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He Knows Our Name

Have you ever felt like no one knew your name? That you were invisible to others?

I am more on the shy introverted side. It takes me a while to warm up and get to know people. I tend to hang back and observe before I jump into anything. When I was younger I struggled with being introverted which lead to social anxiety and depression. At times caused me to blend in and not have many friends. It didn’t help that I couldn’t establish roots at school when I changed schools 8 times for various reasons. By high school I had had enough and didn’t even attempt to make friends at the school I graduated from. I had a best friend and boyfriend so what else did I need? It still didn’t help the fact that I felt lonely, ate lunch alone and rarely talked to my fellow classmates. I do want to point out that this is not a poor reflection on them. They are wonderful people who probably didn’t know how to handle someone as shy as I was. One can’t make friends if one doesn’t talk to people right?

How thankful I am that the Lord knows me. I’ve never been invisible to Him. If He knows the stars by name I know without a doubt that He knows each and every one of us by name. Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now thus says the Lordhe who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.'” Did you read that? God created you. You are HIS! You aren’t alone. You are wanted. You are needed. You have a purpose. You are loved!

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Trust God

This morning I read through Isaiah 36-37. Within these chapters we read about King Hezekiah. In Isaiah 36:1 we read that the King of Assyria, Sennacherib, attacked and captured all the fortified cities of Judah. He not only attacks these cities but he also sends his field commander to Hezekiah in order to tempt Hezekiah to despair as well as cause the people to revolt (verses 2-22).

How did Hezekiah respond? He went directly to the Lord (Isaiah 37:1-7).

Sennacherib doesn’t stop with trying to stir up the people and causing Hezekiah to despair. He continues by sending messengers to Hezekiah with blasphemous letters about not trusting God to defend and protect them like He said He would. He wanted them to be fearful of the powerful armies instead of trusting in God (verses 8-13).

How did Hezekiah respond? He went directly to the Lord again (verses 14-20).

When I read this story I am reminded about the times we live in today. So many people don’t know the Lord and work hard at making a mockery out of Him and how those who follow Him live. It can be discouraging to see sin praised and encouraged. It can be discouraging to be cut down for your faith. It can be discouraging to have people tell you they are accepting of all people, walks of life and beliefs only to not accept your faith because they hate Christianity. Apparently they aren’t accepting of all.

The good news is, we don’t have to listen to anyone but God. We also have a choice in how we respond. We can allow all these things to make us feel discouraged and bring us down emotionally and spiritually. Or we can be like Hezekiah and take what we are seeing, hearing, experiencing to God. Let God remind you that even though it may seem like the enemy is winning that God is the victor. He has given us the ability to stand strong and trust in Him alone (verses 21-35).

“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.” Joshua 1:9

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The Interest of Others

I have read through the book of Jonah since my Sunday School teacher taught about it when I was very young. Sometimes it is hard not to glean something new from this well known story. And yet . . . God can always show us something we haven’t focused on before . . .

Most of us know about Jonah’s story. How God told him to go and preach against the city of Nineveh. How Jonah chose to try to run away from God. While he was fleeing on a ship bound for Tarshish, the Lord caused a great storm to arise and cause fear in those on the ship. In the end, Jonah realized his disobedience was the cause of the storm and the only way to end it was for him to be thrown overboard. (Jonah 1)

We all know that a big fish swallowed Jonah where he stayed for three days and nights. We know that Jonah repented of his disobedience while in the belly of the fish and his prayer ended with this, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have owed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” The Lord chose to command the fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land. (Jonah 2)

The Lord came to Jonah a second time and said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you” (Jonah 3:1). This time Jonah did go, the king and all of Nineveh heard the message and repented. Unfortunately, this was not what Jonah wanted to see happen. He wanted them to be punished for their sins but the Lord showed compassion upon them and saved them from destruction. (Jonah 3)

At the end of this story we find Jonah sulking under a vine the Lord provided for him. It helped ease his discomfort from the heat and sun. The Lord also provided a worm that ate the vine so it withered and died. At this point Jonah starts to wallow in a misery of his own making and becomes angry with the Lord for killing off his only protection from the sun. (Jonah 4)

Here is how the conversation went between God and Jonah:

“When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live’” (verse 8).

“But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’

‘It is,’ he said. ‘And I’m so angry I wish I were dead'” (verse 9).

“But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?'” (verses 10-11).

It amazes me that Jonah witnessed a miracle first hand. He was part of being used by God to save people from destruction. He learned a valuable lesson about obedience. Lived through being swallowed by a large fish. And yet, he throws himself a pity party because he didn’t get what he wanted. Jonah was more concerned about his precious vine than he was over a nation of people who didn’t know the Lord God. My study notes say, “Are the souls of men not worth as much as a vine?”

As I finished reading through this book I had to ask myself if I was more concerned about myself and material possessions than I am about those who are lost? There are so many things in this world that we can be concerned over that overshadow what we really should be concerned about. The Lord is more concerned about the lost than He is about our personal and material comfort.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

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Peace Amidst Stormy Weather

Last week I was able to spend five days on the Oregon coast celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary. Our first day there we woke up to the rain falling sideways in the wind. We bundled up in our warm rain gear to take a short walk on the beach. By the time we got back to our cabin we were soaking wet. Like everything we wore needed to be rung out. The next day we woke up to calmer weather. The rain had stopped, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds throughout the day and the temps had risen. We spent most of the day on the beach wandering through the tide pools.

Zechariah 10:1 says, “Ask the Lord for rain in the spring, for he makes the storm clouds. And he will send showers of rain so every field becomes a lush pasture.” It is the Lord who controls the weather. It is He who knows how important it is for storms to blow into our lives. The winds make us stronger as we push forward into them. The rain soaks us to replenish us. It does this so that we can face the bright sunshine of a new and beautiful day a stronger person. A person who has weathered the storm while leaning on the true anchor – their Lord God.

This quote reminded me of the stormy day we spent on the beach: “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is not noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

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Prompt Obedience

This morning I came across the story of the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22. If you are unfamiliar with this story please read through the chapter. In a nutshell, God tested Abraham by telling him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (verse 2). I know this is a tough one on us parents. How could God ask Abraham to do this to his son? The son that God promised a great nation was going to come from.

Abraham did what I’m sure I’d have trouble doing in this situation. He obeyed God without question, So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (verse 3). 

I admit that I am convicted by my lack of prompt obedience when I read this chapter. Abraham’s life was characterized by his faith in God by evidence of his obedience in not only this chapter but in Genesis 12:1-4 and 17:23. There have been times in my life where I felt called to do something but refused to move forward out of fear. Fear of the unknown, rejection or what God might ask me to experience. I have one example that has changed my life because of my lack of prompt obedience.

I once knew a woman who was suffering from lung cancer. I remember sitting and talking to her about what she was going through one day after church and got the impression that she felt like she was alone. She was supported by her family and church family but not by anyone who really knew what she was going through. I gave her my number and said I’d love to walk alongside her while she was going through this.

I distinctly remember leaving that conversation with a thought that I needed to start a cancer support group. I immediately dismissed it thinking I was not capable of leading that kind of group. Within the next month five more women I knew were diagnosed with cancer and each time the thought of starting a support group kept popping into my head. Each time I dismissed it because of the fear of what it would lead to. A few months later the sweet lady with lung cancer passed away. We weren’t able to touch basis and I was unable to offer any kind of support. The guilt I felt was great because I knew had I promptly obeyed God’s first calling to start a group, that she might have had the extra support she needed before she passed away.

Her death was a wake up call. I started to pray over what I felt God was calling me to do which eventually lead to me starting a cancer support group. A group that will be celebrating its 5th birthday this month. I may not have felt fully equipped to start this group but God has certainly equipped me along the way. I just needed to step out in faith and let Him do the rest like He has.

I won’t beat myself up over not obeying God right away. I want it to serve as a reminder to me how vital it is to obey. I will leave you with Charles Spurgeon’s thought on Abraham’s prompt obedience, “WHAT WAS ABRAHAM’S SPECIAL EXPERIENCE, which led to his becoming so remarkable a saint? The secret lies in three things: he had a call, he obeyed it, and he obeyed it because he had faith.”

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Welcome to 2018!

I find it hard to believe another year has come and gone. We’ve done a lot on the Stillness blog. We’ve read through the bible in two years. We’ve also memorized the Beatitudes which means we’ve memorized another larger portion of scripture.

My goal for the Stillness blog is that we learn to make the Lord part of our daily lives. I want us to go beyond just reading someone’s devotional thought (even my own) to digging into the Word on our own. I feel that reading the bible daily, memorizing scripture and prayer are vital to our spiritual health and growth.

Over the years we’ve been reading through the whole bible. Some years we’ve taken only a quick year to get through the bible while other years we’ve taken two to three years. I’ll be the first to congratulate you on your daily bible reading if you’ve stuck with it these past two years with us. This year we’ll be reading through the bible chronologically. I’ll provide the new reading plan on the right hand side of the blog. If this is a plan doesn’t work for you than by all means feel free to find one that fits your needs. My goal isn’t that you stick with us but that you read your bible on a daily basis.

Memorizing scripture is not easy for me. I struggle with it and find it to be a challenge. Even though this is true for me I still think it is important to work on memorizing scripture. There will be a time in our lives that we may not have a physical bible to read and will have to rely upon what we’ve motorized. This year we’ll be memorizing John 15:1-11. I realize this is one verse shy of a year but I think we’ll be okay. I know December is a difficult month for many so we’ll just take the time to review the whole passage next December.

I pray that the Lord will lead you into this new year with new insights from what you learned from last year. That you won’t look back with regret that clings to your future. To know that mistakes happen but repenting and forgiveness releases you from them. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

I’m looking forward to spending another year with you!

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Golden Nuggets from Titus

I just recently read through the book of Titus. I can tell you it is chalked full of really REALLY good information or what I call “Golden Nuggets”.

Paul reminds us of several things in his letter to Titus:

Elders/Overseers: These men must be above reproach and must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:7-9).

Older Men & Women: But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:1-5). I personally fit into this category and need to be reminded about how important it is to speak into the lives of others. 

Younger Men & Women: Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8). This reminds me of how important it is for young people to model good works, have integrity, dignity and sound speech. What you do in your youth affects your whole life even if you don’t think it will. 

Workers: Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10). I understand we no longer have Bondservants but we can defiantly put this to practice in the workplace.

How we should act: Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1-2). “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:8-11).

The verses that really stood out to me where about what God did for us and why we should act according to what He says:

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

Take the time today to read through the book of Titus. It isn’t long but again, is chalked full of golden nuggets for us to glean from.