He Answers All Our Needs

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All your works give you thanks, LORD and your faithful bless you.

They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your mighty works.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you; you give them their food in due season.

You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The LORD is just in all his ways, merciful in all his works.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. ~Psalm 145:10-11, 15-18 (NABRE)

Have you ever heard the saying that when God closes a door He opens a window? Another variation is that when He closes one door He opens another. Either way, He loves you and is giving you opportunities even when it seems like you were just denied what you wanted (or thought you wanted).

Think about times in your life when you thought you had been denied what you had been praying for with all of your might. Be objective. Did something else come along that was even better or was what you actually needed at that time? Hindsight is 20/20 and when we’re too close to the issue we can’t see the true blessings.

We ask God to answer our prayers, but if it doesn’t turn out like we thought then we get upset. We get upset if it doesn’t seem like He answered our prayers. In fact, Garth Brooks sang about unanswered prayers. This is a good reminder that just because you think you know what you need doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

But what does any of this have to do with today’s psalm? It has EVERYTHING to do with it. God is merciful in all his works. He satisfies the desire of every living thing. The Lord is near to all who call upon him. When you think that He’s not being merciful, He actually is. When you don’t think that He’s satisfying your every desire, He really is. When a child claims to be hungry and wants a candy bar, but their parent gives them fruit, the child doesn’t think that their parent is trying to satisfy their desire. God knows what is best for us. Let’s face it, almost all of us would choose a Snickers over an apple. Is that what’s best for us? No. Is that what we desire? Yes. If God were to give us a candy bar every time we desired it then we would end up suffering from health issues further down the road. He is not going to indulge us with our every whim. He will give us what we need.

So this week take a moment to thank the Lord for all of the windows he left open for you; for all the apples he placed on the trees within reach; and for all of the moments when he was near to us when we needed him the most. Remember, God loves you and wants you to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind that we choose. Choose to be happy and thank God for it.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

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God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome; There is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of Hades on earth, For righteousness is undying. For God formed us to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made us. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are allied with him experience it. ~ Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 (NABRE)

Death. To you and me that means we cease to live here on earth. Yet, at the beginning death was not part of our existence. God made Adam and then gave him a warning.

The Lord God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

Genesis 2:16-17 (NABRE)

Did Adam know what “death” meant? Did he realize what the consequences really meant? If he had, do you think he would have eaten the apple?

What happens when we die? Some people believe that nothing happens. You just cease to exist. Others believe that you go to Heaven (or Hell, if you were bad enough). This is the big unknown in life. After all, all those who have experienced death aren’t here to tell us about it. There are some near death experiences where people say that they have been reunited with loved ones, that they end up in God’s presence and essentially are taken to a Christian version of heaven.

Heaven is being back in God’s presence. Hell is the absence of God. Think about it. God is love. God is light. When you are filled with love and light, you are filled with such joy! That is just a hint of what it will be like to be back in His presence. God loves us so much that he doesn’t want to be separated from us completely. This is why he has given us a “second chance.” When we die and leave our physical presence here on earth we then pass onto another plane of existence where we continue to live in a different state of being. It is the hope and promise of being back in His existence that gives us the fortitude to suffer through our lives.

What’s the harm of believing in God and His love for us? If I believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and that God is the only way, then I believe that I will one day pass onto the next realm where I will be reunited with loved ones and, most importantly, God. There is no death because through Jesus Christ death was arrested and we will live forever. In this way we are still the creatures that God created and we are imperishable. No matter what, if you believe, death no longer has any hold over you.

I would like to recommend a book to you that I feel is something that every Christian should have on their bookshelf. I read it every year, usually around the anniversary of my sister’s death, because it bolsters my hope and belief in the fact that I will see my loved ones again. The book is Imagine Heaven by John Burke.

Please Hold…

For thus says the Lord: Only after seventy years have elapsed for Babylon will I deal with you and fulfill for you my promise to bring you back to this place. For I know well the plans I have in mind for you-oracle of the Lord-plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.

Image by Jorge Guillen from Pixabay

When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me-oracle of the Lord-and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you-oracle of the Lord-and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you. ~Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NAB-RE)

Before we can dive into this passage I want to give you the background as to what was going on in Jerusalem at this point in time. To put it simply, things were a mess. The Israelites were misbehaving; they were worshipping pagan gods, worshipping idols and basically doing whatever they wanted. As God’s Chosen People they had been given Jerusalem and built a Temple to worship Him. They had their list of 10 things you must do to stay good with God and they were completely disregarding them. I’m sure that God felt like he was dealing with hundreds of toddlers. You turn around and suddenly they are back into the thing that you just dragged them away from and thought you had put out of their reach. I mean, all Moses did was go up a mountain to talk with God and get the 10 Commandments. By the time he got back the people had started worshipping a golden calf. “I leave you alone for 2 minutes and THIS is what happens??”

God is just like every father who gets exasperated with having to tell his kids YET AGAIN to stop doing whatever it is that they are doing. Then what happens? God puts his Chosen People in the corner and tells them to sit there and think about what they’ve done. Once they’ve had enough time to think about it, and hopefully correct their behavior, he lets them out of Time Out. In this passage the length of time they have to be in Time Out is seventy years. I realize this is a very simplistic explanation of what was happening in the book of Jeremiah at this time, but you get the idea.

You’ve probably heard some people say that the God of the Old Testament is wrathful and goes by the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ code. This isn’t true at all. In this passage He’s explaining that He loves them and wants them to prosper, but they have to change their hearts and not do evil things. Sometimes a parent has to let their children experience a little bit of pain before they will learn. You can be told numerous times not to touch a hot stove, but until you actually experience the pain you don’t really understand why you aren’t supposed to touch it.

God knows everything that we’re going to do, how we’re going to act, and what the consequences are going to be. None of this is a surprise, but it hurts Him just the same. And even when there is bad, He turns it for the good. We may not be aware of it, but that’s what He does because He loves us.

Even though it’s been thousands of years since Jeremiah shared the Lord’s words with the Israelites we can still apply this to our lives today. Do you feel like you are lost? Are you wandering the earth trying to figure out your purpose? Guess what? You DO have a purpose. You probably don’t know what it is as God doesn’t usually send it to us, written on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper. If He did, though, I have a feeling that it would look something like this:

“Dear <insert name here>,

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to love the Lord God with all of your heart. Seek and ye shall find. Ask and ye shall receive. For more information on your mission please refer to the Bible. The pertinent information will be found between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21.

With ALL of My Love,

G.

It doesn’t say that He will keep us from heartache or from suffering. In order to grow you need to suffer a little. You can’t learn to deal with adversity if you never experience it (similar to touching a hot stove). If you’ve never driven in snow then you don’t know how to handle the car as you’re plowing through a three foot drift. We are going to suffer. We are going to get the car stuck. We are going to experience hurt feelings. And it’s all good. Why? Because we learn. We know that God is watching out for us and He has a bigger plan for us. Maybe you had to experience a learning disability as you were growing so that you could get a career helping children overcome that same disability. Maybe you had to live with an abusive parent or spouse so that you could learn how to deal with it and help others. That’s how we should be living our lives.

What is one thing that you are struggling with today? How can you turn it for your good? Pray for God’s guidance to get through this time of trouble so that you can emerge from the other side stronger and able to reach back and help others up, too. And always know that no matter what, GOD LOVES YOU.

A Fancy Miracle, Please

Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, was highly esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the LORD had brought victory to Aram. But valiant as he was, the man was a leper. Now the Arameans had captured from the land of Israel in a raid a little girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went and told his master, “This is what the girl from the land of Israel said.” The king of Aram said, “Go. I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments.

He brought the king of Israel the letter, which read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that his man should send someone for me to cure him of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!” When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.”

Naaman came with his horses and chariot and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisah sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.” But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand there to call on the name of the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the place, and thus cure the leprous spot. Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?” With this, he turned about in anger and left.

But his servants came up and reasoned with him: “My father, if the prophet told you to do something extraordinary, would you not do it? All the more since he told you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So Naaman went down and plunted into the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. ~ 2 Kings 5:1-14 (NAB-RE)

Recently I purchased a wrist brace to help eleviate some of the pain I was having due to the repetitive motions of crocheting. It was to the point where I had to rest my wrist for several days when the pain flared up. I had tried exercises and stretches, but nothing seemed to matter. The last straw came when I had an entire Saturday spread before me, but was unable to crochet due to the pain. Just holding the hook hurt my wrist. After searching on the internet I came across a brace that seemed to treat the kinds of symptoms I was experiencing. I quickly ordered it and couldn’t wait for it to arrive.

This brace is a very simple piece of equipment. It is made of two wide pieces of Velcro that are cut into a specific shape that wraps around your wrist and secures the tendons that are causing the pain. The cost was $30. As I pulled the brace out of the packaging I remembered the anger in some of the reviews I had read. People were very upset that they had paid $30 for what is essentially two pieces of Velcro. Some reviews admitted that it had helped reduce or eliminate the pain they were experiencing, but all they received were two pieces of Velcro!! For $30!!

Why do we feel that in order for a treatment to be effective it has to be fancy? In the midst of my pain I gladly paid $30 for something that would help. Is it just two pieces of Velcro? Yep. Does it work? YES!

I can understand that some people might feel that they are being ripped off. For $30 they must have wanted a high-tech brace that was lined in copper and had fifty different buckles that had to be adjusted in tiny increments in order to get it to correctly support the painful tendons. Just like Naaman felt that Elisha should have waved his hands in the air, possibly said some words in another language, and then shoot lighting bolts from his fingertips in order to cure the leprosy. Being told to go wash seven times in a nasty river (the Jordan was much dirtier than the other rivers he named in the verse), well, the whole thing is just anti-climatic. What was he going to tell his wife when he got home? “Yeah, so I just went for a quick swim in the Jordan and when I dried off it was all gone.” What kind of miraculous cure is that?

Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons why we have superbugs now and antibiotics are prescribed for everything. People go to the doctor and don’t want to be told that they just have to rest and hydrate in order to get better. There has to be a pill that will help! Or maybe some kind of fancy treatment. When you are miserable and sick you want to think that there’s something that science can do for you. Letting your body heal itself is not what some people want to hear.

When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease I had no idea what it meant or what the treatment would entail. At the very least you imagine that it would include some kind of prescription that you will have to be on for the rest of your life. I was quite shocked when I was told that the only treatment is a gluten free diet. That’s it. If I don’t ingest gluten then my body doesn’t panic and essentially attack itself. As long as my body isn’t attacking itself then I will process nutrients correctly and won’t suffer from other illnesses caused by nutrient deficiencies. It’s as simple as that (actually, it’s not as simple as that, but it is for this illustration). Did I flip out on my doctor and demand that he prescribe me something that will make me feel like I’m being treated? No. Unlike Naaman, I simply thanked the doctor and then started navigating the world of gluten-free foods. I had wanted a cure and it was given to me. Thank you, God.

Dear Lord, please help us to see that it’s not the size or grandness of the gift, but the impact it produces that counts. Amen.