God’s faithfulness

[A repost from August 2014]

On January 1, 2012, I began to read through the Bible using the 3650 plan. I had no idea on that first day of that year just how full of suffering 2012 would be. (Isn’t God good not to overwhelm us with future knowledge?) I used a brand new ESV Bible, and I marked it up, sometimes jotting a date beside a Psalm. Oh, what a treasure that Bible is to me! Immersing myself in Scripture was truly a means of grace that terrible year, and now I have such reminders of God’s faithfulness jotted in margins. It’s almost like a journal.

This particular Bible is fairly compact, so while I’m using a different one in my daily reading, I take this one to church. Last Sunday as I was flipping to the Psalm we were reading, I passed Psalm 57 and saw the note:

psalm57

Psalm 57 was the one I “happened” to read on that dark day as I worked my way through the 3650 plan. And how appropriate it was! Just look at God’s encouragement to me on that saddest of days:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts–
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves.

My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!

Awake my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.

For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

Oh, how good God is to us with His Word! This Psalm was true for David in the cave as he fled from Saul thousands of years ago, and it was true for a brokenhearted, grieving, and weak woman in southwest Georgia on a hot summer day in 2012. And it’s been true for countless believers in between and since.

I knew, even in the depths, that God was with me and for me, and I had to take every step in faith because I just couldn’t see how He would work out His plan for me. And, of course, I have no idea what’s coming, what other valleys He will lead me through.

That year I marked every reference to God’s steadfastness and faithfulness I came across because I clung to that aspect of His character. And He proved Himself over and over. He still does, even as He reminds me in this joyful season of life that He has been with me all the way — comforting me, strengthening me, and preparing me to meet Paul. It is good to look back and see how God fulfills His purpose for me.

I begin this Sunday full of joy and gratitude at how good my God has been to me. He was good to me in that valley, and He is good to me today. He is good all the time.

With a joyful heart,

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new year’s eve

I’m not sure how it’s possible for 2014 to be drawing to a close already, but I suppose my amazement at how quickly time is passing is a sure sign that I’m getting older. It seems like just a couple of months ago, I reviewed 2013 and wondered what 2014 would have in store.

Truly, with the exception of 2012 and its sorrowful surprises, 2014 has shocked the heck out of me more than any other. This time last year, I would never have predicted that I’d be ending 2014 with a wonderful husband. Our family has grown this year as we added a daughter-in-law, but as 2014 began, that was already on the calendar. A new husband and two stepsons were nowhere on my radar.

Apparently, not all surprises are bad ones!

I end 2014 and begin 2015 full of gratitude.

God has surely lavished grace and mercy on me as he brought me a godly, wonderful, patient, kind, tender, and strong husband when I wasn’t even looking. And even though my first marriage ended painfully, God graciously preserved my esteem of the gift of marriage and He is using it as a means of my sanctification. In just a few short months, He has taught me much about selflessness as Paul and I adjust to life together. Marriage is a gift, and marriage to Paul is a particularly precious gift.

As I read my thoughts on 2013 and goals for 2014, I see that I did succeed at slowing down my book-buying habit, but I also read far fewer pages in 2014 — mostly because a new hobby nudged the books out of the way. As you regular readers know, knitting is my new obsession, and I look forward to improving in 2015. But I’m also going to work to get back to the books and return to the 3650 Bible-reading plan. My second 365 photo project has come to an end, and although I won’t do a photo a day in 2015, I have some plans for photography that I’ll share soon. Perhaps I’ll get back into a more regular blogging rhythm, too.

So farewell, 2014. And welcome, 2015.

Happy New Year’s, y’all!

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on the fear of the LORD

fearAs I’ve read through my Bible this year, my focus has unintentionally become the fear of the LORD. I noticed it early on this year as I began the 3650 plan, and I continue to mark it as I work through God’s Word. (It’s everywhere!) Recently as I was reading Proverbs 1, I noticed again something I underlined a few months ago: (emphasis mine)

Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.

Have you ever thought of the “fear of the LORD” as something you can choose?

As I prepare for my upcoming marriage, I read Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. These lines pointed me right back to the theme of my Bible reading this year:

“Fear” in the Bible means to overwhelmed, to be controlled by something. To fear the Lord is to be overwhelmed with wonder before the greatness of God and his love.”

Later, Keller writes that “being filled with the Spirit and the fear of the Lord are basically the same thing. They both refer to an inner spiritual experience and reality, but each phrase brings out different aspects of it. They both take people ‘out of themselves.'”

If the Spirit has opened the eyes of our heart, we’re able to choose to fear our LORD. What would that look like? The negatives in Proverbs 1 are instructive. Choosing to fear the LORD would involve heeding His counsel and loving — not despising — His reproof. That would necessarily mean I’d know His counsel — His Word, and that would mean I’d have to devote time and energy to reading it, studying it, hiding it in my heart, and obeying it in the course of my days. And Keller’s words are helpful: Choosing to fear the LORD would mean I’m controlled by Him and His Words, overwhelmed with wonder, worshipping Him. This only happens as I choose to spend time with Him, humbling myself before Him, trusting Him, seeking His wisdom and insight.

It’s so easy to look at our current situation in life without contemplating the myriad choices along the way that got us here. Contrary to what our culture preaches, life doesn’t just happen. It’s the product of a gazillion choices — some small, some enormous — that lead us either to the wisdom of fearing the LORD or the folly of going our own way.

So today we have a choice before us. Will we fear the LORD or go our own way?

Praying I choose wisely,

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God’s faithfulness

On January 1, 2012, I began to read through the Bible using the 3650 plan. I had no idea on that first day of that year just how full of suffering 2012 would be. (Isn’t God good not to overwhelm us with future knowledge?) I used a brand new ESV Bible, and I marked it up, sometimes jotting a date beside a Psalm. Oh, what a treasure that Bible is to me! Immersing myself in Scripture was truly a means of grace that terrible year, and now I have such reminders of God’s faithfulness jotted in margins. It’s almost like a journal.

This particular Bible is fairly compact, so while I’m using a different one in my daily reading, I take this one to church. Last Sunday as I was flipping to the Psalm we were reading, I passed Psalm 57 and saw the note:

psalm57

Psalm 57 was the one I “happened” to read on that dark day as I worked my way through the 3650 plan. And how appropriate it was! Just look at God’s encouragement to me on that saddest of days:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts–
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves.

My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!

Awake my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.

For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

Oh, how good God is to us with His Word! This Psalm was true for David in the cave as he fled from Saul thousands of years ago, and it was true for a brokenhearted, grieving, and weak woman in southwest Georgia on a hot summer day in 2012. And it’s been true for countless believers in between and since.

I knew, even in the depths, that God was with me and for me, and I had to take every step in faith because I just couldn’t see how He would work out His plan for me. And, of course, I have no idea what’s coming, what other valleys He will lead me through.

That year I marked every reference to God’s steadfastness and faithfulness I came across because I clung to that aspect of His character. And He proved Himself over and over. He still does, even as He reminds me in this joyful season of life that He has been with me all the way — comforting me, strengthening me, and preparing me to meet Paul. It is good to look back and see how God fulfills His purpose for me.

I begin this Sunday full of joy and gratitude at how good my God has been to me. He was good to me in that valley, and He is good to me today. He is good all the time.

With a joyful heart,

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random thoughts

~ After getting off track with my Bible reading plan, I’ve returned to the 3650 project. I love that this method of reading through God’s Word isn’t tied to dates, so, really, I’m not behind.

~ The border/immigration mess baffles me. Why in the world are we still bothering with customs in our airports? What’s the point if anyone can just walk into the U.S.?

~ I’m wretched. I complain about cold weather, and now I’m complaining about our hot humid sauna here in southwest Georgia.

~ Seriously, it felt like the World Cup lasted for about 2 years. And I was never the least bit interested.

~ On the other hand, Auburn football kicks off in less than 50 days.

~ I read the lamest observation on a motel sign recently:

No one can give you better advice than yourself.

That’s even worse than the “follow your heart” counsel on Dove chocolate wrappers. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

~ random thoughts, random photos:

londonapple

londoneye

kitty

redtulip

~ I’ve got a bit of travel coming up, my last hurrah for the summer. And I’m really excited because I’ll get to see my best friend.

~ This will be the first summer in 5 years that I don’t have to move! I can’t tell you how relieved I am about that.

Grateful,
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“…or incline their ear…”

I’m still reading through my Bible this year using the 3650 plan, but I’ve gotten behind on some of the readings. (I’m fighting my OCD and trying not to let that deter me from sticking with it.)

I recently read this in Jeremiah:

And the LORD said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.

That “or incline their ear” is what really grabbed my attention.

When my children were younger, there were countless times when they didn’t “hear” me. And as children often do, they used that as an excuse not to obey. I explained to them (over and over) that it was their responsibility to tune their ears to listen out for me. I thought of that as I read this passage in Jeremiah, and I realized that this is what gets me in trouble, too. It’s so easy to let myself become distracted by all of the other voices out there clamoring for my time and attention.

So today, I’m pondering the inclination of my ear and I’m praying that I will tune it to hear Him. And I’m thanking Him for pursuing me and being faithful to His covenant with me.

Will you join me?

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just a quick thought

As I was reading Romans 16 the other night as part of my Bible-reading plan this year, I stopped at a verse that I think I’ve never really thought about before:

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 

I’d never noticed the seemingly contradictory ideas in that first sentence — the God of PEACE who will CRUSH Satan.

A few observations:

~ It seems that peace doesn’t always mean the absence of violence. Crushing isn’t sweet and gentle; it’s violent and destructive. And it’s done here by the God of PEACE. And this is clearly meant to be good news to the Christians in Rome.

~ Satan is real. And He is the enemy of God and His people.

~ God fights for His people. And He wins.

~ I wonder what pacifists make of this verse?

Just thinking out loud,

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connections

I love the connections throughout Scripture that I just “happen” to find as I read using the 3650 plan. Just yesterday I read this familiar verse in Psalm 34:

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

And then Peter picks up the theme:

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

It’s like those New Testament writers knew their Bibles or something. 😉

do not be afraid (part 2)

If you’ve been reading through your Bible using the 3650 program, you’ve read nearly 300 chapters of Scripture so far this year and have read all of Joshua, Matthew, Acts, Romans, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and James. Anyone still with me on this?

fearnotI continue to note how often we’re instructed on fear: do not fear, fear not, do not be afraid…  But as my pastor reminded us on Sunday, God doesn’t only give the negative commands; He gives us the positive, the replacement behavior, the “put on” after we’re told to “put off”:  fear the LORD.  The issue here is the object, not the verb. I’m not to fear others, evil, the future, suffering, etc. Instead I’m to fear the LORD, because after all, He’s sovereign over it all. And He encourages us to fear Him by reminding us often that He is present.

He also tells us often in His Word that fearing Him is wisdom. We see this in the Psalms, in Proverbs, and Job even reminds his friends in the midst of his suffering: “…the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom…”

Even when the verses don’t mention the word “fear”, we can learn about it. For example, Proverbs 28:1

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

That’s really a fear problem, isn’t it? The wicked are fearing the wrong things because of guilty, confused consciences, and the righteous can be bold because they’re fearing rightly.

The contrasts in Scripture are instructive, too. Later in that same chapter of Proverbs, we read:

Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always,
but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

Here it seems that if we don’t fear the LORD, we’re still doing something (our hearts are never in neutral!) — something terribly dangerous and, well, fearful. We’re hardening our hearts. This really ought to scare us!

I could go on and on, but I’ll close here and encourage you to pick up your Bible and dig in. I find the 3650 program rich and rewarding, but the main thing is to spend time in His Word.

With joy,

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More on this: Do not be afraid

Do not be afraid…

If you’ve began the 3650 Bible-reading project on January 1st, you’ve read over 100 chapters of God’s Word so far!

I’m enjoying using my new ESV Journaling Bible along with a set of Sharpie fine-point pens. And here’s what I’ve been marking often so far this year: Do not be afraid, Fear not, Do not be afraid or dismayed

donotbeafraid

When I did this plan in 2012, I was amazed at the connections I saw daily as I read, and this time is no different. For some reason (because I need to hear/learn it??) I’m seeing those phrases all over the place — several times in Joshua, but also in Matthew and Isaiah. And I see plenty of reasons not to fear in the Psalms: He is a stronghold, He doesn’t forsake those who seek him, He makes me dwell in safety…

What is God bringing to your attention?

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More on this: Do not be afraid (part 2)