Satisfied?

Posted by admin on November 8, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

“O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”  Psalm 90:13    A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God

In the desert of Sin (Exodus 16:1) there were two parties at odds with each other–and the leaders Moses and Aaron comprised the minority!  The majority were “the whole congregation of the sons of Israel,” freshly liberated slaves of Egypt. They didn’t trust Moses and Aaron,  and they didn’t trust God, even after He parted the Red Sea for them.  

They had eaten up all the unleavened bread.  They had livestock, but they must have balked at slaughtering those.  So they berated Moses and Aaron, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!”  (16:3)

Like the disciples facing hungry multitudes in Jesus’ day, Moses and Aaron could only appeal to God for provision.  What a patient, loving God He is!   He replied to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.” (16:4)

Then all Israel looked toward the wilderness, “and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” (vs.10)  God had heard their grumblings.  He had been there all along.

Flocks of quail descended on the camp that evening; in the morning manna fell like dew.  The people gathered it in jars to make bread with it, bread that tasted like honey cakes.  Manna leftover on the ground simply melted away!

Perhaps the prophet Jeremiah recalled this story when he wrote, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

In the morning only God will satisfy my hungers.  The blessings of His Word and Presence must be gathered in that quiet time, for in the heat of day I forget them.  Then I am tempted to fill myself with whatever distraction is at hand–work, food, entertainment, shopping, friends.  Or worse, I begin to grumble, worry, and feel sorry for myself.

Jeremiah, persecuted (and eventually put to death), had reason to lament.  In the darkest hours, however, he reminded himself of God’s goodness.  “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore, I have hope in Him.’  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” (3:24-25)  

C. S. Lewis observed the dilemma:  “We try, when we wake, to lay the new day at God’s feet; before we have finished shaving, it becomes our day and God’s share in it is felt as a tribute which we must pay. . . out of the time which ought, we feel, to be ‘our own.” (The Problem of Pain, chapter 5)

How much better to remember, as Lewis continued,  “that the soul is but a hollow which God fills.” (ch. 10)  We will never be satisfied apart from Him.  He is the Father who made us, the Son who saves us, the Spirit who fills and empowers us!  

Forty years later Moses instructed the people,  “Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness. . .  that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna . . . that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

Yes, God created me to be hungry.  He created me for the liberty of dependence.  I am His child; He will feed and protect me.  I need not fear or fret. 

Jesus said, “”Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink . . . Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-26, 32-33) 

Father, thank You for being so loving and patient with me.  Forgive me when I complain and worry.  Forgive me when I try to fill myself with the world’s goodness.  Lord Jesus, You are the Giver and the Gift, the Manna of life to me.  You are My Shepherd in the wilderness; You restore my hungry soul.  You prepare a table before me– morning by morning, let me feast on You.  I delight in my hunger for you.  May I never be satisfied in myself but only by Your Presence!  Amen.

O Say, Can You See?

Posted by admin on July 3, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Read the First Comment

 

At 9 p.m. the sky was ready for fireworks.  An opalescent moon scattered silver streaks on the harbor.  Cruising along the long arm of Cape Cod, our little red, white and blue paddle-wheeler turned toward Plymouth.  Other tourist boats bobbed nearby, winking their lights at us.  Patriotic music from the local FM blared triumphantly from the snack bar:  O say can you see?  Song after song, Sousa after Sousa, glorious with trumpets, but no answering thunder from the shore.

What a disappointment!  The radio gave up, and some of the guests on board helped themselves to the last withered hotdogs and limp chips.  Others, fortified with faith in the system, or maybe indomitable patriotism,  held their posts.   We had come all this way to the birthplace of our nation, so our family wasn’t giving up. 

A crackle, a spark, then a blaze from the shore!  Everyone  crushed forward as the bombardment broke almost overhead.  The tenor of a slightly inebriated New England matron squawked in victory: O say can you see?  Bold, but off-key!  I glanced at my daughter, and we jumped in to rescue the pitch.  Then with all our strength, Yankees and Southerners, Hoosiers and Californians belted song after song, right down to “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”  for the New Yorkers on board. 

The following Patriot Day (September 11) I had the privilege of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” again outside Veterans Chapel in Balboa Park, San Diego.  A small but stalwart crowd, including our local congressman, congregated to raise money for disabled vets.  Flags flew, a jazz band blared, motorcycles stood at attention.   My husband, a retired Navy chaplain, led in prayer.  Everyone joined in a medley of patriotic songs before I led the National Anthem.

“I never heard it like that before!” the congressman whispered as I sat back down on the platform.

I had done a daring thing–I sang not only the first verse but also the last.  The last verse has “God in it and everything”–just as Francis Scott Key penned it September 14, 1814.  British invaders had burned the White House.  Then they attacked Fort McHenry.  From a small boat on Chesapeake Bay, Key observed the battle all night.   He  might well have been praying as he waited for daylight and victory.

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

O say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and home of the brave?

 

O thus be it ever when free men shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation;

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause, it is just,

And this be our motto, “In God is our trust”;

And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

As heroes fought for America, they experienced incredible victories over dominant nations.  They knew that the Power who rescued and preserved them was God their Maker.   Their faith in Him and His Word was the bedrock for the concepts of justice and freedom in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and many of our laws.

But the Law does not eliminate man’s lawlessness.  Neither can we erase sin by doing good works or trying harder.   Death, the penalty for sin, awaits every man.   Yet God our Maker still loves us.  So He did the unthinkable–He became human and gave His life for ours.   Then He rose from the grave.  His victory opened the door to Heaven for all who trust Him as Savior.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

America, America!   O say, can you see?   Real freedom begins at the cross.

      1. The Cross On Jesus' Back

Too Too Solid Flesh

Posted by admin on February 28, 2012 under Encouraging Words | 2 Comments to Read

I love to eat.  My childhood memories are sweetened with the fragrance of  fresh sugar doughnuts, sizzling fried chicken, and gravy-laden mashed potatoes.  Christmas brought few gifts but lots of cookies in festive tins.  To a lonely little girl, few things were as exciting as food. 

But at family dinners, when folks should have been celebrating, pie was served with a heaping helping of discord, and guilt on the side.

To ward off depression and boredom I began to sneak treats, but being a bit pudgy increased my sense of isolation. 

Only as a teen did I discover, alas, that calories count!

I can’t claim victory yet after a lifetime of diets and exercise.  However, as a breast cancer survivor since 2008, I have been working earnestly to turn this area of my life over to the Lord.  I don’t want the testimony of God’s work in my life to be overshadowed by my bulk.  I want to be healthy in every way. 

Hallelujah, I no longer have to shop in the plus size department!

I still love food.  But I am learning to refute the illusion that it will satisfy my longings.  So many things are more filling than food–worship and prayer, time with family and friends, ministry, teaching, music, writing, a good walk, a good laugh, the comfort of cats. 

In the movie A Beautiful Mind the schizophrenic genius John Nash nearly loses his family and career to illusions.  He is continually visited by hallucinations, fantasy friends that lure him to destruction.  But over time he accomplishes what many schizophrenics, like my mother in her mental illness, could never achieve:  he distinguishes fact from fiction.  With Herculean exercise of self-control, he chooses to live in reality and ignore these harrassing “friends.”  He will always “see” them, but he walks the other way.

So it is with every thought that would take us captive–something as innocent as a child consoling herself with candy turns into years of  regret.  The more pernicious the pleasure, the greater the bondage.  Still we have a choice.  Temptation will always be there, but we can repent and walk away.  As the apostle Paul said, we can “flee”!  Whatever our besetting sin, whatever failure, God is greater.  His Holy Spirit in us is stronger.  But we must practice the presence of God and secure the help we need from others, so that when temptation calls, we can turn from insanity to the truth. 

Satan tempted our Lord Jesus Himself to “turn these stones into bread,” to serve Himself and misuse His power.  But Jesus rebuked him: “Man must not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  Waiting for the Father to provide His needs, Jesus chose to feast first on the Word of God. 

Father, I confess that I have often run after good things like food, wanting more and more, instead of coming to You, my Creator, with the emotional and spiritual longings of my heart.  Thank You for all the ways You are teaching and healing me.  Help me to be obedient to Your Word, to take care of the life You have given me, to trust You to provide.  Thank You for daily bread and for the Bread of life, Your Son, Jesus Christ, offered up for me.  Holy Spirit, fill my soul.  I choose to feast on Your love today!   I am satisfied in You.  Amen.

The Cross On Jesus’ Back –a song about love and forgiveness, our greatest need.

A Bulls-Eye on His Back

Posted by admin on December 6, 2011 under Encouraging Words | 2 Comments to Read

Big Guns on the Battleship Massachusetts

     The news was enough to curdle my coffee as I settled into a wicker armchair in our vacation condo.  The weather man’s cheery report followed a quarter-hour of holiday horrors–murder, mayhem, and a slew of sex crimes.  Never a vacation for Satan.

     On the flight home, I thought about the airline passenger recently caught viewing child pornography on his laptop.  Authorities arrested him before he could erase it and escape into the terminal.

     I thought about the God Who sits above the heavens, Who observes every evil intention of the heart, Who hears the cries of the victims.  The Holy God Who is not mocked.  His wrath, according to my former pastor Dr. John McFarland, is like a heat-seeking missile.      God is not a man of fickle conscience who winks at sin.  No amount of good behavior can erase sin from His radar.  There is no statute of limitations on His prosecution of justice. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” warns the Lord. (Numbers 32:23b) Even “petty” sins of doubt and complaining bring destruction into our lives.  Every sin separates us from God and His loving purpose for our lives.     The Bad News is “the wages of sin is death,” but the Good News of God’s Word is clear: ” The gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  God sent His Son Jesus in the flesh to carry our sins and take the punishment we deserved.      During this life perpetrators of vile deeds may avoid retribution, but the Day of the Lord is drawing near.  The Advent season reminds us, “Look! He is coming with the clouds.”  The Lord Jesus Christ, the just Judge of the living and the dead, will return.  Then “all the nations will mourn.” (Revelation 1:7)  Yet those who believe, whose sins have been covered by Jesus’ perfect sacrfice, will not cower but rejoice in His coming!      The Spirit and the Word cry out to us to let go of our sin and fall into the arms of our forgiving Heavenly Father!  This is the ultimate trust fall, the leap of faith.   More amazing than God’s wrath is the Love that was poured out for us on the cross.  When we look at the holy Son of God, born to die and rise again, we must feel shock and awe, indeed.     As the old preachers put it, “God loves sinners, but He hates the sin.”   His aim is perfect, even at 32,000 feet.     My prayer today is adapted from Psalm 139 (HCSB):         Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts . . . You observe my travels and my rest.  You are aware of all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.      Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence?  If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. . . even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me.     If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will become night”–even the darkness is not dark to You.      For it was You Who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. . .  Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.     How vast is the sum of Your thoughts toward me!  I cannot comprehend them.  You are always with me.     Lord, if only You would punish the wicked!           But search me, O God, and know my heart; examine me and know my concerns.  See if there is any offensive or anxious way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.   Amen  

      1. Kids Sing Nothing But the Blood
  from the musical Pilgrim’s Progress: The Joyful Journey

 

O Say, Can You See?

Posted by admin on July 1, 2011 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

At 9 p.m. the sky was ready for fireworks.  An opalescent moon scattered silver streaks on the harbor.  Cruising along the long arm of Cape Cod, our little red, white and blue paddle-wheeler turned toward Plymouth.  Other tourist boats bobbed nearby, winking their lights at us.  Patriotic music from the local FM blared triumphantly from the snack bar:  O say can you see?  Song after song, Sousa after Sousa, glorious with trumpets, but no answering thunder from the shore.

What a disappointment!  The radio gave up, and some of the guests on board helped themselves to the last withered hotdogs and limp chips.  Others fortified with faith in the system, or maybe indomitable patriotism,  held their posts.  We had come all this way to the birthplace of our freedom, and our family wasn’t giving up. 

A crackle, a spark, then a blaze from the shore!  Everyone  crushed forward as the bombardment broke almost overhead.  The tenor of a slightly inebriated New England matron squawked in victory: O say can you see?  Bold but off-key!  I glanced at my daughter, and we jumped in to rescue the pitch.  Then with all our strength, Yankees and Southerners, Hoosiers and Californians belted song after song, right down to “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”  for the New Yorkers on board. 

Last September 11 I got to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” outside Veterans Chapel in Balboa Park, San Diego.  A small but stalwart crowd of vets congregated, flags flying, motorcycles standing at attention, even a congressman coming to send Tony the Vet on his Walk Across America to raise money and support for veterans. 

(A disabled vet himself, Tony walked across Texas where he paused to recover from an ankle injury.  Now on the eastward leg to NYC, Tony needs donations and a chase vehicle to continue.  To help veterans go to http://www.tonythevet.org/SOVA/Welcome.html).

Back to my story–after I sang the National Anthem, the congressman whispered he’d never heard it like that before! 

I had done a “daring” thing; I sang not just the first but also the last verse,with God in it and everything”  just as Francis Scott Key wrote it September 14, 1814, onboard a little boat on Chesapeake Bay after the British attacked Fort McHenry.   The enemy had already burned the White House.  Key watched the battle all night.

 

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

O say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and home of the brave?

 

O thus be it ever when free men shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation;

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause, it is just,

And this be our motto, “In God is our trust”;

And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

 

America, America!   O say, can you see?

As heroes fought for America, they experienced incredible victories over dominant nations.  They knew that the Power who rescued and preserved them was God their Maker.   Their knowledge of God and His Word was the bedrock for concepts of justice we treasure today.

The cross of Jesus Christ is the symbol of  liberty for the whole world.  We cannot erase sin by doing good works or by trying harder.  We cannot escape the tyranny of death, which is the punishment for sin.  But God our Maker did the unthinkable; He loves us so much that He became human to share our experience and gave His life as ransom.  Through His death and the power of His resurrection, Jesus offers us eternal life.  He frees “those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).

      1. The Cross On Jesus' Back
  is a song about deliverance and freedom.  Freedom begins at the Cross.