hearts are clear before God then we will be free from being a people-pleaser.

Fourthly, people tend to be selfish. They want to control or even bully others to follow their desires, opinions and goals. Their desire is self-focused instead of God-focused. God’s will is not only for His own Glory, but for our benefit. Others can’t see the big picture, God sees it. He loves us and wants what is best for us. When we focus on God’s wisdom and plan, we will be free from the limited understanding of those around us.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we ignore the people we love and serve, but it does mean that their opinions should not imprison us. God can use the thoughts of others to give us direction, but we must not take our focus from the One whom we are truly serving. Yes, we can try to make those around us happy, but it must never be at the cost of displeasing our Master. When we become imprisoned by the desires of others, we will never be free to serve our True Master.

“Dear Lord, I find myself tempted to be a people-pleaser. I don’t enjoy the criticism that comes my way when I make decisions. I want you to use me in the lives of others. However, I realize that when I become imprisoned by the desires of others, I can no longer be useful to you or to others. Please help me to keep my focus upon you. Help me to discern the difference between my will and your will. I know in my heart, that in pleasing you that I will reach my full potential of being a blessing to others.

 

Am I Suffering from Spiritual Amnesia?

A Boca do Inferno in Portugal.  Photo by: Mark J Booth
A Boca do Inferno in Portugal. Photo by: Mark J Booth

“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 attributes
  • God’s presence
  • God’s power
  • God’s promises
  • God’s commands
  • 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”

Going Home-Maria Teresa Standridge’s Testimony

Maria Teresa Standridge-A woman who loves God and others.
Maria Teresa Standridge-A woman who loves God and others.

What does it feel like to hear from the doctor that you have only a few months to live?  Maria Teresa Standridge recently received this news from her doctors in Italy.  Maria Teresa has served the Lord with her husband, Bill, for nearly sixty years in Rome, Italy. Though she is eighty-eight years old, she is still serving the Lord. They have been an inspiration to me because of their faithful service unto the Lord even into their eighties.

I have been given permission to share Maria Teresa’s thoughts about her impending death.  Please take time to read this beautiful testimony of God’s peace in the midst of facing death.

I’M GOING HOME! BY MARIA TERESA STANDRIDGE (ROME, ITALY)

“Mr. Standridge, bring  your wife to the emergency room immediately for a blood transfusion. The levels in her blood are very low. We have already informed your doctor. ”

I had just finished blood tests in a medical center and things seemed really serious. I did not expect anything like this, even though, for a few weeks, I had been feeling pretty weak and with little energy. We went straight to the emergency room of a large hospital in Rome, close to home, and soon I was lying on a bed with a needle stuck in my arm and a nice bag of blood, which was followed by two more, transferring its liquid, drop by drop, into my veins.

Since then I have been on a rollercoaster of news and surprises, hospitalization, other blood tests, and also samples of bone marrow, that led to a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, to which doctors have added the unpromising  adjective “terminal” .

So today, without any particular pain and, apparently, still in good health and with a good measure of strength, I find myself thinking in a very practical and realistic way, of my “going home with the Lord” when He wills. Perhaps very soon.

How have I reacted to a story like this?  Honestly, surprised and almost in disbelief.  But, even so, with HIS peace.

A few years ago, when I was invited to do Bible studies in a Conference for women, I said with a laugh that, given my age of more than 85, (soon I’m going to be 89), the organizers would do well to also get a “spare  tire” in case I had to decline the invitation. But honestly, given my health that I thought was disease-proof,  I said it jokingly as if I were actually immortal.

Today, the jokes are over and the reality is different. It is a reality of a certain sadness (I’d be lying if I said otherwise), but also very calm.

Sadness because leukemia is a reality that speaks of separation from Bill, the only love of my life, with whom I have spent more than 56 years, and have had the joy of serving the Lord, in a kind of spiritual and also intellectual symbiosis.   I shared a passion for the Word of God, the commitment of raising four children, and the responsibility of helping many to learn and grow in biblical faith.

Bill and Maria Teresa Standridge-Married and serving the Lord together for over 56 years!
Bill and Maria Teresa Standridge- Serving the Lord together for over 56 years in Italy!

I know that after my departure Bill will feel a bit as though he was “mutilated”, but I know that his love for the Lord, His Word, and the Italians, will support him and help him serve as long as he has the strength.

Of course I do not like, either, the idea of ​​leaving our four children, three daughters-in-law and also a son-in-law, who love me and twelve grandchildren (one married) and two great-grandchildren, each one more lovely than the other. But the moment of separation will come.

But my joy is that all have trusted the Lord as their Savior and are therefore in his hands.

But now, let’s talk about the reasons for my peace of mind.

I came to know Jesus as Savior and Lord when I was 20 years old. Since then, the grace of God has surrounded me and the unmerited favor of the Lord has wrapped and protected me.

I know I’m saved, and my faith is based on the promises of God’s Word.  One that comforts me in particular is the letter of the Apostle Paul to Titus: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7) What more than that could you want or hope for?

Then I had the honor to receive from the Lord a clear call to serve full-time, I went to Bible school, I had teachers of great value, I have experienced the extraordinary time of evangelistic fervor and spiritual growth in Italy after the end of World War II. I was a part of  the beginning of the new period of political freedom in Italy that gave us permission to start youth camps, summer schools, conferences and all kinds of activities that the Lord has blessed. I threw myself headlong into every new evangelistic project.

My university studies prepared me to have a ministry of writing and my heart led me to make available to the Lord every capacity that He had given me.

Over the years I learned to study and nourish myself in the Word of God, I understood the importance of furthering knowledge in His truth, and rooted my faith in obedience to what it says. Without a good supply of this type of knowledge, the Christian life can become very severe and be very flat.

I confess also that I have made many mistakes for which I had to ask forgiveness from the Lord, from my loved ones, brothers and sisters, and I realized that forgiveness is the key to the Christian life.  It is essential in both the human family and that of God.

He who does not forgive others has understood little of the love of God, but those who practice the confession of their sins to God and asking for the pardon of all they have offended, know that the blood of Christ purifies them and allows them to walk in the light (1 John 1:8-10).

After so many years of walking with the Lord, I realized that “in me, in my flesh, Maria Teresa, dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18), but whatever I did that is good is what he has done for me and in me (Isaiah 26:12).

During a conference in Isola del Gran Sasso, Daniel, one of our sons, in a meditation stressed the fact that after the resurrection, Jesus bore in his body the marks of his suffering and death for us. The disciples have seen his scars and know that, with his resurrected human body, Jesus ascended to heaven.

In the vision of Revelation,  John later saw Him as a “lamb, standing, which seemed to have been sacrificed” (5:6) and I, with myriads of believers (and hopefully with you) will behold for all eternity those signs of the price paid by Jesus for our salvation.   Those signs will inspire us to worship Him in perfection.

This wonderful thought humbles me, but also fills me with great gratitude.
With love, Maria Teresa  Rome, March 2013

Do you want to have the same my certainties?
Write to:Association of Evangelical Truth
Via Pozzuoli, 9 – 00182 Rome – Italy
http://www.istitutobiblicobereano.org | assverev@tin.it