Surrounded by the Lord

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” Psalm 125:2 NIV

I love this verse. After rediscovering it several years ago, I personalized it and made it part of my early morning prayer each day. Before even getting out of bed, I gave the Lord my day and placed my times in his hands. Then along with a few basic requests, I added, “And Lord, as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so surround me with your peace and your protection.”

Sometimes the thought of being surrounded brings up negative images, but that’s certainly not the case here. Not for me—not when it’s the Lord doing the surrounding.

I suppose if someone didn’t love the Lord or was trying to run or hide from him, it would be a frightening prospect to be surrounded by the Almighty. But for those who know and love him and look to him for help, great comfort lies in the precious knowledge of his surrounding presence and care.

The image of mountains, so strong and protective, surrounding a little town paints the perfect picture of what the Lord does for us, his people. The Lord stands guard, ever watchful, ever ready to protect and guide. He provides majesty and beauty, adventure and stability. He keeps us nestled in his peace as we look to him.

Each day let’s picture ourselves surrounded by the Lord. Let’s relax in his care. Let’s snuggle down into that place of peace he has reserved for us. Let’s fix our eyes on him. Let’s be surrounded by his peace.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121 NIV

*When have you felt supernaturally surrounded by God’s peace?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $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. *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by It’s No Game, Creative Commons License

Let: Little Word with Big Impact for Fear and Worry

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV

Have you ever noticed how “let” is one of those little words in scripture (or anywhere for that matter) that can have great significance? A couple of years ago I blogged about the giant impact of the word “us” in Hebrews 12:1. Today let’s look at John 14:27 and focus on the little word let.

When Jesus spoke the words above to the disciples, he had just shared the Last Supper with them and told them he would not be with them much longer. He then spent time comforting them and telling them about the Holy Spirit, whom he promised he would send to them.

Jesus’ reassuring words at such a critical time in their lives still hold great comfort for us today, but they hold instruction as well. He told the disciples then and is telling us now not to be afraid, not to let our hearts be troubled.

By using the word let, do you think Jesus might have been showing us that we have some control over our anxieties and fears? He exhorts us not to allow them to overtake our hearts.

Experiencing pangs of worry or fear about life situations is natural and happens to all of us. It’s what we do with those initial feelings that matters in the long run.

Do we dwell on our worries and fears and allow them to grow larger by the minute, or do we honestly acknowledge them and then take them to the Lord in prayer? Do we spend time and precious energy imagining worst-case scenarios and desperately trying to think of fixes, or do we relinquish our burdens into our Father’s capable and faithful hands?

We don’t have to let anyone or anything steal the peace that Jesus promised us. It’s as real and available to us today as it was to the disciples. Let’s listen to Jesus. Let’s not allow our hearts to be troubled. Let’s give our worries and fears to him.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

*Sometimes anxiety can be a symptom of a physical problem. If you suspect that at all, be sure to see your doctor.

*Do you have a favorite scripture about worry or fear that you’d like to share?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $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! *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Molnár Bálint on Unsplash

A Tactic of the Enemy: An Opportune Time

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 NIV

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior, was well-acquainted with temptation during his days here on earth. Scripture tells us that immediately after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit sent him into the desert where he was tempted by Satan for forty days (Mark 1:9-13.)

The gospels of Matthew and Luke show how the devil tried different tactics to cause the perfect Son of God to stumble and sin, but the enemy had no success. Jesus stood strong, using the Word of God as a shield and weapon against the devil’s schemes.

Satan lost the battle in the desert. As the above verse in Luke points out, he left Jesus—at least for the moment. He had plans though. Plans to attack again at an opportune time. And he did.

One of those times happened just after Jesus told his disciples he would suffer and be killed and then rise again on the third day (Mark 8:31-33.) When Peter tried to rebuke Jesus for speaking of such an unthinkable thing, Jesus recognized this as another temptation—another of the enemy’s attempts to cause him to stumble.

Satan must have thought Jesus would be more vulnerable as the time drew nearer for him to face death. Definitely, an opportune time to attack again. Combine that with the appeal of one of Jesus’ close friends, and he had the perfect opportunity indeed. But Jesus stood strong once again. “‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said.’” (Mark 8:33) He was ready to resist. Ready for Satan’s attacks during opportune moments.

Are we ready to resist when the enemy comes at us during times when we’re vulnerable or caught unaware?

What do our opportune times look like? Our opportune moments could come when we’re exhausted or sick or worried. They might happen when we experience either failure or success or when we’re on the cusp of a new venture or ministry (like Jesus’ temptation in the desert.) We’re especially vulnerable when we’ve neglected time in the Word or in prayer—when we’ve allowed ourselves to grow distant from Jesus or have become complacent in our spiritual lives.

Let’s be alert to Satan’s tactics. He will wait for an opportune time, and then he’ll be there, ready to tempt us. Will we be ready to resist?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NIV

*What can you do to be ready for Satan’s attacks?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. 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.) *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by seyed mostafa zamani, Creative Commons License

Vital Behind-the-Scenes Forces We Need

“. . . your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV

Work. Labor. Endurance. What images do these words bring to mind? We’re not talking marshmallows and kittens here. We’re talking rolled-up sleeves, sweat, and long-distance runs. We’re talking effort and strength.

Tasks and qualities like these that take strength and determination won’t happen by accident, will they? Behind-the-scenes forces such as planning, preparation, and prayer all play a role in carrying out our tasks, achieving our goals, or running the race life has placed before us.

In considering the scripture above, let’s look at the Thessalonian believers to whom the apostle Paul was writing. In spite of the severe suffering they faced (1 Thes. 1:6), they were at work serving God.

Notice the behind-the-scenes activity that Paul mentioned was present in their lives. How was their work produced? By faith. What prompted their labor? Love. What inspired their endurance? Hope. Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s consider for a moment the behind-the-scenes forces present in our own lives. Among the many influences at work in us personally, is faith playing a key role in the work we do—whether our day-to-day work or our service to God? Is love the motive, the impetus behind our labor? Is hope spurring us on, helping us to endure so we can finish strong?

Let’s learn from the Thessalonian believers and make certain that faith, love, and hope are playing vital behind-the-scenes roles in our work and in our lives. Remember, it won’t happen by accident.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16 NIV

*What can we do to strengthen one or more of these behind-the-scene forces in our lives?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. 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.) *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Matt Trostle, Creative Commons License

Worthy of Our Pursuit

“. . . pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11 NIV

When you hear the word “pursue” what comes to mind? I think of going after something or someone—striving to capture or attain a deeply desired object, person, quality, or state of being. When we have to pursue something, it doesn’t just fall into our laps or happen naturally. “Pursue” speaks of action, involvement, effort.

From our earliest days, the world around us teaches us to pursue certain things. Money, education, good jobs, status, relationships, possessions, health, beauty, success—in other words, the American dream.

None of these things are wrong and can, in fact, be used for great good. But if we’re focused on what the world holds up as worthy of pursuit, chances are we’ll neglect things far more important.

In the scripture above, look at what Paul instructs Timothy to pursue: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. In using the word pursue, Paul must have known that these things would not come automatically to Timothy. He knew Timothy would have to go after them. He knew he would have to take action, that he would have to make an effort.

Take a closer look at Paul’s list. It’s filled with some biggies, isn’t it? And if these qualities are not easily manifested in my life, it shouldn’t surprise me—they take effort. I have to go after them. (Personally, I struggle with gentleness in certain situations so I’m encouraged to know that it does indeed take work. And isn’t it interesting that gentleness is keeping company with major spiritual pursuits like godliness and love? Wow.)

So what are we pursuing in our lives right now? Do we need to make some adjustments or additions to our lists? Let’s not reach the end of our days and discover we’ve spent all our efforts going after things that won’t matter in eternity. May all of our pursuits be worthy. May they all be guided by God.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 KJV

*What are you planning to pursue this year?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks 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. Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.) p.s. If you sign up after Jan. 27th, you will be included in all future Life Notes giveaways but not in this current giveaway.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash