The Clean Slate of a New Year

A friend mentioned to me a couple of years ago how we have a whole new year ahead of us that is a clean slate of 365 days. He went on to say it is like a new snow before any footprints have made any paths.

Yesterday, I was pondering this as we had over 8 inches of new snow that fell. Each step I make in the snow permanently changes how it looks. I contemplated how each thing I do, every word I speak and each thought I think has the potential to change the vista in my corner of the world to either improve it or detract from it.

Father God,

Help me to ponder my paths and consider where I will go with my actions, words and thoughts. Enable my paths to be filled with sweet communion with You and falling more in love with You, Lord. May my paths be filled with love for You and love for others, as well as Your perfect peace, joy and gratitude. Lead me in paths that bring honor and glory to You. Please let me not mar my hours and days with the mud of resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, what-ifs, ingratitude or selfishness. Instead, Lord, enable me to beautify my path by loving, giving, sharing, serving and extending grace to those You place along my journey through 2020.

Lord, I desire to be fully engaged in my relationships, in noticing others and recognizing their needs, by being awestruck by Your glorious creation as I walk through each moment You ordain. Deepen my appreciation of all of Your gifts, even the ones that come in the rocky, steep terrain of suffering or inconveniences of a suddenly changed course. May I fully trust Your purposes and rest in Your faithfulness that Your sovereign path for my life is for my eternal good and Your glory.

In Jesus Name,

Amen.

So as I look at our new snow, I notice where a bird or rabbit have gently, perhaps timidly, left their marks. I also notice the gregarious patterns left by my two dogs bounding joyously through the snow. I again ponder how at times the Lord allows times to gently walk one uncertain step at a time while other times we must boldly bound out enthusiastically and obediently where He leads. I pray God gives me discernment when to proceed slowly or cautiously and when He is calling me to boldly step out of my comfort zone. In reality, anywhere I am walking with God should be in my comfort zone.

I am asking the Lord to give me His ability to walk each step in 2020 with faith and confidence in my faithful, sovereign, good and wise God instead of getting off course with worry, inadequacies or fear.

Today I look with anticipation at the blank slate of 2020 and where the Lord directs my paths.

May you each have a wondrous and Happy New Year!

Blessings,

Deb

The Refiner’s Fire

I believe in seasons of high pain, shattered dreams or disappointments it is so easy to think of all you want, desire and dream more than our all sufficient, all powerful, faithful, sovereign, good and wise God. So thankful that His grace and forgiveness are limitless and no matter how many times I sin or stray from my first love He is ready to forgive and welcome me back.

My husband and I have just walked through the hardest 6.5 months of lies, false accusations and betrayal by those whom we least expected. It has showed me how much He alone is faithful and sufficient, especially when people are not.

Prior to this, I had  4.5 years of being like the children of Israel pining to go back to Egypt for leeks and onions and forgetting about their hardships and slavery. My “leeks and onions” attitude made me look back too often wishing I was back in Arizona and for the friendships we had there, rather than looking ahead or looking up to God. This hard situation revealed a new side to our life back in Arizona (we left there due to health issues April 2014) and made me press hard into God in my pain, confusion and loss.

God also used this to reveal many things to my husband and I about our own hearts in how we responded to this. I would hate to ever walk through this again, but can see God that used a grievous thing for my eternal good and His glory. Hopefully in weeks, months and years to come will see that more and more.

We all know and quote Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” But the way things work for good and the purpose is described in verse 29:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
The good purpose for all things is to conform us to the image of his son not our comfort or personal happiness.

Often conforming to Christ comes while walking through the heat of a refiner’s fire where the dross of sin, wrong motives and self focus are removed bit by bit. In my flesh, I often want God to be my fire extinguisher and put out the fire instead.

Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel. Proverbs 25:4

The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. Psalm 12:6

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Malachi 3:3

Reading this a few years ago really helped me to endure the fires of shattered dreams, health struggles and all suffering. Today it was a reminder I once again needed.

One day we took the children to see a goldsmith refine gold after the ancient manner of the East. He was sitting beside his little charcoal fire. (“He shall sit as a refiner”; the gold- or silversmith never leaves his crucible once it is on the fire.) In the red glow lay a common curved roof tile; another tile covered it like a lid. This was the crucible. In it was the medicine made of salt, tamarind fruit and burnt brick dust, and imbedded in it was the gold. The medicine does its appointed work on the gold, “then the fire eats it,” and the goldsmith lifts the gold out with a pair of tongs, lets it cool, rubs it between his fingers, and if not satisfied puts it back again in fresh medicine. This time he blows the fire hotter than it was before, and each time he puts the gold into the crucible, the heat of the fire is increased; “it could not bear it so hot at first, but it can bear it now; what would have destroyed it then helps it now.” “How do you know when the gold is purified?” we asked him, and he answered, “When I can see my face in it [the liquid gold in the crucible] then it is pure.”
Amy Carmichael

My prayer is I will be conformed more and more to His image rather than fighting to put out the fire.

Blessings,

Deb

Finding Purpose in Suffering – Part 2

“The very thing we are afraid of, our brokenness, is the door to our Father’s heart” – Paul Miller

Suffering is painful and we often feel broken in the midst of it and wonder when it will ever end. Reminding ourselves of God’s divine purposes in suffering helps us endure and find hope. This blog post will cover another six purposes of suffering. To read the first six purposes read my previous post here.

7. To Share in the Sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10)

10I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

It is easy for us to be jazzed about the power of His resurrections, but not so much with participating in His suffering. How quick we forget that the goal of the Christian life is knowing Christ and becoming like Him. Suffering is one way in which Christ transforms and refines us to be like Him.

8. To Reveal Hidden Sin or Keep Me From Sin (2 Corinthians 12:7) (Psalm 119:67,71)

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” 2 Corinthians 12:7

My suffering or thorn in the flesh may be what I need to keep me humble rather than becoming conceited or proud. Matthew Henry said it this way, ” If God loves us, he will keep us from being exalted above measure; and spiritual burdens are ordered to cure spiritual pride. This thorn in the flesh is said to be a messenger of Satan which he sent for evil; but God designed it, and overruled it for good.”

When we lived in the Midwest in the late 1980’s, we had a good friend Nancy, whose brother had become a paraplegic in a car wreck. Her brother was quick to tell anybody who would listen about his story and how God used his devastating car wreck for his good. He would share how he was ignoring what he knew was true of God and His word and was choosing a life of sin prior to his wreck. He would then share the following verses from Psalm 119.

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

9. To Experience that Christ Is Enough (2 Corinthians 12:9)

8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

“The infliction was not indeed removed; but there was a promise that the favor of Christ would be shown to him constantly, and that he would find his support to be ample.” Barnes Notes on the Bible.

As Ann Voskamp says in her book The Broken Way, “our weaknesses can be a container for God’s glory.”

At the conference last week, Nancy Guthrie shared how God does His best work with empty. God fills Sarah’s empty and too old womb with a son named laughter. He also filled the virgin Mary’s young, empty womb with His Incarnate Son.

Christ’s sufficient grace where we are weak and/or empty is always available.

10. To Discipline Me for Holiness (Hebrews 12:10-11)

10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Truly, discipline is not something any of us enjoy while either dishing it out as parents or taking it in. As v. 11 teaches, it is scarcely enjoyable and mostly sorrowful. Yet, the benefits are like a field producing abundant crops at harvest time: “it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” God’s discipline, though at times painful, produces His righteousness in us, His children, simply because He loves us. May we, as we go through discipline, pray for an abundant garden of His righteousness and peace in our lives.

Someone once said in reference to discipline: “And so what do I say? I say let the rains of disappointment come, if they water the plants of spiritual grace. Let the winds of adversity blow, if they serve to root more securely the trees that God has planted. I say, let the sun of prosperity be eclipsed, if that brings me closer to the true light of life. Welcome, sweet discipline, discipline designed for my joy, discipline designed to make me what God wants me to be.” Wow! That kind of statement can only come from a child of God who truly wants to be molded to God’s will.

11. To Make Me Spiritually Mature (James 1:2-4)

2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

When we think back to times where we experienced greatest spiritual growth it usually is due to trials we were walking through at the time. Those trials of various kinds are what test our faith and produce steadfastness and equip us with spiritual maturity. That maturity and proving of our faith is cause for joy.

12. To Give Me Opportunity to Live Out Genuine Faith (1 Peter 1;6-7)

6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Real faith is not just lip service to Christ. Trials remove the dross and impurities from our lives, just as fire removes the dross and impurities from gold, so that our faith is real, genuine faith. This genuine faith will be found to result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus returns. Let us pray that our responses to suffering will result in praise, glory and honor on His return.

There may be other purposes in sufferings, but these are the ones Nancy Guthrie shared at the conference in Colorado Springs. As we consider go through our suffering, we often question God as to why and what is His purpose in this. May we instead ask Him to reveal Himself to us in the midst of our circumstances and to work in us.  May we also be willing to accept that we may not get our questions answered in this life.

Love & Prayers,

Deb

 

 

 

 

Finding Purpose in Suffering – Part 1

This blog post is my biggest take away from the women’s conference I attended in Colorado Springs last weekend where Nancy Guthrie was the speaker. I only was able to attend Saturday and each of those sessions were grounded in the Word of God and both convicted and encouraged. The last session “Trusting God with Our Hardest Question” was the one that most impacted me.

Nancy shared how our hardest question while in the midst of suffering is why? Why me? Why did this happen? What caused it? What purpose is there in it? She went on to talk about causes of suffering but what really gripped my attention was when she began talking about what is the purpose of my suffering. I am compiling from my notes from the conference, experiences and thoughts since the conference a list of twelve purposes in suffering. Today I will share the first six and the rest will be covered in my next post.

TWELVE PURPOSES IN SUFFERING

1. To Put God’s Glory on Display (John 9:3)

John 9 Jesus heals the blind beggar

1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

People immediately were assuming this man’s blindness was because of his or his parents sins but Jesus corrects that and says it is so that the works of God might be displayed. So often, we too, want to find somebody to blame or a cause and effect when that is not the case but instead is a way for God’s glory to be on display in our lives.

This makes me want to pray and ask God to display His works in my life whether that is healing from my chronic illness or His spirit enabling me to be filled with joy and peace in the midst of it.

2.To Make Me More Fruitful (John 15:2)

John 15:1-2

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

When you prune plants in your garden you do not do it to hurt the plants but to make them be more fruitful. We saw a firsthand illustration of this a few years ago while living in Arizona. We had decided to grow grapes after seeing them in our next door neighbors yard.. After the first year, the vines had spread a huge amount. We got our booklet from the county extension on how to prune our grapes and we followed the instructions. When we had finished, over three fourths of the vines were pruned away. Our grapes looked hacked up and terrible until spring came. That year they grew and put on so many grapes we were overwhelmed with a huge abundance of grapes at harvest and had many to share with others.It  made me want to stop praying for God to stop the painful pruning, but to instead, ask that it result in eternal fruit for the Lord.

3. To Shape Me into Christ’s Likeness (Romans 8:29)

We often hear the verse Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” It will all work out for good without thinking that the good it is referring to is in the following verse. “29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

God is using all things to work together to make us look more like Jesus, often in the crucible of difficulty.

4. To Equip Me to Comfort Others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthinas 1:3-4.

If we want our suffering to be wasted just keep it to ourselves. Instead, we should allow the broken places of our life to be used to minister to others. Another brother or sister who has walked through what you are now walking through whether it is death of a loved one, infertility, loss of a job, chronic illness etc. can offer comfort better than anyone else. They know from experience what you are going through and can share how God met them in the midst of it.

5. To Cause Me to Depend on God More Fully (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

8For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Suffering makes us less self-reliant and more reliant and dependent on God. Suffering makes us unable to rescue ourselves or change the circumstances which cause us to call out in dependence upon Him.

6. To Make the Life of Jesus More Evident (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

So our weaknesses and sufferings are a canvas on which Jesus stands out and is made more evident.

Purposes 7 through 12 will be shared in my next blog post. Praying that allows time for you to consider these purposes and ponder how God is working them in your lives.

Blessings,

Deb

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