It Is Well….

The following video is making its way around the internet.  It is amazing!  As I listened to it, I was reminded of  John Ortberg’s account of the song’s author in his book Soul Keeping. While the story can be chilling, it provides me a worthwhile perspective.

Horatio Spafford invested most of what he had in real estate. He lived in Chicago and lost everything in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It destroyed his home. They had no insurance. He lost most of his money. In 1873 he put his wife and their four daughters (their son having died of scarlet fever in 1870) on a ship heading to England as he stayed behind to restimulate his business. A few days after the ship departed, he received a telegram from his wife: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” There had been a shipwreck. All four of their daughters perished. Horatio quickly boarded another ship to England, and as it passed over the very same place in the ocean where his daughters had drowned, he wrote these words to as song: When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

Ortberg, John. Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You (p. 48). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I pray that you find peace today, despite the circumstances.  I pray that God’s peace will be established deeply within our hearts so that we may all rejoice in knowing that “It Is Well,” because He has made it so.

 

God of Peace

As we explore the God of Peace together today, what comes to your mind with the word peace? Take some time and think about how you would define peace.

In English, the word “peace” conjures up a passive picture, one showing an absence of civil disturbance or hostilities, or a personality free from internal and external strife. The biblical concept of peace is larger than that and rests heavily on the Hebrew root slm, which means “to be complete” or “to be sound,” according to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

This definition makes me think of words like Perfect. Whole. Righteous.

What does peace feel like to you? Physically? Close your eyes and think about what God’s peace feels like.

I feel a huge inhale and an audible exhale. A release of every muscle and tissue. Hands open. Eyes closing and letting go of the clutter in my mind. An overwhelming sense of calm and perfection. A smile across my face and sun shining down and warming me.

I believe we are created in God’s image, with a desire for peace, a searching for His wholeness to consume us. One day we will be made perfect and live completely whole in His peace. Can you imagine it?!

Are you currently in a season of searching and seeking peace?  Ready to give up the worries and anxiety that we are surrounded by? I don’t know what is stealing your peace today, but lately I know I need:

        • His steadiness for my spiraling
        • His shield for my storm
        • His strength for my struggle
        • His saving grace for my sin
        • His sovereignty for my self-reliance
        • His sanctification for my shortcomings

In order to have more of His peace, I need to draw closer to Him and His ways. I loved Jon’s encouragement yesterday to Cry Out to the I AM! He will rescue us with His peace – the world can’t offer anything close!

Our God isn’t just the author of peace – He also tells us how to have His peace in our life. He wants us to live fully in His peace and He tells us how to do it! Do you believe – truly believe – that living with God’s peace in your heart, is a choice? Do you believe that you can choose to have more peace in your life? His word tells us it’s true, will you join me in clinging to this truth and choosing peace? Let’s start together, today!

When scriptures tell us to “let” something occur, I like to replace that with “allow”. Let’s do our part in all of this ALLOWING:

Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.  John 14

Let the peace of God rule in your heart. Col. 3:15

Think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise…and then the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

When you break down piece by piece and put Phil 4:5-7, in your on words, we learn that because God is working, we have no reason to be anxious:

God is here! Pray with gratefulness and ask our Father to meet our needs. His peace – which is greater than anything we can even understand – His peace will protect our hearts and our minds – in Jesus!

Rejoice, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances… hold fast to what is good and abstain from evil, and the God of peace will sanctify you. 1 Thess 5:16-23

Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with another, live in peace. 2 Cor 13:11

Those that love your law, have great peace. Psalm 119:165

The Bible is full of instructions on how to have His peace in your world, while living here in this world. Make your own list of actionable steps from scripture, to have more of God’s peace. I’d love to hear what scriptures have helped you have more peace. The more we spend in His word, focus on Him and what He has for us, the less we focus on ourselves and the unrest of this world.

I will leave you with this final beautiful picture from Isaiah 55:

“For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Cry out!

Imagine people crying for distress as they suffer harshly under something beyond their control.

No, I’m not talking about Coronavirus, I’m talking about the people of Israel as they suffered in slavery. They cried out to God, and he saw and heard them.

Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. (Exodus 3:7)

Not only did he see and hear them, he responded.

So I have come down to rescue them (Exodus 3:8a)

As God instructed Moses on what to do as part of the rescue, Moses asked God what his name is. This interaction is the first time in the Bible where God communicates his own name, “I AM”.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

Are you suffering? Worried? Having panic attacks?

Are we as a planet yet crying out to God yet or are we still trying to fix this all on our own? What are we waiting for?

Cry out in this moment to God and acknowledge him for who he is. Let us not make him into something that we want him to be or what the world might say about God. He’s not sort of this or sort of that. He is who he is, and Jesus is his son.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am! (John 8:58)

Here are some recent posts from other authors on this site that further articulate who he is. Take the opportunity to read them if you haven’t already: God of Heaven and Earth, God of gods, God over all kingdoms, God of all comfort, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God Most High, Glory, Giver.

God of Heaven and Earth

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:24-25).

The name of God we are studying today is “God of Heaven and Earth”, a name that describes his sovereignty.  God has supreme power over EVERYTHING – everything on the earth and everything in the spiritual realm.

In this world, having power completely concentrated in one person is often a bad thing because it can be used for evil purposes.  It doesn’t take a lot of thought to come up with a list of dictators who’ve used their power for evil throughout history (Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot…).  One of the best things about the federal government of the United States is that it is designed to avoid this – by balancing power across three branches (executive, legislative, judicial) no branch can become too powerful and use it for bad purposes.

How can we have confidence the sovereignty of God is a good thing?  Consider these verses that give us insight into the nature of God –

  • God is love
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).

 

  • God is good
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 107:1).
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).
For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord”, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

  • God is unchanging
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).

 

We serve a sovereign God who is love, who is good, and who is unchanging.  In the face of the uncertainty and fear being caused by this pandemic, we can be confident God has it all under control.  He will work it all for good.  That’s who he is.

You are not a God created by human hands
You are not a God dependent on any mortal man
You are not a God in need of anything we can give
By your plan, that’s just the way it is
You are God alone, from before time began
You were on your throne, you are God alone
And right now, in the good times and bad
You are on your throne, you are God alone
Unchangeable, unshakable, unstoppable
That’s what you are
Unchangeable, unshakable, unstoppable
That’s what you are

 

 

God of gods

Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”

There has been a word, other than COVID-19, that has been circulating in peoples vocabulary lately. The word is “unprecedented”. It means “Novel or unexampled” (Merriam Webster). Our current situation is quite “Novel and unexampled”. People in the medical field are doing all they can to research and develop treatments for COVID-19 in order to save thousands while our government orchestrates a “stay at home” protocol for all people to help “flatten the curve”.  All in an effort to weaken our current pandemic. We are in the midst of a pandemic (if you didn’t already know that). For the past month I have stepped out of social media and relied on trusted sources for all my information like the CDC. I am also an introvert and the thought of being at home all day, everyday, with permission was like a dream come true for me! But last night I realized that I have let this pandemic be a god (lower case g) in my life. I had dreams last night of graphs, statistics, new cases, and treatments and it was so overwhelming. I woke up in a panic and was convicted. I am guilty of giving our current situation all my time and energy and in turn it has gotten me! Please do not misunderstand me, it is important to be informed and know what is happening in the world. This “stay at home” protocol is important and will save lives, but I found myself missing God (capital G) in the midst of all of it.

Our current study of the names of Jesus is so timely! God is so good in giving us what we need when we need it most.  We need a cure for COVID-19 but more importantly, we need Jesus. He is God of gods and Lord of lords. He is mighty and awesome! With our current lockdown, I was able to read through Deuteronomy. The story of Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised land was “unprecedented”. There was no example for him to follow but he knew the leader was God and God knew him. Our times may have different circumstances but we have the option to let God lead us through this wilderness.  I look forward to spending more time with God in the days to come as I have abandoned him for an earthy pandemic. I move forward trusting that the God of gods and the Lord of lords has this in his mighty and awesome hands!

We are here to share the truth and the light of Jesus in an “unprecedented” time. He will give us strength and courage.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In Him,

Shelly

 

 

 

God over all kingdoms

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 19:15

And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord. Lord, the God of Isreal, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.

Today, I find comfort in this verse.  There can be our natural human lean towards fear and anxiety about future health for ourselves, family, and friends. It’s reassuring I can find peace in our God in His Kingdom at this time. On this side of the earth and in eternal Heaven, God alone will rule.  In the last five weeks, we have talked about our Lord the King of Kings at church.  Pastor Mike has provided wisdom to the Living truth that it all points back to One King and One Kingdom. (If you have time I would go back and watch or listen – King of Kings )

For me, it has lately been really easy to live my life according to the calendar of daily events that either involve myself, wife, or children.   Before just over a week ago I was still just doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.   In reflection, it was like my own day to day kingdom that of course, I felt I had control of.  How selfish of me. The truth is God has reigned over all kingdoms, He has always been able to show this kingdom is His. The kingdom of Earth and Heaven.  As I stated in the beginning, I found comfort in this verse because it helped me to remember who’s Kingdom this all is, and the eternal Kingdom to come. I can’t let my schedules run me around, I need to submit to His will daily.

David said in 1 Chronicles 29:11 says

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom.

 

Dear God,

I love you and thank you for all your ways. I humbly repent of my earthly desires to always want to do what I want to do and not submit to Your will.  Help me to listen, help me to lean into your Living Word and remember who’s God over this earthly Kingdom and the one to come.  Lord, we pray for wisdom and comfort during this time using all our moments to point back to you. Help us to grow more Christ-like and deepen our trust in Your plan.

God of all comfort

 

Todays Reading : 2 Corinthians 1:3

Life is hard.  There are many times throughout the week, I question how will this all turn out.  The highs and lows of life can be daunting and exasperating.  This is during a “normal” week.  Then you factor in new variables and this can become overwhelming.  The Holy Spirit then whispers “there is Comfort in the Chaos”.  One of the main misconceptions about being Christians is that life would be without hurt and suffering once you follow Christ.  But the truth is you are more aware of the suffering and the trials that you face, but being in a relationship with Christ the suffering allows the Holy Spirit to bring you comfort and peace that is not understandable by others.

2 Corinthians 1: 3- 7 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who 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. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Despite all of the sufferings that we are go through, Paul informs us that we will be comforted and in this sorrow and suffering we will be given the knowledge and fortitude to help those who may suffer as we have.  Over the years, I have been blessed with several spiritual mentors and prayer warriors that give me encouragement and guidance through some of my most troubling times. One of these special people always have referenced the above mentioned verse.

During one of the most difficult times in my adult life, this scripture was recited to me and I was not ready to hear it.  I was just laid off from a position.  My children were in the midst of new health issues. My spirit was very low and my cup was completely empty.  I needed something uplifting and comforting.  Then my mentor states “  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who 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.”   This was not the response I was looking for.  I was not looking to comfort others in the future I needed comfort then.  But as I mediated and prayed this verse over and over, it became clear that God was in the midst of the storm and crisis.

God allowed my mentor to give me this piece of wisdom and knowledge.   That time of my life is pivotal in my relationship with God, my family, others and myself.  It was turning point that has continued to shape me who I am today.  This allowed me to step outside of myself and actually see God for all that He is and His place in my life.  Before these changes in my life I started to search for a strong bond with him and seek a more profound life for him.  He was able to gently shape me into the person that I am today through the suffering that experienced.  When we are intentional about the relationship that we want with God, He will open up His presence and comfort to be available to us.  Because of the trial and detours on my journey I have been given the opportunity to help others in their afflictions.

In our current crisis, a couple of lessons I learned about the comforter is:

Provision:

I can now fully understand the needs and desperation of others in the time of need. The ability to provide for yourself and family is a true sense of being.  God allowed me to see that He is the source of all of the things that I need and want.  When one faucet is turned off, He will allow another to open with more flow.  No matter the outlet, the source will not be hindered.

Health:

God has the final say on the health of our loved ones and us.  No matter what we try to do to mitigate the possibilities of life, life will happen.  We can attempt to workout more or eat better, but the end result is the same.  But the consolidation is that even in the midst of the most strenuous of circumstances God will use the situation for his glory. There have been countless times that I question why the health of my children is not solid, but God reveals the warmth and compassion that the children can impart on other health care workers.  This is way that God can show through them.  I cannot hinder their blessings.

Uncertainty:

In the midst of life the only thing that is guaranteed is uncertainty.  With this uncertainty we are given the privilege to know God and have access to his unlimited comfort and love. Now when there is uncertainty I pray that God will reveal himself so that I may understand His will.

Heavenly Father,

As we navigate this journey that we are on, allow us to see you and experience your comfort in the midst of storms, conflicts, and crisis.  Allow us to hear you as a whisper in the storm.  Amen

We have all that we need.

Family, old friends and new, current and former work colleagues have been contacting our family for weeks, and in recent days the inquiries have greatly increased. The tiniest gestures have been a huge blessing to all of us, even just a quick text, so thanks to you all. Some of the recent FAQs:

  • Are you ok?
  • Are the boys ok?
  • How is Amy doing?
  • When is your next family dance video?
  • What is it like living in Italy right now?
  • Why is one location worse off than another?
  • When will everything go back to normal?

We respond with truth and as optimistically as possible. We are and will be ok because no matter what, we know the end of this story. We have all that we need, and what we need isn’t shown in the cover photo.

People, beloved, not numbers

When we look at the numbers of Covid-19 new cases and new deaths on a daily basis we must remember each “number” is a human being. Someone’s friend, beloved, a husband or wife, a grandmother or grandfather, a person who once laughed and brought joy to others, children of God. Many people are dying alone, in fear, human lives snuffed out by a wave of destruction.

Will you join me in praying for those who are sick, alone and afraid? For those who have lost loved ones and the mourning is being done in isolation. For those at the greatest risk, including the homeless. For our leaders to have wisdom. For truth to be known and shared.

The greater pandemic and a cure

Today there’s a greater pandemic that much of the world doesn’t know about. Its way worse than Coronavirus. God’s word says that if you get it, and by the way, everyone eventually gets it, then death is guaranteed. And the sickness is called sin, and it, unlike the Coronavirus is literally killing everything in this world. It is destroying homes, destroying lives, destroying hope, the future. (Mike Baker, Eastview Christian Church, 15-Mar-2020)

The only cure for the sin virus, and our only hope, all we need, is the blood of Jesus. I confess to putting too much of my hope in the things of this world: Money, things, fun, power, success, and even health. All of these things are temporary and none of them can save us, no matter how much we have. No amount of money can buy our eternity. It has already been bought and paid for, but we must choose. Run from God or run to him by putting our faith in Jesus.

Fulfilled, rested, renewed, comforted

Will you also join me today in reading Psalm 23 out loud? Yes, out loud, I dare and even beg you. Something supernatural, even indescribable happens when we read the scriptures out loud. Are you feeling lost, stressed, worried, hopeless, and tired of all of this? Cry out, He is listening and ready for you.

Psalm 23 (NLT) – A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

This uplifting five minute video was another recent blessing and source of comfort. Check it out! Psalm 23 – A Meditation

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

16-Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17-and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Exodus 3:16-17

Do you believe God’s promises?  It is a matter of yes or no.  If you do, the above verse says, “I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction…to the land flowing with milk and honey.”  God promised this to our forefathers, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.  He promises the same to us.  

God promised Abraham land, many descendants, and blessing.  He repeated this promise to Isaac, Abraham’s son.  And then he also gave the same promise to Isaacs’s son Jacob.  Because of this multi-generational impact, God is rightly known as the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The first three words of verse 16 are Go and Gather.  It made me think of the past week and what we are all facing with Covid-19.  How much have you ‘gone and gathered’ over the past week?  Have you been preparing for a longer “shelter at home” than the media is speaking about?  Obviously, many Americans have gathered way more than their share as grocery store shelves are empty of many items.  

Besides gathering needed items to physically survive these weeks ahead, I think this verse is pertinent for exactly where we are.  Go and Gather.  Yes, go and gather physical items you may need, but more importantly, Go and gather your people!  Obviously this will be a small group (under 10) in you home.  But, with the vast opportunity  of social media, gather people online.  Tell them the stories and promises of the Bible.  The stories where God brought His people out of trials.  God has prepared us for such a time as this.  Look to our heroes of the Bible and how God provided and made a way out for them.  

Wont he do it again??!!

God Most High

If there’s anything to be said for times of crisis, it’s that we see everyone around us displaying the inner workings of their heart on their sleeves. When the broken world around us seems to fall apart, putting on display the reality of sin, the worst facets of human nature rear themselves, and it’s tough to watch. From hearing the despair of friends and coworkers about what’s going on in our world, to seeing stores picked apart, my heart honestly breaks for those around me who do not know Christ. The fear and uncertainty are palpable and powerful.

That’s why I feel especially blessed this week to have been able to attend church services this last Sunday. To see our body of believers coming together and affirming their belief and showing their confidence that God is greater than any fear, any sickness, or any agent of death has energized me and exemplified faith’s importance in my life this week. To focus not on myself, but to engage in prayer in worship of our Most High God has demonstrated the night-and-day difference His graceful peace makes.

When you really need God, are you crying out to Him? Psalm 57:2 & 3 reads: “ 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!”

With all the infectious negativity around me this week, I’ve found myself experiencing a lot of negative feelings frightfully often. But reading God’s word and focusing on Him picks me up and brings me joy every time. Now more than ever we can see how exactly God can bring us peace when we shut out the world around us and cry out to Him. For God, Most High creator of heaven and earth, greater than any other being or any other force in the world, nothing is insurmountable. No force could stop God from saving His children, from sending out His love to those who cry out in need.

This weekend, take Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:31-33 to heart: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”