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Now and Forever!

"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3)

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November 29, 2011

Finishing Well

by on November 29, 2011. Filed under Christian life / church, Personal, joni

 

Today’s devotional explains something that, over the years, I’ve learned about my own Christian journey. It explains part of the reason why I (usually) don’t get discouraged during those “dry” times in my life. I used to get very discouraged during those times early in my Christian journey. But I’ve learned that even in those times, especially during those times, I learn new things about God, myself, and the people and world around me.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:  for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Yes.  Even in the driest of times, even in the most stressful, tense, painful, horrific of times, even when I’m being poured out like a drink offering, yes, even in the valley of the shadow of death, God is with me; I will fear no evil.  Have faith in God, my friends. And praise Him forever!

Please read the attached devotional.   Joni so often says things so well.

Love In Christ,
Ed

December 18, 2006

2006-11-30

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”Romans 11:33

God doesn’t say, “Into each life a little rain must fall,” and then aim a hose in earth’s general direction to see who gets the wettest. Rather, He screens the trials that come to each of us, allowing only those that accomplish His good plan. He takes no joy in human agony. Nothing happens by accident, not even tragedy, not even sins committed against us. God is in control, and that’s what I love about Him.

True, God’s decrees allow suffering, but He doesn’t “do” the suffering. He’s not the one wielding the club. For instance, in Job’s story, God exploited the deliberate evil of some very bad characters and the impersonal evil of some very bad storms without smothering anyone or anything.

These are deep waters: God exploits but doesn’t smother? How does He pull it off? Welcome to the world of finite humans trying to comprehend an infinite God. What’s clear is that God permits all sorts of things He doesn’t approve of. He allows others to do what He would never do. He didn’t steal Job’s camels or entice bandits to wreak havoc; yet He didn’t take His hand off the wheel for thirty seconds either.

This idea often doesn’t sit well with people. But think of the alternative: What if God insisted on a hands-off policy toward the tragedies swimming your ay? The devil would be unrestrained. Left to his own, he would make Jobs of us all. But God curbs evil. Evil can only raise its head where God deliberately backs away–always for reasons that are specific, wise, and good but often hidden during this present life. (Estes)

Do your circumstances seem to be careening out of control? Remember that God is with you through it, loving you and caring…and allowing the details to play out exactly in accordance with his plan.

* * * * *

God, enable me to trust in Your love even when life seems wild and crazy and out of control.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

2006-11-29

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”Psalm 34:8

I love the day after Thanksgiving. There’s nothing like turkey sandwiches with cold stuffing and cranberry sauce spread right on soft, white bread. And day-old pumpkin pie? Yum.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, Ken and I read through some Old Testament passages to help us get in to a “gratitude” spirit. We discussed the wonderful things God did in the past like parting the Red Sea and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. God served up a full course meal of spectacular miracles back then.

But what about today? Are we tasting “leftovers” just because no seas are parting? Is God serving up something less than his “best” if he chooses to reveal himself through the pages of his word rather than through the pillar of fire and cloud of smoke? God’s acts are no less mighty and our thanksgivings are no less earnest then those who laid themselves prostrate in the Old Testament. God didn’t just flex His muscles in ancient times to leave us with leftovers. When He served up His mighty acts in the Old Testament, God didn’t say, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good” only to dish out to us something less than His best. Nothing is ever “day old” or warmed up when it comes to God’s workings. What He does always tastes good, is delightful, and is worthy of thanksgiving.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” : God may have given Solomon wisdom, but hasn’t He done the same for you? He may have delivered Gideon, but hasn’t He rescued you as well? God satisfied the mouth of David with good things, but hasn’t the Lord also fattened your soul with more blessings than you can count? Which of us has not been made to lie down in green pastures? We all know what it’s like to be led by still waters.

“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2). While the Thanksgiving blessings are still fresh in your mind, while the prayers of gratitude are still echoing around the table, forget not all His benefits.

* * * * *

I give thanks, God, that You were good to the people of old, and that I can say with them, oh taste and see. The Lord is good.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

2006-11-28

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”Psalm 68:3

We’re often taught to be careful of the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness, it is said, is an emotion that depends upon what ‘happens.’ Joy by contrast, is supposed to be enduring, stemming deep from within our soul and which is not affected by the circumstances surrounding us.

It’s an appropriate linguistic distinction, I suppose. But I don’t think God had any such hair-splitting in mind. Scripture uses the terms interchangeably along with words like delight, gladness, blessed. There is no scale of relative spiritual values applied to any of these. Happiness is not relegated to fleshly-minded sinners nor joy to heaven-bound saints.

The terms are synonymous in their effect and too difficult to distinguish when we experience either one. Would you, for example, respond to the wedding of your daughter with joy or with happiness? Are you happy that your friend came to know Christ or are you joyful? Is the moment of euphoric delight in worship of him on Sunday morning just a happenstance or just as much a part of Jesus’ promise regarding our redeemed souls?

To rob joy of its elated twin, happiness, is to deprive our soul of God’s feast. Seek both as part and parcel in all circumstances. When your soul is stirred by a deep contentment, be happy. When a delightful moment strikes that is quite outside yourself, be joyful. Don’t think about which one you are supposed to feel. Accept them both as a gift from a God who is rich in all such emotions.

* * * * *

Lord, I seek the blessing of a joyful heart, the gladness of a happy countenance, and the delight of your eternal pleasure today.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

2006-11-27

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth…”Isaiah 25:6-8

There is no mistaking. This is a real banquet. In heaven, after death is swallowed up, and the Lord wipes away the tears from all faces, a banquet will be served. It will be “the best of meats” and “aged wine… the finest of wines.” But wait. Suppose you are a vegetarian and you can’t stand wine? What then? Come to think of it, what animal will have to die to give up his top round roast? I thought there was no more death in heaven? you think. And will someone be back in the kitchen shuffling pots and pans? Will Arabs eat with their fingers? Asians use chopsticks? Will people in hell do cleanup duty?

Wait. Stop. We’re making the mistake of pursuing the meaning of heaven with the Lincoln Logs of our logic. If we were able to scale heaven’s walls with the grappling irons of human understanding, then our faith wouldn’t mean very much. Trying to grasp heaven is like trying to admire the outside of a huge cathedral with grand windows. Standing outside, the building is striking, but has no real glory; yet if you go inside the cathedral — which is a little like looking at heaven through eyes of faith — you are breathless as you stand washed in glorious colors from the light that streams through the window. (Hawthorne)

Questions aside, the point is that the passage is real. As strange as it seems, today’s verse underscores that the whole scene in heaven is very real. There’s nothing wispy or vaporous about wine and meat. And there’s no doubt it’ll taste great.

* * * * *

Lord of heaven, thank you for passages like these which paint a very real and tasty, a very desirable picture of heaven. Help me to live in the light of such heavenly promises today.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

2006-11-26

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“Yes,” declares the LORD, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The LORD declares.’…This is what each of you keeps on saying to his friend or relative:

‘What is the LORD’s answer?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ But you must not mention ‘the oracle of the LORD’ again, because every man’s own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God, the LORD Almighty, our God.”Jeremiah 23:31,35-36

We play fast and loose with the Word of God these days. In-depth Bible study and examining verses in their context takes too much time. People seem to prefer instant revelation and ‘words of knowledge’ on the spot.

I’ve noticed how many believers say, “The Lord told me that thus-and-such is going to happen.” They proceed to give God’s take on the situation, whether it be his answer concerning a marital problem, a career choice, or a reprimand meant for a friend. Actually, I hear it all the time: “Joni, the Lord told me that you will be out of that wheelchair in less than a year.” Their sentiments are well-meaning, but their words are… well, frightening. Frankly, I’m speechless when a Christian prefaces any comment with “The Lord told me…”. Who am I to question the Lord? How can I possible engage this brother or sister in a meaningful debate if they claim they are speaking ex cathedra, or “from the Throne”? It’s a dead end discussion.

“What has the Lord told you?” and “Have you received a word from the Lord?” are phrases packed with presumption. Jeremiah knew this. Division and confusion were running rampant during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Nobody wanted to listen to the Word of the Lord from Jeremiah forecasting doom and gloom. And so, they leaned on human logic and false hopes in an attempt to pump up people’s confidence in the ability of Jerusalem to withstand the siege. They tried to calm fears and raise expectations by saying, “The Lord told me…” The truth was, God had already spoken in and through the Word.

Get into the practice of speaking for yourself, rather than God. After all, he’s already made his word clear.

* * * * *

Lord, keep me from presumption. Energize me to delve into your Word.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

2006-11-25

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”Hebrews 13:15-16

Ken and I worship in a small church. The Pomeroy family, including the youngest, Veronica, usually sits a few rows in front of us. Veronica likes to wear pretty hats over her blonde hair. She also coughs a lot. I used to think she was plagued by frequent colds. I later learned she has cystic fibrosis, a severe lung disease which clogs her breathing passages with phlegm. I sometimes watch Veronica during worship service. Especially when we sing hymns. She gasps in between the lines and I wonder what God must be thinking as he receives her praise. Actually, I already know. “With such sacrifices God is pleased.” More than pleased, God’s greatness is magnified when Veronica determines to wheeze her way through a hymn — her gutsy praise demonstrates how special she thinks God is. What’s more, with her limited lung capacity, Veronica inspires me to fill my chest and harmonize with all my heart. Praise is then multiplied!

As we grit our teeth to offer praise for who he is, we are living out Psalm 141:2, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” A sacrifice of praise demonstrates the enormously high value we attach to him. God is pleased with the praise you give him, but he swells with joy when the praise he breathes has the aroma of a sweet smelling sacrifice. Today, pick an attribute out of your pain and proclaim, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12-13).

* * * * *

I praise you, Lord, for being so faithful, so consistent, so merciful and compassionate to me, even through — especially through — the hurt.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

2006-11-24

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”Psalm 50:23

Suppose a woman with arthritis in her hands embroidered a set of pillowcases for you as a “thank you” gift. The gift would mean more to you than if sewn by a woman with nimble fingers. Why? Because the arthritic woman expended extraordinary effort. Her “thank you” involved cost and sacrifice. You’d weigh the extra hours she invested, the frequent breaks she took to rub her knuckles, the pain she endured with each tiny stitch. Most likely, you would be moved to tears. Her suffering “glorified” her gratitude, making it more valuable in your eyes.

If we respond this way to sacrifices, how much more is God enthused when we sacrifice thank offerings to him? When trials sandblast you to the core and your bruised feelings are screaming, “Forget God!” or your weary mind is too clouded to see through the fog, this is the time to express to God gratitude. True, such gratitude involves cost and sacrifice — it costs your logic and you sacrifice your pride. But your thank offering is glorified as you push through the pain to present gratitude to God for his blessings.

Is there a trial which is souring your disposition toward God? Fostering doubts? Drying up your zeal? You have a chance to change that as you honor God today with a sacrifice of thanksgiving. List the many things for which you can give thanks, including the basics of life, or the support of friends. Your suffering will shape your thanksgiving into a true sacrifice of gratitude, preparing the way for God to shower grace upon grace on you. Don’t postpone it. Sacrifice to him now.

* * * * *

I thank you, Lord, for the ability to see, hear, think, pray, the blessings of shelter, food, friends and the many other evidences of your love. I’m hurting in this trial… but it helps to present you this sacrifice of thanks.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

2006-11-22

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”Philippians 1:3

I will never forget Thanksgiving Day of 1963. I was 14 years old, living on a farm in Maryland, and Mr. Cauthorne, the owner of the big estate across the river, invited me to go on a fox hunt. Early on Thanksgiving morning, my dad helped me trailer my thoroughbred over to the hunt club. Within minutes, I saddled up and looked around for Mr. Cauthorne. I spotted him by the barn sitting atop his hunt-wisened horse. He had on his red coat, with hounds by his side. The paddock was abuzz with dogs barking and horses neighing.

The bugle sounded and — We’re off! I reined my horse in line behind Mr. Cauthorne, observing how he graciously deferred to the hunt master. I made certain to do the same. We spurred our horses into a slow gallop. I can still feel my hands holding the reins, the wind in my face as we cantered across shaven cornfields and sailed over walls. We never caught the fox. But the thrill was less in bagging an animal and more in relishing the ride. It made turkey dinner back at the hunt club all the more delicious… and my thanks to God all the more personal.

I haven’t sat a horse in over 30 years. The only leather I sit on now is the padding of my wheelchair. No cinches around saddles, only cinches around my middle to help me breathe better. The clip-clopping of hooves has been replaced by the click-clacking of my wheelbearings. That’s okay. I’ll ride in heaven. In the meantime, I thank God for memories. Design your own Thanksgiving memories. Plan a holiday tradition that is unique and suited to your family. Maybe it’s a football game. A family puzzle. Go for a hike before you eat dessert. Whatever it is, it’ll be memorable if you do it in the spirit of thanksgiving.

* * * * *

Help me to make this holiday a memorable time for my family and friends. Thank you, Lord, for giving us so many blessings for which to thank you.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

 

 

2006-11-21

by on December 18, 2006. Filed under joni

 

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…”Isaiah 42:3

God bends us but never breaks us. This means that if I love God, suffering does not ultimately matter. Christ in me is what matters. Pain does not cease to be pain, but I can “rejoice in suffering” (Romans 5:5) because the power of God in my life is greater than suffering’s vice-grip can ever be. It reminds me of this poem by an anonymous author.

When God wants to drill a man, and thrill a man and skill a man, When God wants to mold a man to play the noblest part, When He yearns with all His heart to create so great and bold a man That all the world should be amazed, Watch His methods, watch His ways: How He ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects; How He hammers him and hurts him, And with mighty blows converts him into shapes and forms of clay Which only God can understand, While man’s tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands; Yet God bends but never breaks when man’s good He undertakes; How He uses whom He chooses, And with mighty power infuses him, With every act induced him to try His splendor out, God knows what He’s about.

As Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limits; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” In other words, a bruised reed he will not break.

And so, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

* * * * *

Your power in my life, God, is greater than suffering’s grip can ever be. Help me to believe that. Help me to live it.

Blessings,
Joni and Friends

All journal entries are copyright by Ed Rodatus - all rights reserved.
(Except the entries in the "joni" category. All the "joni" posts are from the Joni and Friends daily email devotional.)

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