Monday, December 31, 2012

Pain, Worry, Discouragement...and Joy?

Okay, did anyone else in the blogosphere have a really bad year?

I burned my finger on the wood stove this evening, and it hurts to type.  Perfect.


My 2012 started out with pain, as usual.  I broke my arm last December, and the first month of 2012 was spent recuperating.  That was added to the pain in my neck (literally - not my husband, who sometimes can be just that) and my shoulder.  Pain was my constant companion.

February was the month that our grandson had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital.  He was suffering from HSP (Henoch Schonlein Purpura).  I tripped and fell on my sore arm in the middle of February, which gave me SORE MUSCLES for the rest of the month.  One good thing was that my nephew and niece purchased a lovely home.  That was exciting.


March meant worry over loved ones.  A daughter in an abusive marriage, a husband with heart issues and many "bad heart days".

Helped nephew move in April.  That was fun, but oh, the pain!  The month was a blur of pain with worry mixed in.

May meant a daughter with a bad back, and another daughter who decided to hit the ground with her face.


June was an attempt at a normal life.  I tried to buy and sell vegetables at the market.  Physically could not handle it.  Much more pain.  Discouraged at the fact that I cannot do what I want to do.

In July, my daughter married her first love. (That was the highlight of the year.)  July also brought difficult news from a friend, diagnosed with cancer, and difficult relationships within the family.

More Pain

August - canning.  Canning.  Visiting with friends.  More canning.  Elena started work.

September - more canning.  Marriage Difficulties.

October - broke three bones in left foot.  Humbled ourselves at church, confessing sin. Sick Dog, barfing everywhere.  An online friend lost her firstborn son to a car crash.  This affected me deeply.

November.  Pain from crutches.  Pain from falling three times.  Woe is me.  Pain Clinic with Dr. Miller brought the diagnosis that nothing can be done about my pain.  Sigh.

December.  Gray and Cloudy month.  More bad news.  More hardship.  More pain.

The Good News

I am not going to turn this around to be all sunny and light.  It simply isn't.  Two Thousand Twelve was a difficult year for me, and I for one am glad to see the end of it.

The good news, however, is that the end of the story hasn't been written yet.  As the year draws to its final moments, I know my life will go on.  I know that my every breath is in the Hands of the Lord, and that He is good, and that even if my life on this earth is cut off quickly, glory awaits, and my hope is sure.

I'm thankful for the Bible.  If you read it, you'll know that I am not the only person with faith in God who has struggled.

Moses had a rough journey in the wilderness.  Elijah was isolated and discouraged.  Jonah despaired at the wickedness of the Ninevites, and could not understand why God would forgive such evil.  Jeremiah lost hope.  Naomi suffered grief in the loss of her sons and her husband.  Job was a man of great sorrow, having lost more than I could imagine.  Paul cried out for deliverance from his "thorn in the flesh".

Most of all, Jesus, my Saviour, is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

“We are living in this short time, a time, indeed, full of sadness and sorrow. To live this short time in the spirit of Jesus Christ means to reach out from the midst of our pains and to let them be turned into joy by the love of him who came within our reach." ~Henri J. M. Nouwen

So the good news?  Difficulties do not kill joy.  In fact, I would say that true joy is deeper than pain, stronger than sorrow, more sure than sadness, and more solid than afflictions.  JOY is a gift from Jesus.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Not So Wise

We often hear the story of the wise men from the east who came to Jerusalem, seeking he who had been born King of the Jews.  They had seen an amazing star rise in the sky, and had come to worship the king.

Centuries before, Daniel had been the greatest and wisest in the land.  Perhaps it was his excellent spirit, knowledge and understanding that was passed down through six centuries to the time of this star in the east.  These wise men saw the star.  They traveled many miles over difficult terrain to seek this child, and began asking all over town about the baby who had been born.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

 Herod assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people.  Like the kings before him, this wicked King wanted all of the facts, and he summoned the best and the wisest of Israel - the chief priests and scribes.  These men knew the Scriptures.  They didn't hesitate when Herod asked him where the Christ was to be born.

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;for from you shall come a rulerwho will shepherd my people Israel.’” Micah 5

The Chief Priests Knew

They knew exactly where the Christ Child was to be born.  They knew He was to be a Ruler, a strong, stern leader.  He was also to be a Shepherd who would tenderly care for His people.

The wise men rejoiced exceedingly with great joy when they saw the star.  They fell down and worshiped the child and gave Him gifts.  Theirs was the proper response to the Son of God.

 The Chief Priests Were Not Wise

Look at the response from the chief priests.  Where were they when the wise men rejoiced?  Where were they when the wise men bowed down, and gave gifts to the Child?

Where were the wise men of the land of Israel?  They were professional scholars whose specialty was explaining the application of the Law.  They knew there was to be a Messiah born.  They knew the wonderful prophecy found in Isaiah:

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon1 his shoulder,
and his name shall be called2
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

They knew, and they ignored it.

This begs the question:  What will you do with Jesus? 

The "Holiday Season" is wrapping up for 2012.  You've opened presents and feasted on turkey and gathered with family.  You've celebrated according to your customs.  You've shopped online or at the local mall, and heard songs of the season - Here Comes Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman…

You've also heard

Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible say
Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas day
Hark, now hear the angels sing
A new King born today
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day
Trumpets sound and angels sing
Listen what they say
That Man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day

Ask yourself, why?  Why was a baby born to a virgin?  Why did the angels appear to the shepherds?  Why did the wise men come from the east to worship this Child?

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Don't be like the Chief Priests.  They knew it all, and did nothing about it.   If you are reading this, I urge you to be wise.  The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.

There is a hell to shun.   To ignore this is not so wise.

Does God Save Everyone?  Click to find the answer.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Leaders

Leaders come and go.  Kings rise to power, dictators rule with an iron fist.  There is nothing new under the sun.  God  rules the rulers, though, as this little tale will tell.

 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
He turns it wherever he will. ~Proverbs 21:1

Wherever you live on this earth, no matter if you have a kind and benevolent Prime Minister or a ranting, raging Ayatollah in charge, remember that God is always in control.  This is illustrated in the lives of two great kings of the Old Testament.


The prophet Isaiah mentions Uzziah very briefly.  "In the year King Uzziah died."

It seems strange that as Isaiah describes his call from God to be a prophet, he mentions Uzziah's death. King Uzziah had been a strong and powerful man, intelligent, gifted, a good leader and commander.  He had a gentle side - he loved the soil, and planted vineyards and gardens.

He was 16 years old when he came to the throne, and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.  He sought God.  He listened to the prophet Zechariah, and followed his counsel.

As long as he sought God, the Lord made him prosper.  God helped him win against the Philistines in battle.  His fame spread.  He became very strong.  He built towers and cisterns, and had a well-prepared army that used the latest "engines" to defend Jerusalem.

BUT.  Don't you hate that word?  We Christians can live righteously and do justice and love mercy, but if we aren't careful, if we don't hate sin and kill it, we can end up like Uzziah.

But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.  He was unfaithful to God, and attempted to usurp the role of the priest.  He dared to go into the temple and burn incense.

Judgment was swift and permanent.  The chief priest Azariah confronted King Uzziah, and said,

“It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”(2 Chronicles 26:18 ESV)
Uzziah was angry.

He had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when the chief priest told him to get out of the temple, that he had no business taking on a duty that belonged only to the priests, he was furious.  The Bible doesn't say so, but I imagine he came at the priests with the censer.  Pride took over; then God stopped him in his tracks.  Leprosy broke out on his forehead.

Judgment and Mercy

And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king's household, governing the people of the land.                                                                                  (2 Chronicles 26:21 ESV)
King Uzziah lived the rest of his days in isolation.  The words "separate house" literally are translated "house of freedom".  Because of his pride, Uzziah was given freedom from responsibility.  He no longer could live in the palace, visit the temple, manage his armies, survey his fields.  He was stuck in a separate house.

There is mercy in this judgment.  Do you see it?

In his house of freedom, Uzziah was free to read, free to worship, free to think about what he'd done, free to repent.

Afflictions are often a gift from God.  Isolation can be a mercy.

A house of separation can be turned into a house of freedom.


The second leader in this tale is Nebuchadnezzar, who praised God when the three friends of Daniel were saved from a fiery furnace.  You can read the first few chapters of Daniel to get the full story.  The fourth chapter opens with Nebuchadnezzar's words of praise to Almighty God:

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.                                                                                          (Daniel 4:1-3 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a great and beautiful tree, filled with abundant food, providing shade for beasts and a home for birds.  But there was a Watcher from heaven who ordered, "Chop down the tree!"

Chop down the tree!  But leave the stump. (Judgment mixed with mercy.)

Daniel was dismayed.  He had to tell the King, "It is you, O King."  You are the One who has become strong, and because of your pride you will be driven from men and live among beasts.  Break off your sins!  Practice righteousness.  Show mercy to the oppressed!

The King listened to Daniel, but failed to repent.  Perhaps he did not believe it would really happen.  He likely thought "I'm not a bad guy."  As day after day and week after week went by, he put the dream from his mind.

Twelve months went by.

A prideful boast.

A voice from Heaven.

Immediate judgment.

Nebuchadnezzar was struck with lycanthropy. Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary describes it as a kind of erratic melancholy.  He lost his mind, and lived for years as a beast.

Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws.                                                                                              (Daniel 4:33 ESV)
Afflictions are often a gift from God.  Isolation can be a mercy.

God's judgment of Nebuchadnezzar's pride was good and right altogether.   At the end of the appointed days of affliction, Nebuchadnezzar's mind was restored.

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.                                                                                             (Daniel 4:34-37 ESV)

Two leaders.  Two great men.  Powerful kings who had it all going for them.

But they were filled with pride, and very needy.

They needed to be humbled.

So God did it.

 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
                                                                                ( Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sin's Deceit by John Newton

 Our son Daniel brought this poem to my attention:

 Sin, when viewed by scripture light, 
Is a horrid, hateful sight; 
But when seen in Satan’s glass, 
Then it wears a pleasing face.

When the gospel trumpet sounds, 
When I think how grace abounds, 
When I feel sweet peace within, 
Then I’d rather die than sin.

When the cross I view by faith, 
Sin is madness, poison, death; 
Tempt me not, ‘tis all in vain, 
Sure I ne’er can yield again.

Satan, for awhile debarred, 
When he finds me off my guard, 
Puts his glass before my eyes, 
Quickly other thoughts arise.

What before excited fears, 
Rather pleasing now appears; 
If a sin, it seems so small, 
Or, perhaps, no sin at all.

Often thus, through sin’s deceit, 
Grief, and shame, and loss I meet, 
Like a fish, my soul mistook, 
Saw the bait, but not the hook.

O my Lord, what shall I say? 
How can I presume to pray? 
Not a word have I to plead, 
Sins, like mine, are black indeed!

Made, by past experience, wise, 
Let me learn thy word to prize; 
Taught by what I’ve felt before, 
Let me Satan’s glass abhor.

Oh, Lord, help me to see through Scripture's light.  Things that look pleasing through sin's deceit are a horrid sight when viewed with the glorious lens of the Word of God.  Give me eyes to see Your glory, and Your truth.  Amen.