Standing By Our Sides

“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength . . . ” 2 Timothy 4:17

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to need someone by his side. He suffered for the sake of the gospel—for the sake of Christ—unlike anything we’ve ever known.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he lists some of the trials he experienced. He spent much time in prison and also faced beatings and floggings and was even stoned. He faced danger from shipwrecks and bandits, danger from the Jews as well as the Gentiles, and also endured hunger and thirst. On top of all this, he carried a burden of concern for all the churches. Yes, I’d say Paul needed support.

Sometimes Paul received the needed support from friends and co-laborers, but sometimes he didn’t. When he wrote the above words to Timothy (in bold print), it was late in his ministry, and he was once again in prison. He told Timothy, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.” (2 Timothy 4:16)

Thank goodness that’s not the end of the story. Thank goodness for verse 17—for the love and faithfulness of our Lord: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength . . .”

Even though Paul had been deserted by those around him, the Lord stood by his side. And that was all he needed. In the last half of verse 17, he goes on to tell Timothy that he was delivered from the lion’s mouth and that he continued to proclaim the good news to the Gentiles. The Lord’s support was enough for Paul.

And isn’t the Lord’s support enough for us as well? Whatever we’re going through, whether anything from desertion to deprivation to depression, our God is enough. He will stand by us and give us strength. He will enable us to go on.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

*Anyone have a testimony of how the Lord has stood by you? We’d all love to hear about it!

*I hope you were blessed by this encore post from Sept. 2011 today!

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Gruenewiese86Creative Commons License

Rock-Solid Words of Hope

Many around the world are in need of hope today. Their situations look bleak if not impossible. They are struggling to hang on to hope.

Right here in our country, countless folks in Florida and Texas are dealing with the aftermath of hurricane force winds, tornadoes, and the floodwaters that came with Irma and Harvey. Some may feel that all hope slipped away with the winds and waters that wreaked such havoc on their lives. And in yet other parts of the country, people are battling wildfires.

Others of us may be in need of hope right now for different reasons. If you fall into that group, this post is for you as well as for all of those struggling to regain their footing after their foundations literally got blown or washed or burned away.

The truest and most powerful words of hope I can share with you come straight from the Word of God. God’s Word is a firm foundation. His promises are rock-solid. May the following scriptures inspire fresh hope and strengthen your faith today, my friends!

“. . . I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“‘There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the valley of Achor [trouble] a door of hope.’” Hosea 2:15

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71:14

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” Zechariah 9:12

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him . . .” Romans 15:13

Praise God for the hope we have in him!

*Which of these verses speak to you most powerfully today?

*Since September is an exceptionally busy month for me this year, I’m taking a short break and will be back on the 26th. Maybe you can take a look at my list of Favorite Posts (sidebar) and read some posts from there. Blessings!

*Flickr photo by Our Enchanted Gardens, Creative Commons License

Powerful Way to Pray for Those in Ongoing Difficulty

Most of us know someone who deals daily with an ongoing serious difficulty of some sort. Maybe we know someone with a chronic illness or problem with pain or someone in a caregiving situation. We may know someone trapped in an abusive relationship or someone whose job places them in the midst of crisis situations every day.

Whatever the particulars, our friends or loved ones enduring such stress likely feel overwhelmed and beyond discouraged much of the time. If we’ve ever experienced such a season ourselves, we understand how a person can come to the end of his or her physical, mental, and/or emotional reserves and wonder how they can possibly go on.

As their friends and loved ones, we feel helpless to fix the problem, but one way we can always help is to pray. And one powerful way to pray is to pray through the Psalms for them—slowly but surely.

If you’re like me, you’ve prayed the Psalms for yourself at one time or another, but we can also perform this wonderful ministry for those who desperately need to be upheld by our prayers. And if we pray just a few verses or portion of a chapter for them each day, our prayers will be long-term, just like the trial they are enduring.

We can simply start at the beginning of Psalms and read and pray through the verses with our friends or loved ones in mind, personalizing our prayers by using their names and the specifics of whatever their ongoing difficulty. Not every psalm will be completely applicable to suffering or difficulty, but let’s pray those scriptures for them as well. After all, each scripture prayed for those who are hurting will help strengthen them in some way.

Here’s an example from Psalm 3:1-4 NIV.  I’ll list the verses first and then personalize them in prayer for a loved one (using a fictitious name.)

“Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
‘God will not deliver him.’

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.”

Prayer: Oh Lord, how many are Katie’s health problems. How many conditions rise up against her! These health issues seem to taunt her, saying “God will not deliver you.” But you, O Lord, be a shield about Katie, be her glory, the One who lifts up her head. Help her to call out to you and see you answer from your holy mountain.”

Let’s pray the Psalms for our hurting friends. Let’s hold them up with the powerful Word of God.

*Has God brought someone you know to mind? I have been praying the Psalms for a loved one for a few months now and will continue as God leads.

*Flickr photo by shaunanyi, Creative Commons License

What Will I Do When a Storm Descends

*I pray this encore post from April 2011 blesses you today!

A potential health crisis threatened our family a few weeks ago. A cancer scare. Like storm clouds hovering overhead, thoughts of “what if” cast their shadow for days. We deliberately tried to shove them aside, but they were still there, hiding just beyond the surface.

I won’t go into specifics of who and what, but the scare did not involve an extended family member, but one within our immediate family. Yes, that’s right. It hit close. Too close. And too unthinkable — though I had to remind myself, like so many others have had to do, not to ask “Why us?” but “Why not us?”

Thank God, benign test results relieved our fears, but those days of waiting gave rise to countless thoughts, feelings, and ultimately a few overarching questions: If it proves to be cancer, what will we do with our faith in God? Will we stay faithful and continue to trust him even if the news is devastating? Or will we pull away — and stay away — from him, losing faith that he is good and that he loves us? In other words, will we run to him or away from him?

Mercifully, God spared us from having to live out the answers to those questions in full, but we tried to prepare ourselves for the worst. We remembered the truths of God’s love for us and of how he can bring something good out of a heartbreaking situation. We reminded ourselves that he would be with us every step of the way. You might say we were preparing ourselves to be faithful, preparing ourselves to trust him, no matter the outcome.

One day a similar life test will go differently. One day we’ll have to live out the answers to these faith questions in full. Some of us reading this today have, in fact, already faced such a crisis, but even so, will we be ready for the next one? Join me today in considering, “What will I do with my faith when the unthinkable happens? What will I do when the storm descends?”

“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge…” Psalm 141:8a

*What helps you stay faithful to your faith in God when times of heartbreak come?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*My photo

Meeting a Problem Head-On

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’” John 18:4 NIV

With Easter still fresh on our minds today, let’s take a look at one of the lessons we can learn from the age-old story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Many insights and truths can be drawn from this dramatic real-life event, but let’s focus today on how Jesus handled a problem that came looking for him on that dark night before his crucifixion.

When confronted with the most dreaded and excruciating hours of his life, what did Jesus do? He met the ordeal head-on. Scripture tells us that while Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane—after eating his last Passover meal with his disciples and after spending time in agonizing prayer—some soldiers and religious officials led by Judas came looking for him.

Since Jesus knew all that was about to happen, he could have handled the situation in a number of ways. As soon as the threat was spotted, he could have run for his life and told his disciples to do the same. Or he could have had the disciples stay and cause a delay while he made his getaway. Or since it was nighttime, he might have even told everyone to hide.

But Jesus didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he summoned his courage and went out to meet the threat. He told them he was the one they were looking for. Then he tried to protect his disciples by asking that they be let go. When one of the disciples drew his sword and began to put up a fight, Jesus stopped him and said, “‘Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’” (v. 11) Yes, he was ready to meet the life and death challenge head-on.

How was he able to do this? Love for us. His desire to pay the price for our sins and offer us eternal life instead. Also love for his Father and his commitment to do the Father’s will. And I’m sure he gained strength from the Father during his Garden of Gethsemane prayer time. We’re told in the scriptures that an angel even came and strengthened him there (Luke 22:43.) All of these things combined helped Jesus face his moment of truth.

Are any of us faced with an overwhelming situation? Let’s take strength from the example of Jesus and from the strength God so willingly gives and then go out and meet the challenge head-on. Let’s drink the cup the Father has given us. Let’s bring glory to his name.

“‘The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God and I will exalt him.’” Exodus 15:2

*When has God given you strength to face a dreaded ordeal?

The next issue of Life Notes, my inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in each quarterly issue, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a gift valued at $20 (shipping included) from Beigetone Soaps and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by TimOve, Creative Commons License