Scripture Reading: Psalm 95:6-7
Worship by definition means to assign or declare the worth of something or someone. According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. My pastor, Jamey Hunt, defines worship as declaring what we value most. Worship can be displayed and communicated in many different ways, but the point is worship is expressive.
The act of bowing down implies worship in that it is defined as a form of greeting, consent, courtesy, honor, acknowledgement, reverence, submission or veneration. Bowing down before someone is also an act of humility or the acknowledgment that you are in the presence of a celebrity, a sovereign, an authority, a dignitary, or other VIP. It is a sign of respect and honor for the position someone holds, not necessarily because his or her actions, behaviors or abilities are deserving of such esteem.
However, genuine worship of God is based upon who He is, what He had done and that fact that He is worthy! William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury described worship as, “the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” Before we can worship God genuinely, we must first acknowledge our sinfulness and unworthiness; willingly submit to His authority; saturate our minds with the truth of His word; and have a sense of awe and wonder that we are in the presence of a Holy God.
The psalmist had not only come to an understanding of authentic worship, he also wanted others to join him in acknowledging the Lord as our supreme Master, our Creator and Sustainer, our Sovereign God, our Shepherd. As I meditate on this verse and contemplate the reasons for worship, I am reminded that Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep . . . My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:11, 27-28
Jesus gave His life for me so that my sins could be forgiven and I could be one of His sheep. He has given me eternal life, meaning even though my body will die, my soul will live forever in heaven with Him – I will dwell in His pasture. I am safe and secure because no one can snatch me from my Shepherd’s hand. Jesus knows me – He has counted every hair on my head and written my name on the palm of His hand. Because I am His, when He speaks I recognize His voice. When my husband speaks, I know his voice; when my Dad speaks, I know his voice. I recognize their voices because I belong to them. Likewise, I belong to Jesus, so when He speaks to me, be it through His Word, prayer or circumstances, I hear His voice.
God gives me the incredible privilege of coming before His throne, of entering into His presence, of listening to my hopes, dreams, desires, needs and often my ranting and ravings. Then He gives me exactly what I need – not necessarily what I want, but what He, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has determined to be His perfect plan for my life. Because His plan for me is good, I follow Him trusting He will lead me beside still waters and in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. He restores my soul and is with me even when I walk through darkest valleys. No one else does that for me, or for you! He is my God, my Savior, my Lord, my King, my Master, my Father, my Maker, my Redeemer, and my Good Shepherd. He is my EVERYTHING and He is worthy of my praise because He is the great I AM! So yes, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God and only He is worthy of our worship!
The Yoke of Burden or Blessing
Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:59-60
And the list goes on and on! It seems I am always in a hurry to complete the tasks on my to-do list and I never seem to complete it all. The phrase "so much to do, so little time" seems to be my life's theme. We are all busy, forced to live harried lives with full schedules! Many years ago,I heard an acrostic for BUSY . . . Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke! The reality of that statement rings true when I contemplate the stress and anxiety I sometimes feel when I fail to get it all done! With so many things vying for my time and attention am I neglecting the important because I am held captive by the urgent?
When Martha complained about having to do all the work while her sister, Mary, left her to serve alone, Jesus told her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42) Mary’s priority was to be with Jesus! Nothing else mattered and nothing got in her way. Surely, she knew the meal needed to be prepared for their guests, but Mary was hungry for something more. Not wanting to miss anything, she positioned herself at Jesus' feet and hung on His every word. She was determined to enjoy the presence of her Master and feast upon His teaching!
While taking care of my family is the most important job I have; and having relationships with other people is a means of sharing God's love with them; and work, church and ministry are necessary, I cannot neglect the one thing worth being concerned about - my relationship with Jesus. Although the bent of my personality is to be like Martha, the desire of my heart is to be like Mary.
When I begin to feel the stress of my BUSY schedule, I need to take time to ponder the direction of my life. Have I allowed my adversary to burden me under his yoke? Have I become so busy doing and serving that I have forgotten the one thing I should be concerned about? That is spending time with Jesus - just sitting at His feet, enjoying His presence and learning from Him. Let me hurry, without delay, to obey the Lord's commands. When I allow Jesus to re-prioritize my to-do list I will find rest for my soul!
“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
Where Does Our Help Come From?
Psalms 121 The LORD Our Protector
Project Uganda 2013, June 7th - Village of Kidusu:
The clinic was in full swing – our medical staff was treating patients, I was working on Raymond, the dentist was extracting teeth - everyone was busy ministering to the needs of the sick, when all of a sudden there was a horrific noise! It stopped the clinic dead in its tracks. As I was getting up from the floor to see what had happened, I heard someone yell, “Shut the door, shut the door now!” I stood momentarily dazed as I watched the events unfolding before my eyes. It was as if I was on the set of TRAUMA: Life in the ER! Our team member and EMT, James Singleton, had leaped from his station in response to the apparent accident that had taken place and was outside the little church where we were holding the clinic in a matter of seconds. While I was still trying to ascertain what had happened, James was entering the church with the blood soaked victim of a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) accident, a young boy, around the age of ten that I believe was called Ronald.
The trauma center was now in full swing! The boy’s clothes had been removed and Dr. Eileen Weibley was examining him to determine the extent of his injuries. The obvious head wound was requiring immediate attention to stop the bleeding, so my search for the appropriate sutures began in what I lovingly call the black hole! All of our supplies are “organized” in black crates to allow for easy transport to and from the clinic each day. We travel with 6 – 8 of them and do our best to separate items for effortless retrieval – one crate for wound care, one for antibiotics, one for pain relievers/stomach meds, one for malaria and worming meds, etc. Sounds like a well-organized plan and it works great, until you need to find something STAT! Nevertheless, God is faithful, just as Eileen was getting up to help me look I found them!
I know our medical staff is trained to respond to emergency situations in a calm and professional manner, but can I just say that I was amazed and so proud of each of them! Everyone worked together to stabilize that little boy like it was a scene from a well-produced movie – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since we had the greatest Producer and Director of all times on the scene, not to mention the Great Physician!
While she was suturing the boy's head, Eileen notice a large hematoma at the base of his skull, indicating a brain bleed. That fact, along with a possible skull fracture; she knew a neurosurgeon was needed. We began making plans to transport the boy to Kampala – a four-hour journey at least from our location and probably longer given the traffic jams resulting from the futbol (soccer) game that was taking place! Realizing the futility of the situation, we opted to go to the Jinja Hospital in hopes of receiving an ambulance or police escort. Silly Americans for even thinking such was a possibility!
Most of you probably know that moving a trauma victim must be done with extreme caution, with the head and neck immobilized to prevent brain and spinal cord injury. In the U.S., this would be done with a cervical collar and a stretcher following a precise trauma management protocol. Of course, out in a remote village of Uganda those resources are not readily available. Not to worry, James found a small bench that was missing its legs on one side – an incline to help relieve pressure and blood pooling in the brain! Ronald was carefully moved to our makeshift stretcher and duct tapped to the board to immobilize him. Once again, I am amazed at the resourcefulness of our team! Ready for transport, the team carries him to our emergency transport vehicle – otherwise known as the bus!
James prepares an emergency medical kit needed for transport, Eileen continues holding Ronald’s head in place as she gives instructions to the men who will lift the stretcher, and I quickly give a jigger extraction lesson to those who will continue the work on Raymond. Once loaded on the bus, we begin the arduous journey to the hospital in Jinja Town. Eileen sits in the floor of the bus, holding Ronald’s head, while James continues taking vitals. Ronald's mother sits quietly staring out the window, obviously in shock. Our interpreter, Abraham, quietly speaks words of comfort to Ronald as we drive down the long, bumpy dirt road from the village. As our medical staff did throughout the clinics, Eileen seized the opportunity to tell Ronald about Jesus. While she was sharing the Gospel, I called Bill, who was teaching Life Principle’s to the professors at the Baptist Seminary in Jinja to ask them to pray. I must admit I was surprised when he answered the phone as he usually turns it off when teaching, but God knew Ronald would need prayer so he “forgot” to turn it off.
Ronald accepted Jesus as his Savior before we reached the hospital, so regardless of this emergency’s outcome Ronald now had the gift of eternal life and was secure in the care of his Master! We arrive at the hospital’s emergency room only to discover the doctor was at lunch. Really!?!?! One doctor on duty in the emergency room and he leaves the hospital to go to lunch! We are directed to an exam room and instructed to wait.
In the meantime, I call the God Is Grace team and ask if they would bring us their van so we can send the bus back to the clinic. Taylor, Jon, Laura, Kerry and Zan leave Beth and Ms. Mary in the village and join us at the hospital. At least this way it was only Beth and Ms. Mary stranded and not the entire medical team right?!?! (They were actually able to take a taxi back to the hotel, so they weren’t really stranded.) We try calling everyone we can think of, including the hospital director, to try to circumvent the process, to no avail. I’m told we must be patient and wait – we must follow hospital protocol! We’d hit a brick wall and I was beyond frustrated!!!!! While Eileen and I stayed with Ronald, the others gathered outside to pray. I’m so thankful that while procedures and frustration had rendered me ineffective, my brothers and sisters in Christ were pleading with the Sovereign God of our universe to intervene.
While we were waiting, Ronald’s mother kept saying, “Why? Why did she send my son when she had her own children?” Apparently, a neighbor had sent Ronald to fetch water. He was running across the road with a jerry can when the boda boda hit him. While I don’t know for certain the reason God allowed this terrible tragedy to happen, I do know that God used it for Ronald’s eternal good. Had it not been for the accident, he may never have heard the Gospel and surrendered his heart and life to the Lord!
After at least an hour and a half, the doctor returns from lunch. Seeing we had already provided emergency treatment to stabilize the patient, he merely wrote orders for us to take him to Ward 9, without even examining the boy. Just a side note, at no time during our wait in the emergency room did anyone come to check on Ronald, take his vital signs or make sure he was still alive. Really makes you appreciate the health care system we have in the U.S.
Because Ward 9 is around the backside of the hospital, we load Ronald into the van and drive to the ward's entrance. We are immediately ushered into an exam room, where a doctor actually examines him. They agree to keep him overnight for observation. They instruct us to go find him a bed on the ward, which we do. Then they want US to remove him from the makeshift stretcher. Eileen and I remove the duct tape and carry him to the bed we had picked out. Remember his clothes were removed to examine him back at the clinic, so the poor little thing was draped in only the small blue towels we had covered him with – the hospital doesn't provide gowns! The beds have no sheets, pillows or blankets – there is no charge for the hospital stay or the staffs services, but patient or family must provide the items needed for their stay. The same is true of food and any medicine that might be necessary. The family has to go buy or bring those needed items to the hospital. Needless to say, we had to take a trip to town to buy those few necessities before we could leave Ronald in the care of his mother and the hospital.
When we returned we dressed Ronald as discreetly as possible in an open ward, made his bed and gave his mother a little money to buy breakfast, phone time to call her husband, and for transport home when released from the hospital. As we left, Ronald was sitting up in the bed eating the chicken and chips we had bought and even talking to his mother a little. The swelling had gone down and he seemed happy and alert. There is no doubt we witnessed several miracles that day as God’s sovereignty was displayed in such a might way. While I was upset that the hospital was doing nothing to help this boy, our amazing God was at work and in complete control! In Psalm 121 he psalmist asks, "where will my help come from?" My help will come from the LORD, who made heaven and earth." This scripture has never been more true - when no one else could help Ronald, his help came from the Lord!
Everybody Loves Raymond
Project Uganda 2013, June 6th - Village of Kidusu:
While not the same Raymond as the TV show, you can't help but love this little boy! Raymond was found in the crowd at our medical clinic in Kidusu by one of our team members. He had one of the worst cases of "jiggers" I have ever seen! The chigoe flea or jigger (Tunga penetrans) is a parasitic arthropod and is NOT what we southerners call chiggers. Breeding female chigoes burrow into exposed skin, usually on the feet, and remain there for two weeks while developing eggs, during which time they swell dramatically, sometimes causing intense irritation (condition called tungiasis). After this point, the skin lesion looks like a 5 to 10 mm blister with a central black dot, which are the flea's exposed hind legs, respiratory spiracles and reproductive organs. Heavy infestations may lead to severe inflammation, ulceration, and fibrosis. Lymphangitis, gangrene, sepsis, the loss of toenails, autoamputation of the appendages, and death may also occur. If you think the description sounds bad, you may want to forego looking at the pictures, which will follow! The sad reality of jigger infestation is it could be avoided with basic hygiene and shoes! Raymond was not wearing shoes when we found him, and dirty doesn't even begin to describe the condition of his feet.
As I said, Raymond was discovered by one of our team members, Wade, who recognized the severity of the boys condition. Wanting to bypass our medical clinic protocol of waiting in line to see the doctor, Wade took me outside to see the boy and confirm the need for immediate treatment. We soon located the boy and also encountered an angry mob of villagers. At first I thought they were angry because we were allowing him to break in line, but that was not it at all! They were angry at the woman who cared for the boy, because the other children in the family were relatively clean and well taken care. They couldn't understand why this child was so infested and seemingly neglected. Someone had sent for the woman, and as she approached us the crowd began yelling and screaming at her. While I had taken the boy inside to begin treatment, Wade and other members of the team seized a teaching opportunity.
When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, His response to the crowd was "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7). One by one the crowd began to drop their stones and walk away. Jesus then asked the woman, "Has no one condemned you?" . . . "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:10-11) Our team tried to teach the crowd that rather than condemning the woman, they should show her the same mercy and compassion that Jesus shows to each of us. While we understood they were appalled by her lack of concern for the boy, we suggested that by showing her love they could encourage her to take better care of the boy. As the James 2:13 says, mercy always triumphs over judgment; and love covers all sins (Prov. 10:12). The crowd soon calmed down and the woman was brought inside to wait for Raymond to be treated.
We discovered that the woman caring for Raymond was not actually his mother, but the wife of his uncle. His mother had basically abandoned him and was living in Kampala. Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence in Jinja. We frequently encounter people raising children not their own, and this explains the discrepancy of treatment between Raymond and the other children. Yet another reason why the village should pull together to encourage this woman to take reasonable care of all the children God has entrusted to her. As you read this post and as the Lord reminds you, please pray for Raymond and his family!
Treatment for jiggers requires that the parasite be extracted. The pictures below this post will show the infestation and the removal process, which took two days. (Please be advised the pictures are graphic) At the end of our first day, we told the aunt that treatment would need to continue the next day and that she should bring Raymond back first thing in the morning. I bandaged his feet and placed a new pair of shoes on his feet - the smile on his face was priceless! He was sent home with antibiotics to clear the infection, soap, gauze and antibiotic cream. We also gave his aunt the pesticide needed to treat his sleeping area and instructed her on its proper use. As we left for the day, I wondered if we would see him again!
When we arrived the next morning, Raymond and his aunt were there! I was beyond excited that he had returned and began work to continue the extraction process as soon as we set up the clinic. We gave him
peanut butter crackers, protein bars and bottled water with Hawaiian punch drink mix, along with a mega dose of ibuprofen to prepare him for the long, painful ordeal. I worked for several hours and seemed to be making little progress. Every so often Raymond would put his hand on mine, indicating the pain was unbearable and I needed to stop for a few minutes. I would stop and pray for him, but I knew we had to continue in order to save his feet and possibly his life.
This process reminded me of how our lives can become infested with sin without us even realizing what is happening. Much like the tiny chigoe flea burrowed into the flesh of this young boys feet, sin burrows deep into our hearts often from one tiny moment of indiscretion or one bad choice. Satan convinces us there is nothing wrong with a little sin and one thing leads to another. Before we know it, our hearts are callused and repugnant, not only to those around us, but most of all to our Creator. Our life is infested; our flesh is decaying; our only hope is for God to perform the painful extraction process. Times of discipline are painful, but I am so thankful God doesn’t give up no matter how many times I ask Him to stop. He lovingly continues until I willingly turn from my sin! "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
I continued working on Raymond, while the rest of the team worked diligently on other patients. As time was approaching 1:00 pm and we were preparing to break for lunch the unthinkable happened! My next post will try to describe what felt like being part of a trauma center reality show.
Click on pictures to enlarge
Palm Sunday Reflections
Today is Palm Sunday, the commemoration of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Victory over sin was about to be obtained for all mankind! The scripture tells us that as Jesus approached the city He wept. He wept because they did not understand the way to peace.
True peace can only be found in an intimate relationship with Jesus - He is the Prince of Peace. When you accept Christ as your personal savior He floods your heart with peace . . . the peace of knowing your sins are forgiven and heaven is your eternal home; the peace that comes from being reconciled with God, no longer His enemy; the peace of knowing He will never leave you or forsake you; the peace of knowing He will always meet your need according to His riches in glory; and most of all, the peace that comes from knowing He has loved you with an everlasting love - a love that would lay down His life for you!
When Jesus looks at you today, will He weep because you don't know the way to peace? The cry of His heart is "How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace". He loves you more than you will ever know and has done everything necessary for you to know the way to peace. Unlike the people of Jerusalem on that fateful Sunday, it is not too late for you - the Way of peace is standing before you ready and waiting. "For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed the right time is now. Today is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). The words of the following song say it so much better than I . . .
The Savior is Waiting
The Savior is waiting to enter your heart
Why don’t you let Him come in?
There’s nothing in this world to keep you apart
What is your answer to Him?
Time after time
He has waited before
And now He is waiting again
To see if you are willing
To open the door
Oh, how He wants to come in.
If you’ll take one step
Toward the Savior, my friend,
You’ll find His arms open wide.
Receive Him, and all of your darkness will end
Within your heart He’ll abide.
Time after time
He has waited before
And now He is waiting again
To see if you are willing
To open the door
Oh, how He wants to come in.
If you would like to respond to the Savior's calling, click here to know How To Get To Heaven.
Adversity: Burden or Bridge?
I have been studying "30 Life Principles" by Dr. Charles F. Stanley in my personal quiet time and wanted to share some of what God is teaching me about Life Principle #26 - Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.
Adversity is nondiscriminatory - it is something all of us have to face as we go through this thing called life! None of us is immune to the trials and tribulations that this life can bring. Jesus even told us, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). When adversity comes, we have a choice to make - we can view it as a burden we have to bear, or as a bridge that will draw us into a closer, deeper relationship with God.
Adversity can be defined as a state of affliction, hardship, distress or pain. In most cases it is unexpected and life altering. It can come upon us suddenly and from sources we don't expect. The intensity of adversity is varied, but we can all agree that when we are going through difficult times it is very intense to us! Some adversity is the result of sin in our lives, but sometimes it is circumstances that are completely out of our control. Regardless of the reason, we can be assured that God is in complete control (Psalm 103:19) and He will somehow work the circumstances out for our good (Romans 8:28).
The way we respond to adversity affects not only ourselves, but also those around us. Others can be encouraged by the way we handle the difficulties of life, and some even brought to faith in Christ when seeing God’s faithfulness as a reality in your life. However, how often have we heard the negative effects on a marriage, children, parents, jobs, etc. when someone plunges beneath the burden, giving up on life or falling into sin? Likewise, the ministry God has called us to will be affected by our response. Our testimony will either be strengthened and bring glory to God; or be damaged, making our ministry ineffective and even hurt the cause of Christ.
When facing great difficulties in life I must ask myself, "is this a burden I want to bear alone or a bridge to a more intimate relationship with God?"
A burden by definition is something that weighs us down, a heavy load that is difficult to bear. It can be a source of great worry, anxiety and stress that results in sadness, discouragement, weariness, depression and even physical illness. In the life of a Christian choosing to view adversity as a burden can result in spiritual oppression. Many people crumble under the burden of adversity. They feel sorry for themselves; choose to escape by denial of the situation, or through addictive behaviors in an attempt to numb the pain; they feel hopeless; become bitter and angry; blame God and often turn their back on Him completely.
A bridge, on the other hand, provides passage over an obstacle, a gap or barrier; something that takes us from one place to another. We can rise above adversity by refusing to allow it to become a barrier between God and us. Instead, we allow God to use it for His plan and purpose, thus building a bridge that takes us into a deeper understanding of who He is and into a deeper relationship with Him. The wisest choice when facing adversity is to surrender my will to His so that His purpose will be accomplished in my life. This will result in my spiritual growth and a more intimate relationship with the lover of my soul!
1 Peter 1:6-7
Patiently Suffering Injustice
1 Peter 2:20-23 (NLT)
There is no credit, honor or praise given to those who patiently endure the consequences of their actions. At least, according to scripture, that is not what we should expect. But as I ponder the first part of verse 20 - "Of course you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong" - I realize our society does not apply that simple truth. Quite the opposite, how often do we reward or praise little Johnny for sitting in the time out chair without a temper tantrum? Or how about when we have warned Susie she will lose her phone for the weekend if she talks back again - when she surrenders it willingly after the next infraction, do we give it back after a few hours because she didn't throw it and yell "I hate you!” And then what about criminals - don't we give them time off for good behavior during their imprisonment? I know I have been guilty of giving credit to my children for their "good attitude" when consequences have been endured patiently by relenting from imposing the entire "sentence".
Does that mean I should not extend mercy in some cases? On the contrary, in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt. 18:21-35) we learn we are to have compassion and mercy toward those who have wronged us, just as God has shown us mercy. We have just failed to communicate that mercy is extended because of grace - it is undeserved favor granted at the mercy of the one in authority. It is not a "right"; it is not deserved and therefore should not be expected! When I do wrong, I deserve to suffer the consequences. I should accept responsibility for my actions, and even be thankful for the discipline. I cannot say that as a child I was very thankful for the spankings and punishments I received, nor do I remember suffering patiently or silently! I am, however, thankful for them now. They not only showed me my parents loved me enough to correct my wrong behavior, they were opportunities for my character to grow. But how about unjust punishment or unfair treatment?
God is pleased when I patiently endure unfair treatment. This is when I truly reflect Christ to others. God calls me to do good even when I am treated unfairly or suffer injustice. Jesus did not retaliate when He was mistreated - instead He prayed for those who mistreated Him. He committed Himself to His Father knowing His will is perfect and He always judges fairly. Most of all He remained focused on His purpose - to seek and to save those who were lost. Jesus gives me the perfect example to imitate when I encounter unfair treatment and/or persecution:
It is easy to be kind and love those who love me, but my flesh raises its ugly head against those who treat me harshly. I desire to follow the example of Jesus, so I must choose love in all circumstances - " Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8) This kind of love is not a feeling or emotion; it’s an act of my will. I choose to love even if I don’t feel like it, I choose to love even if it’s undeserved, I choose to love when everything in me wants to hate. I can never be wrong by choosing to love, because that’s what Jesus would do!
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing . . . James 1:2-8
Worship the Good Shepherd
In these verses, the psalmist invites us to enter into worship, to humble ourselves before our Maker. The act of bowing and kneeling before someone is an act of submission, of yielding oneself to the sovereignty of the One you bow before. Therefore, before we can truly worship we must yield our will to His, we must acknowledge His right to rule and reign over our lives, and we must lay ourselves before Him totally surrendered. I wish I could say this is a state of being for me, but for this strong-willed child, I must die daily and sometimes it is a struggle! At times, I forget that giving into my flesh is actually surrendering to my adversary the devil. Unlike surrendering to my enemy, when I daily surrender to Jesus I can be assured of an incredible journey. “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10
As I meditate on the above verses in Psalm 95 I am reminded that in John 10 Jesus continued to say, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep . . . My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:11, 27 & 28) Jesus gave his life so that my sins could be forgiven and I could be one of His sheep. He has given me eternal life, meaning that even though my body will die, my soul will live forever with Him in heaven - I will dwell in His pasture. I am safe and secure because no one can snatch me from My Shepherds hands. Jesus knows me; He has counted every hair on my head and written my name on the palm of His hand. Because I am His, when He speaks I recognize His voice. Just like when my husband speaks, I recognize his voice and know it is he speaking to me. When my Dad speaks, I also recognize his voice. I know their voices because I belong to them – I have a relationship with them. Because I have a relationship with Jesus, when He speaks to me, be it through His Word, prayer, or circumstances, I hear His voice and I follow Him.
Do you recognize Jesus when He speaks to you? When someone calls that I don't know very well, I don't recognize their voice and they have to tell me who is calling. In order for me to recognize a stranger's voice, I need to develop a relationship with them. I would need to spend time with them, listen to them and learn about them. Likewise, to recognize the voice of Jesus we must develop our relationship with Him. Jesus longs to have a personal, intimate relationship with each one of us, but He will not force Himself on anyone. If you desire to cultivate a relationship with Jesus, you must first belong to Him - if you don't or you are uncertain, please read How to get to Heaven. We develop a relationship with Jesus the same way we do with each other - we spend time with Him, listen to Him and learn about Him. Some call this their Quiet Time or Daily Devotion, but it's setting aside time everyday for prayer and Bible study. This is how we grow to know Him, to love Him, to follow and obey Him.
I belong to Jesus, He is my Friend, He is my God, my Savior, my Lord, my King, my Master, my Father, my Maker, my Good Shepherd. He is my EVERYTHING and He is worthy of all my praise and worship. He gives me the incredible privilege of coming before His throne; of entering into His presence; of listening to my hopes, dreams, desires, needs and often my ranting and ravings . . . and then He gives me what I need. I can bow before Him in complete surrender knowing He is in control of all things and will work them together for my good. No one else does that for me or for you, so yes beloved, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For He is our God and only He is worthy of our praise!
Be of Good Cheer
Many times in my life I have ignored the warnings of the Holy Spirit and proceeded to do things my own way. I can almost hear God saying, "if only you had listened to me, you wouldn't be going through this now." I am so thankful that even when I am stubborn and rebellious, God's love allows me suffer the consequences. It is through those times of discipline that my faith and trust in Him is strengthened. As we read on in verses 23-25 we see that an angel of the Lord told Paul not to be afraid, God still had plans for him, there would be no loss of life even though they would be shipwrecked. I can "take heart" that though I may suffer the consequences for my disobedience, God still has plans for me and those plans are for good!
There are also times of trials that are not the result of sin, but just a part of living life in a fallen world. God also uses these times for my good, to conform me into the image of His Son. James 1:2-4 says; "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." James said, "when troubles come my way", not if, so I can be assured of having trials and tribulation! However, it is an opportunity for great joy.
So how can I be joyful in the face of adversity? Being joyful is a choice, not an emotion or feeling. I feel happy or sad, but joy is a state of being. And joy comes from the knowledge of what my future holds, not what my present circumstances indicate. Jesus said I should rejoice because my name is written in heaven, and nothing can change that. But Jesus is also very practical and He knew I would need specific instructions - "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and [that] your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) You need to study John 15:1-10 yourself to know what things Jesus said would will fill you with His joy, but basically, it’s abiding or remaining in Jesus and His Word, bearing fruit that remains (see Gal. 5:22-23), obeying His commandments and abiding in His love. This is the source of true joy that nothing can take away - knowing Jesus and clinging to Him.
Many would have you believe that if you are living in obedience to God you won't have problems. Well my friend that is simply not true, living a life of obedience is how we can overcome the troubles of this world with joy unspeakable. Just as Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Even if I lose my possessions, loved ones, even my life . . . I know my Redeemer lives! So I exhort you beloved be of good cheer, if Jesus is your Savior, you have eternal life and through Him you can overcome the world!
Resting in His Safety
Today these verses have a very special meaning as I contemplate the protection the Lord provides to His children. As I was sleeping comfortably in my bed Sunday night, my husband had begun a Life Principles Conference in Kakamega, Kenya. The conference was well received by the twenty-five pastors in attendance and for the most part, went as planned. As is quite typical, Bill taught with the power and strength of the Holy Spirit giving it his all, and when it was over, he was finished! His voice was gone; he was physically exhausted yet still had many hours of studying to do in preparation for the next day's conference. To say the least he was ready for his driver to take him to the hotel so that he could unwind a little before settling in to study.
When in Africa you often have to "go with the flow" and learn to patiently wait! Something that Bill and I often have difficulty with, and so the Lord continues to provide opportunities to learn. As I said Bill was ready to go to the hotel, but Pastor Simeon's (the conference host) daughter wanted the driver to run an errand for her first. Graciously responding, as Pastor James from Nairobi always does, "No problem, Loveless is in no hurry. He can have a cup of tea and wait."
Our God is omniscient and sovereign - He knows what is going to happen and He controls the circumstances leading up to every event. I am so thankful that while I was peacefully sleeping, God was seeing and controlling what was about to take place. You see, as the driver (his name is Joseph) was running this errand, one of the shocks on the vehicle failed causing him to lose control. Joseph was not wearing his seat belt and was thrown into the back seat, but oddly enough this saved his life! Reports have it that the front of the vehicle was demolished.
God’s people are loved by Him and live in safety beside Him. He surrounds them continuously and preserves them from every harm! The Lord preserved my husband and kept him safe by the inconvenient delay! God knew Bill would have sat in the front seat and he would have most definitely had his seat belt on. He always wears his seat belt, especially in Africa. That precaution would have resulted in his certain demise had the Sovereign Lord not intervened.
How much of God's protection goes unnoticed, or is considered a major inconvenience, or a great disappointment because things do not go the way we plan. I know I am guilty of irritation, disappointment, and yes-even anger when delayed or my plans are interrupted. I pray this life lesson will cause me to always remember that "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) That means ALL things, not just the good and pleasant things!
God controls our destiny and until He is through with us we can rest assured that he will preserve us from every harm. I praise the Lord that . . . in peace I can lie down and sleep for You alone, O Lord, will keep me safe!
Founder and President of Go Ministries, Inc.
Co-Founder and Secretary/Treasurer of Go Ministries, Inc