Being Found

“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country to go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15:4-6)

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

“Amazing grace–how sweet the sound–
That saved a wretch like Me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

Being found. It implies that we must have been lost. It implies we might have been lonely. We don’t know which way to go. Maybe we’re in darkness and we’re frightened.

Imagine being found by Someone who loves you deeply; without measure.

The truth is, God seeks us even as we may be seeking him. In fact, his Spirit seeks us out when we may not be actively looking for God. He knows we’re lonely, frightened. He’s aware that we don’t know where to turn next. Like sheep who’ve gone astray, we wander without purpose.

Once the Shepherd finds his sheep, he rejoices to have it in his arms, taking it home to green pastures.

What joy should fill our hearts knowing that he celebrates in having found us. What joy should fill our hearts knowing that we no longer need to be alone. We don’t have to be afraid; we know the darkness is gone. Forever.

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Gratitude Breeds Contentment

Oy! My body aches. I had surgery six days ago and have two incisions in my back. Swelling in my feet and legs has stretched the skin so badly I can’t wiggle my toes without pain. Because of the pain associated with the incisions, sometimes I tense up. Then my shoulder and back muscles ache.

Not only that, but when I sit in my chair, I must take a deep breath and slowly lean back until I’m in the right position. Then, because I’m now monitoring my blood pressure every day, I must take some deep belly breaths and relax before I push the button on the cuff. It all hurts.

But–

The surgery I had has proven already to be a success. I know the incisions will eventually heal and won’t hurt anymore. I have medicine now to relieve the swelling in my lower limbs. I’m beginning to relax more when I move to avoid aggravating the site of the staples and stitches.

I can breathe. I’m able to cook for myself. I can climb the few stairs to get mail from the mailbox. I don’t need help getting dressed or bathing.

I’m grateful for those things that I might often take for granted.

During November I’ve been posting each day on Facebook and Twitter something for which I’m thankful. It would be easy to say I’m grateful for that parking space I got close to the grocery store yesterday. I could say I’m glad I have a good book to curl up with. The list of simple things like that could go on and on. I am grateful for those things.

However, I’m trying to post things I’m grateful for that are true promises of God or things which I know come from the truth of scripture. In fact, I’ve been including scripture in each post or tweet.

This time of year, people are thinking about Thanksgiving (yes, Christmas already too) and they’ll be more apt to look at a gratitude list. My practice is to include thankfulness in every day. At the top of my daily To Do list the words “Be Grateful” appear in a thick blue line written with a Sharpie.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God. (James 1:17) My breath, my healing, the ability to dress and cook for myself are only because God provides. I also know the pain and inconvenience I’ve experienced are allowed by him.

Knowing this, I’ve learned to be more content over the years. Of course, I don’t like pain and inconvenience. But nothing that happens to me is a surprise to him. He uses it to perfect me. How could I not be grateful, knowing this?

My prayer for you is a Thanksgiving Day spent in a way that you see all the goodness in your life. Praise God for it. Then look at the trials and inconveniences and praise God for those too. You know why. (James 1:2-4) Because through them you’ll realize you’re growing. One hopes to also be more content each day.

Be grateful for a good meal, friends and family if you celebrate with them, a warm home to live in and, most of all, for every promise God has made to you.

Facing Adversity

The journey of spiritual maturity isn’t always easy. From the first tentative steps we take as Christ followers, we experience hard times. Adversity comes to everyone, not just those who live in obedience to the sinful nature.

Yet with our eyes focused on Jesus, adversity doesn’t have the power over us it once had. If we’re living in his presence and listening for his voice, we understand more about who Christ is and we grow deeper in our relationship with him.

As we stay in step with the Holy Spirit, we experience less of the troubles we once made for ourselves. However, when those inevitable times of adversity come, we’re promised that they’re only for a specified time, which God has already ordained.

We also know that God is present in any circumstance, good or bad, and provides the resources we need to get through. The resource may come in the form of another person’s assistance, finances, a specific need for our health, or the prayers of the saints.

When hard times come and put us to the test, God always does his part; what is expected of us? In my experience, relying on God and deepening my conscious contact with him brings peace. Rather than running full-tilt to try and solve a problem, he’s shown me it’s better if I slow down. That doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means I slow down enough to hear what he has to say to me.

“I tell the Lord my troubles and difficulties, and wait for Him to give me
the answers to them,” said one man of God. “And it is wonderful how a
matter that looked very dark will in prayer become clear as crystal by the
help of God’s Spirit.” I think Christians fail so often to get answers to their
prayers because they do not wait long enough on God. They just drop down
and say a few words, and then jump up and forget it and expect God to answer them.
Such praying always reminds me of the small boy ringing his neighbor’s doorbell,
and then running away as fast as he can go. ~ E.M. Bounds

Scripture says we can rely on the power of God to help us through times of adversity. “We are struck down, but not destroyed.”

Jesus warned that in this world we would have trouble, then assured his disciples that he himself had overcome the world (John 16:33).

Following the Master means denying ourselves, which is to die to our rights; carrying our cross, which is to die to our old nature; and to follow, which is obedience.

What does that mean for us? Trials are bound to come in life even with our new life in Christ. But with the power of God working through us, we can overcome any situation and live the abundant life promised to us.

Without God, we’re helpless; but with him all things are possible

Finding God in the Picture

While visiting my hometown several years ago my sisters and I decided to take a walk through downtown. An acquaintance who was also out walking met up with us at a corner of town. She asked if I’d be attending the funeral of a high school friend. I was shocked. I told her I had no idea my friend had passed.

The next day, as I walked away from my seat at the graveside, my friend’s sister rushed up to me and hugged me tightly. “I knew you’d be here,” she said. Strange; I hadn’t planned on attending a funeral when I left home to go visiting. But apparently God was working in the background and had planned it for me.

I’ve come to believe God has a way of finding us and taking us where we belong.

Several times in my journey with God, he reminds me how important it is to acknowledge him in the circumstances of my life. For me, it’s been a process of knowing his ways (as well as a small person can know the ways of a sovereign God) and recognizing his voice when he’s speaking.

Back when God orchestrated the events that took me to my friend’s funeral, I just shook it off; I didn’t think twice about how it happened. Now, I see a little more clearly how he works. It’s no coincidence that I happened to be out walking and saw that particular person. It was no coincidence that she was the older sister of my best friend from high school who had passed away a couple years earlier.

Sandy, my best friend, and this woman who was also now gone from our lives, had been part of a foursome of teens that was almost inseparable. As much as my friend’s sister needed me to be there for her, I needed to be present for my own sake.

God in his sovereignty cares for and works out all aspects of my life even if I don’t see that work immediately. He may be working in the background and through unlikely people.

Events happen in my life that tempt me to question God. But I know better than to do that. Even during those times, because I’m his child, I’ve learned from experience he is always as close to me as he’ll ever be.

I’m reminded of the book of Esther. God’s name is never mentioned, but his presence is certainly there in the citadel of Susa. If we know what to look for and if we’re really looking, we can’t miss him. He’s guiding, providing for and protecting his beloved people. The young Jewish woman who was born Hadassah, became queen and influenced the king in a way perhaps no one else could.

One might say the book of Esther is a story of God finding a young Jewish maiden and taking her where she belonged.