A Safe Harbor

After an emotionally difficult day yesterday, I woke up this morning asking God for a clear word of encouragement. My prayers for a diagnosis of my new symptoms now had been answered, and an effective treatment plan was starting. But the answer was a bit overwhelming. 

I have dealt with chronic illness for over forty years, but up until now most of my diagnoses have been orthopedic or neurological, difficult to live with but not life-threatening. Yesterday, I was diagnosed with diastolic dysfunction, a cardiac condition in which the heart loses its flexibility and ability to move the blood out of the heart and around the body. Left untreated, this can lead to heart failure. I had now moved into a whole new area of chronic illness.

I needed to see what I learned yesterday from God’s perspective. My daily Bible reading passage hadn’t given me what I needed, so I cried out to God in prayer for a clear word that would help me see my current trials as He sees them. The Lord answered my prayer with a simple phrase: “I am your safe harbor.”  

Usually when I sense God speaking to my heart, a familiar verse of Scripture comes to mind. This time was different. I couldn’t remember any Bible verses that specifically spoke of God as a safe harbor. So I did a search using the YouVersion Bible app that I’ve been using this year for the 2-year Life Application Bible devotional and reading plan. This plan uses the New Living Translation, which is new to me, and I didn’t change the version on my search parameters, so the following verses came up as the ones closest to the phrase I had entered.

The parallel to my current situation was clear:

  • I needed help!
  • I was crying out to God in my trouble, my distress, just as those in these verses had done.
  • I knew the truth of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” and I was asking God to still my emotions so I could hear His voice.
  • He alone had the power to “calm the storm to a whisper and still the waves” crashing over me.
  • He could bring me “safely into harbor” – in fact, He is my SAFE HARBOR.

I don’t know what you are currently facing in your life. But let me reassure you that Jesus Christ is also your SAFE HARBOR. Our proper response to the truth is found in the next two verses, Psalm 107:31-32. 

                           “Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 

                              Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation and before the leaders of the nation.”



How to Find Hope Through Perspective

This article written by my friend Laurie Miller gives a major key in coping with the challenges of chronic illness.

A Doorway of Hope

As 2016 came to an end, I began half-heartedly seeking God for a “word of the year” for 2017. Seeking, because choosing joy as last year’s word was a big help in keeping a good attitude in tough circumstances. Why half-heartedly? Mainly because the last few months have been extremely difficult, and I was discouraged. 

After a successful neck surgery in July and a couple months of hard work to regain my strength, things suddenly did an about-turn in October. During a routine surgery follow-up appointment with my primary physician, I had an extremely severe episode of shortness of breath from simply walking from the waiting to an exam room using my walker. As weeks passed, I’ve had to accept that this wasn’t just a single episode, but rather a new long-term issue to deal with.

All of this started three months ago, and my doctor is still in the process of trying to find the cause of these sudden changes. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are behind us, and a new year lies ahead. In spite of my hesitancy to seek God concerning a word for 2017, He clearly spoke to my heart this is to be my Year of Hope.

 I’ve been in God’s Word daily, spent time praying and seeking God’s face, even started an article on hope a couple times. Pain, difficulty concentrating, and other health issues have kept those articles from being completed. Yet Hope has found another outlet in the midst of the pain and other undiagnosed problems: through digital Bible journaling on some of the verses I’ve read and studied. Here are a few of the things the Holy Spirit has been impressing upon my heart concerning Hope.

Still learning about how God will turn this Valley of trouble into a Gateway of hope, so this is a subject I’ll probably revisit at a later time. For now I’ll close with a few more graphics of verses God is using to speak to my heart.

The “Rat Trap” of Sin

A banging noise woke me up out of a sound sleep around three o’clock this morning. I got up to investigate. The rat trap my husband had set in the kitchen had snared a large rat, and the still alive rat was flopping it across the kitchen doorway, unsuccessfully trying to free itself from the snare. A quick call to my husband took care of this problem, but I didn’t find it quite as easy to go back to sleep.

Sin is much like the trap that held this rat. As I’ve done an in-depth study of Hebrews 12: 1-2 this week, God has been expanding my understanding of these foundational verses. This morning, I read these verses in a variety of versions and noticed that a diverse list of phrases were used in Hebrews 12:1 to describe the effects of sin. 
Sin can:

  • Entangle us (NASB & NIV)
  • Cling closely to us (ESV)
  • Make us fall (Easy-to-Read version)
  • Distract us (God’s Word version)
  • Dog our feet (J.B. Phillips)
  • Easily beset us (KJV)
  • Wrap itself tightly around a our feet and trap us up (Living Bible)
  • Easily hold us back (New Century version)
  • Keep us from doing what we should (New Life Version)

But as I continued studying this verse, the description that really stood out to me was from the NKJV and HCSB: SIN ENSNARES US! Sin is much like the rat trap, a common type of snare trap, that woke me up much too early this morning. And in our own strength, we are no more able to free ourselves from the trap of sin than the rat was able to free itself this morning. 

But praise God, Jesus made a way for us to be set free from the snare of sin. He did this by enduring the cross and becoming the author and perfecter of our faith. As you prepare your heart for God’s good purposes for you in 2017, give thanks to Jesus for this incompatible gift of salvation. And determine to stand on this truth from Romans 6:6, that in Christ we are no longer enslaved to sin. 

Who We Are In Christ #1: I Am a Child of God

Today I am starting a new series that examines who we are in Christ. These will be short posts, partly because that’s all I can handle as I continue on my recovery process from a major surgery, and partly because they will be most useful if we take the time to meditate on the truths included. Today I’m examining: I am a child of God.

“So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”  (‭Galatians‬ ‭4:3-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

There is one sure proof that you are a child of God – the Spirit of the Son is in your heart!  When we surrender our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, to guide us into all truth and to enable us to live lives pleasing to God. Where before, we were slavess to such sins as fear, selfishness, and any other fruit of living in the fallen flesh, now the Holy Spirit is at work within us to develop the fruit of the Spirit: “… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

God is Creator – we were each formed by Him in our mother’s womb – but this alone does not make us children of God. Being a child of God has nothing to do with our age or nationality. Only one thing matters: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (‭Romans‬ ‭8:9‬ ‭NKJV) Do you know that the Spirit of God lives within you? If so, you can be confident that you are a CHILD OF GOD!‬‬

Accepted In the Beloved

When we started the recent Proverbs 31 online Bible study, I really didn’t expect it to be applicable to my life. I was basically doing this study of Lysa TerKeurst’s new book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, for two reasons:  1) I enjoy reading anything written by Lysa TerKeurst, and 2) a group for ladies with chronic pain and illness that I’m a part of was doing the study. 

Boy, was I wrong! From Chapter 1,  God has brought things to mind that I hadn’t thought about in years, little things that happened to me and caused me to feel left out. Lonely. Rejected.

What I’ve faced was minor compared to what many of the ladies in our group have faced. But any form of rejection is difficult to live with because it attacks the person we are. It ruins our self-esteem. And this isn’t accidental.

Satan’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy our lives, and rejection is one of his most common tools.

Whether you experienced rejection from your parents, the very people God intends to wrap their arms around us and make us feel accepted,  from others in your childhood or youth that made sure you knew you didn’t fit in, or as an adult, rejection results in emotional wounding.

As Christians, we have the resources to deal with these wounds. But God will not force us to bring our hurts to Him for healing. If we do, healing will come. Maybe not overnight, but it will come. But if we refuse to take these hurts to the Lord, they will grow and fester into major spiritual wounds such as unforgiveness,  jealousy, and anger toward God.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the needed tools to “face it head-on.” We have discussed many of them in the last few weeks: honestly facing up to what happened or what was said to me,  learning how to replace the lies with truth,  learning how to cast down imaginations” (2 Cor. 10:5 KJV) about what we think other people are thinking about us, and learning to find our identity in our relationship with Christ, to name a few

Today, I want to introduce what I personally believe is the strongest antidote against the bondage that comes from rejection: knowing that we are accepted in the beloved.  

What does it mean to be ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED?   

  • To be accepted is to be received and approved with grace or favor.
  • The Greek word used here for accepted is only used in one other place in the New Testament. In Luke 1:28, an angel comes to Mary to promise the birth of Jesus, and his first words are “Greetings, you who are highly favored!”  To be accepted, therefore, is to be highly favored by God. Mary was to give birth the true Son of God, because she was highly favored by God, chosen out of all the Jewish women who were alive at that time.
  • This same Son of God died on the Cross for our sin, was resurrected on the third day, later ascended to heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. 

So who is ACCEPTED?  Why are they (we) ACCEPTED?  The key is the last part of this phrase. We are ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED.  God doesn’t accept us because of our good works. He graciously accepts us – though we don’t deserve it – because we belong to His dearly beloved Son

John 3:16 makes it clear that God loves “the world”- all those who are a part of His creation. But to be accepted by God, we must behidden with Christ in God(Colossians 3:3).  
I once heard this described as a bookmark, placed in a book to mark the spot where I stopped reading, but which has slipped down into the book so it is no longer visible from the outside. When I look for the bookmark, I only see the book in which the bookmark is now hidden. 

Likewise, when God looks at those who have made Jesus Christ Lord and Savior of their lives, He only sees His beloved Son. For example, according to 2 Corinthians 5.21, since Jesus who had no sin became sin for us, we have become the righteousness of God. So when God looks at us He sees the righteousness of God, not our unrighteousness.

So to summarize:

  • God’s acceptance of us has nothing to do with our spirituality or good works.  If we look within, we will doubt God’s acceptance every time we fail to “measure up” to the inner standards we have set.
  • God’s acceptance is constant, whether we are walking in the fullness of God’s grace or despondent because of our repeated sins and failures.
  • God’s acceptance of us is only and always based on His love and acceptance of His Son, in whom our lives are hidden. 
  • Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Victorian England’s best-known Baptist minister, said in his devotion on Ephesians 1:6,(concerning our acceptance by God), “What a state of privilege! It includes our justification before God, but the term ‘acceptance’ in the Greek means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of …. divine delight. How marvellous that we, worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love!”
  • Because we are hidden in Christ, when God looks at us He sees His perfect, sinless Son. Or as Spurgeon worded it, we “stand accepted in One who never alters, in One who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.”

Please join me in this prayer:

Heavenly Father, studying Your Word about our acceptance in the Beloved has opened my eyes to what an enormous gift this is. No matter how many times we have suffered under the rejection of others, we can be assured that we have been accepted by the only One who truly matters, Almighty God.

You loved us enough to send Your only Son to die for our sin and to make a way for us to be right with You. Because of this, we have a place of significance, in Your Son Jesus Christ. When You look at us, it is with eyes of love and acceptance, not of judgment and condemnation. 

We are objects of divine delight! What a hard thing to grasp, as we look at our undeserving lives. Thank You, Heavenly Father, for making this possible through the death of Your beloved Son. Enable us by Your Holy Spirit to walk in light of this huge sacrifice You made for us, seeking to please You in all we do.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Who We Are In Christ, #2: We Are Redeemed

When I was growing up, I remember my mother collecting S&H Green Stamps, which she received at grocery stores.  These were redeemable for household  items, personal items, and even toys.


Mother and I would sit at the dining room table, licking the stamps and applying them to the pages of the S&H Stamps redemption books. Occasionally, I would go with her the next day to the S&H Stamps Redemption Store, and she would give me one or two books of my own to “buy” something for helping her.

This was my first exposure to the idea of something (or someone) being redeemed, which simply meant that the stamps she had collected were exchanged for money or goods. But this falls far short of the biblical meaning of being redeemed.

So what do I mean when I say “we are redeemed?” According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary, redemption is “deliverance from captivity  by means of a ransom price paid.” Before we became Christians, we were in bondage to sin and Satan. Jesus paid the “ransom price” by shedding His blood on the cross He paid what we owed and could not pay. Baker goes on to say, “The central theme of redemption is that God has taken the initiative to act compassionately on behalf of those who are powerless to help themselves.”

What was the main effect of our redemption? It was a change from one kingdom to another, from darkness to light. Colossians 1:13-14 explains what happens.

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

‭‭What should be our response to Jesus’ gift of redemption? 1 Peter 1: 17-19  gives us the answer.

“Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”