Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Living in a Broken World

This picture showed up as a Time Hop photo on Facebook recently. When I saw it, I felt joyous and sad at the same time. Joyous to be blessed with such wonderful friends, and sad to be missing the two friends in the back row with me, who went home to be with Jesus in May and July of 2017.

Phyllis (back center) and Suzanne (back right) were sisters by birth and sisters in the Lord. I know they’re with Jesus, and I rejoice with them in that. But I still miss them. Looking at this picture helps remind me that every day of life here on earth is a gift, and we should treasure our moments here with the people we love.

But this is not our permanent home. We live in a broken, sin-sick world that will never be perfect. This world includes death, disease, violence, poverty, and pain. We can’t expect it to be perfect because it isn’t our final destination. Our eternal home is with the Lord, who one day will return and create a new heaven and a new earth, and as far as His people are concerned, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NASB). We can count on that because the Lord has promised it, and He keeps His promises.

We are a people who can grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13)—elpis, a confident expectation; that’s what hope means in the Bible. In whom or what is our hope? “Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus . . . We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-15, Msg).

Death doesn’t have the final say. Jesus does. On the cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30, NASB), referring to His work to pay the penalty for and save us from our sins. Death no longer has a hold on us. We will rise from the dead as He did and spend eternity in heaven with Him. He will give us new bodies that will never die: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NASB).

So in the midst of this broken world, where we live in bodies that will fail us one day, how then do we live?

We live as a people who realize this is not our final destination. We live as individuals whose “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20, NASB). If we belong in heaven, then we live as folks who are heaven-minded, concerning ourselves with things that matter to the Lord, taking our directions from Him, because our allegiance is to Him. We’re instructed to “set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2, NASB). In other words, we walk confidently through this broken world with Jesus, for Jesus, and because of Jesus.

With Jesus

The older I get, the more I realize how much I need Jesus—every moment of every day. Life is way too complicated for me to figure out. I just want to walk with Jesus. His presence gives me the strength, joy, and peace I need to keep moving forward. He promises us, “‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:20, NASB), and “‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5, NASB). Our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). We’re inseparable, always together, and never alone; intimacy with Jesus is the treasure we discover on our life’s journey.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2, NASB). He promises His presence will go with His people, and He will give them rest (Exodus 33:14). Along the way, we discover and declare, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11, NASB).

For Jesus

Another decision we can make is to walk through this broken world for Jesus, living for Him, making Him known, and seeking to cooperate with Him in fulfilling those purposes for which He created us. The scriptures tell us that each one of us is the Lord’s workmanship, specifically crafted by Him for good works that He wants us to do (Ephesians 2:10). In other words, each of us was created by Him for specific divine purposes—things He wants to accomplish for His kingdom through our lives, through the way He made each of us.

That’s why we are encouraged to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, NASB). Jesus modeled this attitude for us when He said, “I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me’” (John 5:30, NASB).

Two wonderful verses that emphasize this idea are: Galatians 2:20, NASB, which says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me,” and 2 Corinthians 5:15, which adds, “and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

Because of Jesus

We also can walk through this broken world because of Jesus. He gives us the power to do it. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). He has given us a spirit of power, love, and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). “We overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NASB).

Jesus won the battle with sin and death. The same power that raised Him from the dead is available to every one of us who believes in Him (Ephesians 1:19-20). Jesus “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

Jesus has been given all authority (Ephesians 1:21-22), and we are seated with Him in that place of authority (Ephesians 1:20, 2:6). We have been given a position of victory; we just need to stand firm and hold our position in Christ (Ephesians 6:10-11). The battle has already been won. Jesus empowers us to live in His victory.

When we live in this broken world with Jesus, for Jesus, and because of Jesus, something incredible happens. We do things that matter. We live for what lasts. We “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, NASB), and we store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20), the place of our eternal home.

I know my friends Phyllis and Suzanne have passed from death into life (John 5:24). They have entered into the joy of their Master (Matthew 25:21, 23), and their faith has become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). May we live as Jesus’ faithful servants until we experience the same.

Question:  How would you like to experience more of the presence, purpose, or power of Jesus in your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Revelation 21:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15; John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:2-3; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 46:1-2; Exodus 33:14; Psalm 16:11; Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 6:10; John 5:30; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 8:37; Ephesians 1:19-22; 3:20; 2:6; 6:10-11; Matthew 6:33, 20; 25:21, 23; John 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:7

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When Cancer Strikes

Doug and his family at his recent birthday celebration

My husband’s brother Doug has a brain tumor. He had surgery right before Christmas to remove half of the softball-sized mass, which doctors are calling stage 4 glioblastoma. He began radiation and chemotherapy treatments this week. Doug is 59 years old. He has a lovely wife Betty and three precious daughters, Stacey, Stephanie, and Sally. He’s a brilliant engineer who works on aerospace technologies. And he has cancer.

It’s amazing how life slows down when you hear words like “cancer”. We walked around in a numbed state for days after we learned the diagnosis. Sometimes, life just doesn’t make sense. In an instant, you move beyond the ordinary routines of daily living, and you find yourself engulfed by the mysterious, unpredictable elements of life this side of heaven.

Although we are in the early stages of this journey, the Lord has taught me a great deal already.

We don’t have to figure it out

At times like these, I’m so glad there is Someone wiser, stronger, and more capable than me in charge of the universe. I don’t have to figure everything out because the Lord already has the world in His loving and competent hands.

I’m choosing not to focus on the “Why” of this season; instead, I’m trying to look at the “Who”—the Lord who is over it all. We have a sweet history together, and He is the same God during this season (and after it) as He was before it. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8  ) The Lord is faithful, loving, compassionate, and gracious, and He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything we can ask or think (Lamentations 3:21-24 ; Ephesians 3:20).

Once, when I was much younger, I went to talk with my mom about something that was really bothering me. It was as if I went to her and handed her that broken part of my life, asking her to fix it. A strange thing happened during that conversation. I found my focus moving off the problem and onto her. I felt better just being with her. The problem didn’t hold me in that vice grip of panic any longer because I was with someone who loved me deeply. I was safe.

The Lord is teaching me to do the same with Him. He’s the strong tower I can run to and be safe (Proverbs 18:10). “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NASB). My problems dim in the light of His presence. He’s the greater reality over every crisis, fear, discouragement, and uncertainty. He is God. I don’t have to figure everything out. I can choose to just rest in Him. I can let God be God.

We can fight the good fight of faith

The scriptures refer to faith as a fight (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). It’s not a casual undertaking. Faith is forged in the crucible of life where we decide if we are going to believe God—who He is and what He says about Himself and us. We can choose to dig our heels into our position in Christ and the victory He has won for us (Ephesians 6:13; Romans 8:37). We can wield the sword of His Word against the enemy’s lies and tactics (Ephesians 6:17). We can learn from the Holy Spirit how to fight the enemy in the battles of life (Judges 3:1-2). It can be exhausting at times, but our faith grows in the process. In the end, the Lord can even use those faith-building experiences of ours to bless others (Luke 22:32).

We can choose to praise God

Why choose to praise God in the midst of difficulty? We don’t praise Him for the difficulty. We praise Him for who He is in the midst of it, and for His ability to work out His plans for our good and His glory. Personally, I’ve found that praising God gives me a better perspective; it helps me refocus on the Lord and the fact that He always has a plan. I can’t always see His plan, but He does. He accomplishes His plans, and the scriptures tell us His plans are good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2).  He is always at His work, and we can praise Him for that (John 5:17). He promises He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB). We may not know what that particular “good” is, but He does. We can praise Him for being able to do that.

This past Christmas, a friend of mine gave me a bracelet that says “HOPE”. I’m wearing it a lot these days. The biblical definition of hope is a confident expectation. In other words, in the midst of it all, we put our confident expectation in the Lord, that He has everything under control, that He takes care of us and those we love, that He has a plan. Job, who encountered a great deal of suffering in his life, said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15, NASB). Our Lord is the God of hope (Romans 15:13). We can praise Him for that.

We are in the early part of our journey with Doug’s cancer. We sure would appreciate your prayers for him and his family. We don’t know where this road will take us, but we know Who is walking alongside us. He continues to set our hearts on fire as we walk and talk with Him (Luke 24:32). I’m discovering as we walk this road together that He is not just part of our lives. He is our life, and He makes the journey so beautiful because He is there.

Question: What journey are you walking with the Lord, and how can we pray for you? Comment at the link below.

 

Hebrews 13:8; Lamentations 3:21-24 ; Ephesians 3:20; Proverbs 18:10; Psalm 46:1; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Ephesians 6:13; Romans 8:37; Ephesians 6:17; Judges 3:1-2; Luke 22:32; Romans 12:2; John 5:17; Romans 8:28; Job 13:15; Romans 15:13; Luke 24:32

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Putting the Puzzle Together

Landon with some of the block puzzle pieces

My grandson Landon has developed a fascination with puzzles lately—well, mostly carrying around the pieces and depositing them where he likes. I thought I would help cultivate this interest and skill by purchasing him a new puzzle, so I looked on Amazon and ordered him one. It was a chunky wooden block puzzle for toddlers that allows a child to create 6 different puzzles by the way he positions the blocks. The completed puzzles each featured a brightly colored vehicle like a fire truck or bus. When I presented Landon with the new toy, he picked up all 9 blocks, carried them over to the magazine rack, and dumped them inside. I sat him down on the floor and started showing him how to make a picture from the pieces. He laughed, gathered up the blocks again, and tossed them in the air. Okay, I thought to myself, he’s not ready for this yet.

The truth is, we all encounter puzzles in our lives. Sometimes, like my grandson, we just can’t seem to make all the pieces fit together, to get a clear picture of God’s design for our lives. Right now, all 4 of my children are dealing with different puzzles in their lives, trying to figure out how everything fits together. I’ve been praying for them, and here’s what the Lord has shown me.

God sees the bigger picture

When I look at just one piece of the block puzzle I got for Landon, it doesn’t make sense. The colors and patterns don’t seem right on their own, but when I put them all together, I can see the grand design. It’s that way with our lives. God sees the bigger picture. He possesses the best plan, the best design, for our lives. We have to choose to trust Him when we don’t see how things fit together.

The Lord tells us, ““For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:9, NASB). Our all-wise, all-loving Father has everything under control.

I looked at the packaging for the puzzle I got Landon and realized the puzzle was made for 4-year-olds. Landon is two. He doesn’t have the capacity to understand the puzzle design at this point. It’s the same for us. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the limitless wisdom, infinite grace, and all-surpassing love of our Father in heaven. We have to believe He sees the bigger picture and is working out all things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).

He tells us in His Word, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT). Mirrors in Biblical times were made of metal, so reflections in them were blurred and unclear (kind of like looking at your face in a polished metal pot, where the reflection is distorted and fuzzy). In other words, life can be uncertain, confusing, and cloudy this side of heaven, but we are promised we will understand everything once we see the Lord face to face. Our job now is to trust the Lord with the big picture of our lives.

We can proclaim, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3, NLT). We can say in our hearts, “When anxiety is great within me, I am going to rely on Your consolations Lord to bring me joy” (based on Psalm 94:19, NIV). That word trust means to hide for refuge, to trust, be confident, or sure. Other words for consolation are comfort, compassion, empathy, help, encouragement, reassurance, and relief. In other words, we can give the puzzles in our lives to the Lord and expect Him to take care of them in His caring way. He knows how all the parts fit together for the greater good.

God puts the puzzle together

Since I am older and wiser than my grandson at this point, I am going to continue working with him to show him how the block puzzle fits together. I am going to put it together with him.

On a much higher lever, the Lord knows how everything fits together in our lives, and He is the One who makes it all align. “The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you’” (Psalm 32:8, NLT).

We are wise when we allow Him to lead us in joining the pieces, in putting the puzzle together. We experience a deep intimacy and connection with Him when we do, a prize far greater than even the completed puzzle. Again, trust serves as the key to unlocking this gift. Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT, says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”  The best part is you will be walking that path with Him.

Through it all, we can rely on what He tells us: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

The puzzle of your life is beautiful and unique

The puzzling circumstances in each of our lives have come from the hand of One who loves us beyond measure. They are meant to refine and shape us to take on the image of Jesus for the world to see (2 Corinthians 3:18).

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). That word workmanship means a fabric, as woven together like a tapestry; a masterpiece.

Yes, all the pieces of our lives come together in the Master Craftsman’s hands to create a beautiful work of art. When others gaze upon our lives, may they ultimately see the overwhelming beauty of the Lord Himself (Psalm 27:4).

I’m hoping my grandson will soon get to experience the thrill of seeing his puzzle come together and realizing an amazing picture lies within it. May the Lord do the same for all of us as we entrust our puzzles to Him.

Question:  How has the Lord shown up in the puzzles of your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Isaiah 55:9; Romans 8:28-29; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Psalm 56:3; 94:19; 32:8; Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 29:11; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 27:4

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Lessons from the Hummingbird

Sarah and the hummingbird

“Mom, I found a hummingbird on the floor of the garage, and I think it’s hurt,” my daughter Sarah said.

I scurried out the back door and down the steps as Sarah crouched over the tiny bird. Its legs were all tangled up in some sort of string or webbing, and its chest was heaving in and out with irregular movements.

Sarah gently removed the string-like material from its legs.

“It probably is weak from not eating,” I said. “Hummingbirds have high metabolisms, and they need to feed very frequently.”

Sarah scurried off to the kitchen to make some hummingbird nectar. I watched in amazement as she dipped her little finger into the bright red liquid and held a tiny drop up to the delicate bird’s slender beak. I was even more surprised when a sliver-like tongue curled out the bird’s mouth and began drinking the ruby-colored fluid. This process continued for an hour and a half. Then, very carefully, Sarah scooped the beautiful creature into her hands, stepped outside the garage, and raised her cupped hands to the sky. The hummingbird flew off into the distance.

Watching Sarah with that fragile winged beauty reminded me of how the Lord so lovingly cares for each of us.

The Lord stays with us

We all have times when we feel broken. The disturbing diagnosis. The terrifying newscast. The broken relationship. The financial crisis. The heartbreaking loss. When these times hit, we feel like that limp bird on the floor of the garage, weak, vulnerable, and struggling to survive.

In the midst of it all, we can rely on this truth: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NASB). When we feel numb and broken, He carries us like a loving father carries his son through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 1:31). He promises to never leave or forsake us (Joshua 1:5).

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isaiah 40:11, NLT). Whatever we are facing, we never face it alone. The Lord is always with us (Matthew 28:20). Like the little hummingbird, we are safe in a loving Hand every day of our lives, even those days when we feel overwhelmed and weak

The Lord gives us what we need

In those especially difficult places, the Lord feeds us and helps us grow stronger, just like my daughter did for the little bird. We are told in Psalm 23:1, NLT, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” The New Testament says it this way: “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NLT).

Because He loves us, He takes care of us. When the prophet Elijah was terrified and exhausted, the Lord gave him food and water and encouraged him to rest (1 Kings 19:1-8). The Lord knows what each of us needs in our current circumstances, and He provides those things for us. We are told, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29, NLT).

He also says, “‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB). The right hand is the hand of power and authority; in other words, He has the power and authority to provide everything and anything we need. He rained down bread from heaven for the Israelites so they had food every day of the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness. He is able to give us our daily bread too (Matthew 6:11)

The Lord helps us to fly

After our seasons of brokenness, after we have spent time in His presence and experienced His provision, He lifts us up to the sky and enables us to fly.

He promises us, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31, NASB). The idea of waiting on the Lord involves waiting confidently and expectantly, trusting in Him, relying on Him. We grow stronger in that place, and He equips us to soar to new heights with Him.

We discover in that place that He is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB). In other words, not only does the Lord help us to fly with Him above and beyond our difficulties, but He also equips us in the process to help others to do the same.

My daughter’s encounter with the hummingbird happened many years ago, but I still remember the truths the Lord taught me through it. May you experience His presence, provision, and power to fly wherever you are today. The Lord is faithful, and He will help you to soar!

Question: How has the Lord helped you to fly? Comment at the link below

Psalm 34:18; Deuteronomy 1:31; Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 28:20; Psalm 23:1; Philippians 4:19; 1 Kings 19:1-8; Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 6:11; Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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When Things Don’t Make Sense

Two months ago, I wrote about my dear friend and prayer partner Phyllis, who died unexpectedly (possibly from a brain aneurysm). A few days ago, her sister Suzanne went home to be with Jesus after a 3-year battle with cancer. The sisters were 58 and 46, respectively. Their mother Patsy lost her two daughters in two months. In addition to those tragedies, Patsy lost her dear husband Jesse to cancer, and her granddaughter Julie (Phyllis’ daughter) in a car accident when Julie was only 28 years old. Life can be so hard, and sometimes, it doesn’t make sense. In thinking and praying about these recent events, I just have to go back to what I know:

God loves us.

We are told in Psalm 100:5, NASB, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” The Hebrew word for lovingkindness is checed, which means covenant love, steadfast and merciful. In other words, the Lord made a covenant of love with us, and He will never break it. He cares about us deeply, so much so that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB). He allowed His own Son, whom He loved, to suffer horribly and to pay the price for our sins (death) in our place. When we admit our sins, believe in what Jesus did, and accept Him into our hearts to rule there, we are granted forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with Him.

Whatever we are experiencing needs to held up against the backdrop of the cross. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:32, 38-39, NASB).

Years ago, I asked Phyllis to share with our Sunday School class how she was able to survive the loss of her precious daughter. She stood in front of all of us with tears in her eyes and said, “I know Jesus loves me.” We can stand on that same truth in whatever we are facing.

God is infinitely wise.

I have been visiting Patsy the past several weeks. Her faith blesses me greatly and encourages me to keep walking with Jesus. On one of our visits, she told me, “I don’t understand why any of this is happening, and God has not answered my prayers the way I wanted . . . but He is God. He does not have to explain Himself to me. I will still praise Him.”

Over the years of walking with her Savior, Patsy has discovered, “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” (Romans 11:33, NLT). He is so wise and so mighty (Job 9:4, NLT). We have to decide on our own if we will trust His wisdom and His sovereignty like Patsy did, even though we might not understand everything this side of heaven.

God is trustworthy.

If God loves us, and if He is infinitely wise and powerful, then we can trust Him with the details of our lives. Psalm 100:5, NASB, says it this way: “His faithfulness [is] to all generations.” That word faithfulness means loyalty, steadfastness, steadiness. In others words, we can trust and rely on Him, even when the circumstances around us don’t make sense. We can look away from those things and look at Him. He never changes (James 1:17).

Many of us are grieving the recent deaths of Phyllis and Suzanne, especially their precious family. Yet, in the midst of our grief, we have hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We have hope because God loves us, because He is infinitely wise, and because He is trustworthy.

“This I recall to mind; therefore, I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:21-26, NASB).

That’s what we can remember when things don’t make sense.

Question: How can we pray for you about circumstances in your life that don’t make sense? Comment at the link below.

 

Psalm 100:5; John 3:16; Romans 8:32, 38-39; 11:33; Job 9:4; James 1:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Lamentations 3:21-26

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Look Up!

I watched the mother and father at the nearby restaurant table actively attending to their four young children. Nostalgia hit me as I remembered our family doing the same so many years ago. The 8-year-old was busily eating his hamburger. The two-year-old twins were snuggled on the lap of their mother, who was encouraging them to eat, and the four-year-old was screaming, while his daddy tried to comfort and engage with him.

Finally, the four-year-old fixed his gaze on his daddy, reached out his arms, and said, “Up!” The father scooped his little one into his strong arms, and the boy looked into his daddy’s face. I watched as the little one visibly released all the tension in his body and stopped crying. He had redirected his focus onto the one who loved him and would take care of him.

Colossians 3:1-2 says, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (NASB). It’s a picture of looking to Jesus, to who He is and where He is, and the fact that He has the authority to take care of everything that concerns us (Ephesians 1:19-22).

In Joshua 1:9, it says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV). That word courageous means, to be alert, physically (on foot) or mentally (in courage). To be alert . . . to be watching, to be looking in the right direction, to be looking up to our Lord in whatever we are facing.

1 Peter 5:7 encourages us to cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us (NASB). That word anxiety actually means, through the idea of distraction, solicitude [a calling away]. Do you see it? The enemy of our souls wants to pull our attention away from the Lord and put it on the cares of the world instead—the things that will rob us of our peace and joy, the things that will take us away from intimate fellowship with Jesus—if we choose to focus on them instead of Him. When the unsettling times come, we have to choose to do as that little boy did—draw near to our Father and look at Him. We must look up, and here’s how:

Look at who God is

The scriptures are full of truths about our Lord, and we can go to them and speak them out over our circumstances. One of my favorites is Lamentations 3:21-26, NASB:

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.

Think about what you are facing and who you need the Lord to be in that situation. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your remembrance scriptures that speak to that attribute of God (John 14:26), or look up key words in a concordance. For example, if you need comforted, you can thank the Lord for being the God of all comfort, ask Him to comfort you, and then tell Him that once He comforts you, that you want to be used by Him to comfort others in similar situations (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB).

Look at what God says

The Lord makes more than 8,000 promises to us in the Bible. We need to look at them when we are hurting and unsettled. They are the greater reality. God backs up everything He tells us with everything He is (Psalm 138:2, NASB). For example, one such promise is, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NASB).

No matter how we feel, it doesn’t change the fact of God’s Word. In Psalm 119:160, it says, “All Your words are true; all Your righteous laws are eternal” (NASB). We can count on what God says because He is God.

Look at what God does

Remember your history with God and His faithfulness in the past. He will continue to be the same God as you walk with Him now and in the future. When three different nations came to make war against him, King “Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3, NASB). The king prayed a beautiful prayer, where he spoke about the Lord, who He was and His history of faithfulness toward the nation of Judah. Then, he spoke about his dilemma, and he ended his prayer with, “’O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You’” (2 Chronicles 20:12, NASB, italics mine). The Lord routed their enemies; they didn’t even have to fight! Then, they had even more history to remember about God’s faithfulness.

The scriptures tell us, He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB). We are told that for those who grieve, the Lord will “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV). That’s what your God does!

So, the next time you find yourself unsettled dear one, look up! Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2, NASB). As the old hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” (Lemmel, 1922).

Be like a little child. Crawl into your Father’s lap, and look up.

Col. 3:1-2; Eph. 1:19-22; Jos. 1:9; 1 Pe. 5:7; Lam. 3:21-26; John 14:26; 2 Cor. 1:3-4; Ps. 138:2; Phil. 4:19; Ps. 119:160; 2 Chron. 20:3, 12; Eph. 3:20; Isa. 61:3; Heb. 12:2

Question: How are you being challenged to look up? What do you need to know or remember about God? Comment below, and I will share some scriptures with you.

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Hold On!

My dear friend and prayer partner Phyllis died suddenly and unexpectedly a few weeks ago. From her symptoms, it seems she might have had a brain aneurysm. From God’s perspective, it was time for her to come home and be with Him. I’m happy for my precious friend, but I am deeply sad at the same time . . . I miss her. Grief continues to hit me in waves in the wake of her passing. In the midst of it all, the Lord keeps telling me one thing: “Hold on.”

I recently taught at a women’s retreat entitled “Be Brave.” Joshua 1:9 was the main scripture for the weekend:  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (NIV)  The phrase “be strong” actually means “to hold on”.

Hold onto the Lord

Every time we face something overwhelming in life, something we don’t understand, something expected, or something that hits us out of nowhere, we have a choice: whether we will hold onto the Lord or let go. We have to decide if we will trust the Lord or not. The Word for believe in the New Testament is pisteuo, and it means “to trust in, fully rely upon, and cling to” everything Jesus is and everything He says. These are the places where faith grows, where the connection with our Lord becomes stronger. As one pastor said at our church once, “faith is not faith until it is tested.”

In the days since my friend’s death, the Holy Spirit has reminded me over and over who the Lord is and what He says in His Word. I am holding onto those truths and onto the Lord for dear life. The truth is, the Lord is my strength. He says so in Judges 6:14, “Go in the strength you have,” and then He reminds us of our true source of strength: “Am I not sending you?” (NIV). He adds in verse 16, “I will be with you” (NIV). His faithfulness is great (Lam. 3:23), and His love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8).

The Lord is holding onto you

Whether we are holding onto the Lord or not, He promises that He has us in His loving and all-powerful grip, and He will never let go of us. In Joshua 1:5, He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (NIV). That promise is repeated in Hebrews 13:5 in the New Testament. The word leave means “to slacken one’s grip,” and the word forsake means “to let go” in Joshua 1:5. Essentially, the Lord is saying, “I’ve got you.”

He has us in every sense. We are told He cares for us (“protects and provides for us”) in 1 Peter 5:7. We are told His plans are meant to “prosper you and not to harm you . . . to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

Here’s the truth: A grip is much stronger, a connection is much greater, when both parties are holding onto one another. God always has a hold of us, but we have to decide to hold onto Him too. He never forces Himself on anyone. He wants us to choose Him. How do we do that? We just say, “I trust you, Lord.” We trust Him, hold onto Him, because He is holding onto us, and because we know who He is . . . the one who loves us so much. How did He prove His love for us?  He sent His only begotten Son Jesus to die and pay the penalty for our sins so those who believe in Jesus could experience abundant life here and now and be with Him and His Son forever.

The Lord will help you hold onto Him

Some days, my grip on the Lord isn’t as strong as I would like. Some days, the grief is just too heavy. The Lord becomes especially near on those days. He uses one of His faithful servants to send an encouraging text message, to call and speak words of hope into my soul, to smile at me, or to give a heartfelt hug. He lets me encounter life-giving words from the Bible that nourish and strengthen my soul. He gives me a special awareness of His presence. I don’t have to do my grieving alone. He is with me every step of the way. He and I can walk this path together, hand in hand.

I read this a few days ago in my Bible: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV, italics mine). He is going to help me hold onto Him as He holds onto me. I don’t have to figure out how I am going to get through this huge loss. He is going to enable me to do it. The right hand is the hand of power and authority in the scriptures. In other words, He has the power and ability to see me through this heartache, and more than that, He has the power and ability to enable me to “overwhelmingly conquer” anything and everything that life throws at me (Romans 8:37, NASB). I am going to count on Him to do that.

So, in my grief, I am going to keep holding onto the Lord. I pray, precious friend, that you will do the same. You are safe and secure in His grip, and He loves you forever.

Question:  How/where is the Lord calling you to hold onto Him? Comment at the link below, and I will be praying for you.

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Nothing is Impossible with God!

Pfeiffer graduation

Eighteen years ago, doctors told us our son Patrick was autistic, mentally retarded, and might not ever speak. A few weeks ago, Patrick graduated magna cum laude from Pfeiffer University. He sang “Corner of the Sky” at commencement, which is all about finding your place in this world. Those in attendance gave him a standing ovation, and the president of the university cried.

Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). The Lord has the final say about how things will go, and we can trust Him to work out everything from a position of power and authority and a heart of love and compassion.

It is hard to see that sometimes when we are in the middle of difficult or even overwhelming circumstances. But we can trust the heart of God, and we can choose to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). It’s in that process of walking by faith and not by sight that we get to discover more about our loving Lord, and we get to open our lives to His perfect plans. That’s where He moves to do the impossible, and where we fall on our faces in awe.

I know this because I have been there. After all these years, I got to see what God was doing as I watched my son sing at graduation and receive a college diploma. Yes, the accomplishments are amazing, compared to the world’s predictions. Yet, the most blessed part was learning to choose faith over fear and discouragement during countless challenges and trials . . . and in the process, learning more about and drawing closer to a Lord who is eternally faithful and good.

We can count on these truths when we are overwhelmed:

God is able.

God makes over 8,000 promises to us in the Bible. He says He works everything together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). He says He brings beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). He promises we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). He also tells us He has magnified His Word according to His name (Psalm 138:2). In other words, what He says is on the same level as who He is; He is able to keep His promises to us because He is God! We can put our confidence in what He says because He said it.

When we are overwhelmed, we have a choice to make: Will we trust what God says, or will we go with feelings or worldly messages that would lead us in a different direction. Every overwhelming place is an opportunity to choose faith, to believe that God “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

God is enough.

When I first found out Patrick had autism, I cried out to God. I told Him how life was going to be so hard for Patrick and how that broke my heart. I told Him I didn’t feel equipped to raise a special needs child. I told Him, “I can’t do it!” That’s when I heard Him whisper to my heart, “You’re right, you can’t. But WE can. Will you trust Me?” I realized at that moment I was feeling so broken because I wasn’t trusting Him. I was looking at myself and my resources instead of my loving Father, who could meet my every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

God is enough. “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, NASB). When the Lord is on our side, we have everything and anything we will ever need. We have HIM.

God has a plan.

The secret: It’s not about us. The truth: God allows us to experience the overwhelming so that we and others can learn that He overwhelms the overwhelming. He is great and worthy of all praise. That verse in Ephesians 3:20 is followed by, “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21). The word glory means to manifest [show, display], to give an estimation of. It carries the idea of making God known, allowing Him to be seen.

The impossible place, that overwhelming circumstance, is where Jesus can be seen and experienced by a world that needs Him. When we yield up those impossible places to Him, not only do we draw closer to Him, but He also can use us to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). That’s the stuff that matters, the stuff that lasts long after the overwhelming places fade away.

Patrick and I now have the great blessing of telling others what God has done. Through our book Optimism for Autism, speaking engagements, and personal encounters with others, we can share with others that: God is able. God is enough. God has a plan.

Whisper those words to your heart the next time you are overwhelmed.

Here is a link to Patrick singing “Corner of the Sky” at the Pfeiffer University commencement. As you watch it, remember, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, NASB).

Please feel free to share this blog and video link to encourage others about the God of hope (Romans 15:13).

Question: How has the Lord shown you that nothing is impossible with Him? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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Lessons Learned from a Lost Dog

lost dog

The injured dog Sarah found while running

My daughter Sarah was out running this week when she came across an injured dog in the road. It looked like it had been hit by a car. Sarah stopped running, scooped up the dog, and walked over a mile back to our house. This began the Great Dog Rescue Adventure.

The dog trusted Sarah from the moment she hugged it to her chest. Sarah brought the dog home, bathed it, cleaned its wounds, and bandaged its gashed leg. The poor dog couldn’t put any weight on its back left leg, and it had cuts and scrapes on all of its legs. I took photos of the dog and posted on Facebook, trying to find anyone who recognized it. Sarah convinced me to drive around the neighborhood where we found it and knock on doors to see if anyone knew whose dog it was.

Honestly, I was completely overwhelmed by the response to help this sweet dog. Over 200 people shared my Facebook post, while others offered lots of encouraging comments. Three different people volunteered to adopt the dog and pay all of its medical bills if we could not find the owners. Some animal rescue folks gave us advice about things to do in order to help the dog and to find the owners.

In the end, thanks to the Facebook posts, we were able to reunite the dog with its distraught owners later that evening. I love a happy ending! The owners took their dog to the vet that evening and got it some help. It may need surgery in the future, and the animal rescue folks have volunteered to help with expenses.

In the middle of this process, my husband David said, “Wow! It’s like a whole community is involved in helping this dog!”

It made me smile. Not just because I love dogs, but because it presented such a beautiful picture of how God intends us to live on planet earth . . . taking care of one another.

Caring

So many people cared about what happened to this little dog. They felt for him and expressed their concern. It reminds me of where it says in the Bible, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, NASB). A soft heart cares about others and their struggles. When we care, it can help serve as a reminder of how much God cares. We are told we can give Him everything that upsets us because He cares about us (1 Peter 5:7).

Loving

The many people we encountered during our dog rescue poured out so much love for this little dog. My heart melted as my daughter ministered to him, holding him in her lap, treating his wounds, getting him food and water, and talking sweetly to him. Others loved him too through words and acts of kindness. In this world, we can choose to love the hurting whenever we meet them. Lots of people need to know they are loved. The Bible encourages us to be fervent (to stretch) in our love for one another (1 Peter 1:22). It says others will know we are Christians by our love for one another (John 13:35). Again, when we love, it reminds others of God’s great love: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB).

Helping

People got involved. They saw a need, and they did something to help. From my daughter to the people on social media, many stepped in to provide assistance. We are told that in the early church, “They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45, NASB). In other words, people put their love and concern into action. Jesus did that. He saw our great need, and He left his throne in heaven to come save us (Philippians 2:5-8). We are told “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, NASB). That’s what Jesus did. He can help us to do the same for others.

Praying

A great conversation evolved concerning this dog. People were talking with one another—and with the Lord—about him and his owners. People wanted him to be found, to be reunited with the family that loved him. People asked God to help—and He did. We are told to pray for one another and that prayer can accomplish much (James 5:16). Pray unites us more closely with one another and our Father in heaven who loves us. Pray invites God into our struggles and allows us to see who He is and what He can do. We see many beautiful examples of Jesus praying in the Bible, and we are told He lives to intercede (pray) for us today (Hebrews 7:25).

In the end, Jesus wants everyone to come home to Him (2 Peter 3:9). As that sweet little dog discovered this week, there is no place like home!

Question: How has someone reached out to you with God’s love when you felt lost? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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Accepting Loving Limits

Grace and the cone

Grace wearing the cone

This week, our family dog Grace had surgery on her leg to remove a tumor. She came home with stitches, a bandaged leg . . . and the cone. A funnel-shaped piece of extremely durable plastic, the cone fits around Grace’s head to prevent her from chewing at her wound, from inflicting pain on herself in her vulnerable place.

Grace hates the cone. No, hate might be too gentle a word. She cries and paws at it. Sometimes, her fussing gets to be too much (especially in the middle of the night), so we take the cone off to give her a break. Most times, within a few minutes, we find her chewing away at the danger zone, and the cone returns.

This entire experience made me think how the Lord gives us limits, too. His restrictions are meant to protect us, because He cares deeply about us.

The Lord gives us limits because He loves us.

I don’t put the cone on Grace because I want her to suffer. I leave the cone on Grace to avoid greater suffering. It’s a limit based on love. The Lord does the same thing. He speaks out limitations in His Word from a heart of love, things like, “stay away from this, avoid that.” It’s like a parent warning a child not to put their hand on a red hot cooktop burner. He wants us to avoid the greatest pain that comes from doing things our own way, from going after the elements of this world that cause torment.

He tells us that His limitations are for our own good (Deuteronomy 10:13), so that it might go well with us and our families (Deuteronomy 4:40). He says “no” because He loves us. He knows where we are vulnerable, and He instructs us to stay away from those places. When we read His Word, we learn about His loving restrictions, and His Holy Spirit reminds us to obey them.

We choose whether or not we will receive the gift of His limits.

Grace is not able to remove the cone. On the other hand, we have a choice: to live as God says, or not. He never forces us. He tells us how to live and how much He cares for us. We decide if we trust Him enough to choose His ways. We decide if we see His limits as a gift.

David asked the Lord in Psalm 139:24, NASB, “See if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” David was telling the Lord he trusted Him, and he wanted the Lord to show him how to live in a way that would not harm him, others, or the Lord’s reputation. David was embracing the Lord’s limits.

We can cooperate in the limitation process.

This past week in Sunday School, we studied the first sin in Genesis 3. I shared something I had heard years ago: “Eve would not have sinned if she hadn’t been hanging out at the tree God had told her to stay away from.” Each of us knows our own “vulnerable places.” We would be wise to seek the Lord about the practical boundaries and limitations we should establish to avoid the pain of sin. We can cooperate in the limitation process, knowing it is best for us, knowing God wants to bless us and protect us from harm.

Jesus, Himself, accepted His own limitations from God. “Although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8, NASB).

Jesus did not accept the limitation of being human to avoid sin. He did it to redeem us from sin, so that we could live as “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37, NASB), so that we could thrive and live powerfully as we embraced the Lord’s loving limitations.

Grace’s cone will come off in a couple weeks, when her vulnerable place has healed. Thanks to Jesus’ work on the cross, our vulnerable places don’t have to hurt us any more (unless we choose the pain). For “by His wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).

Question: How has the Lord blessed you with His loving limits? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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