First Verse, a journey through the Psalms: Psalm 73

Let us hope in God’s goodness.

No doubt about it! God is good—
good to good people, good to the good-hearted.
Psalm 73:1 (MSG)

Once upon a time…

These four words conjure up ideas of good and evil, love and jealousy, conflict and victory, sorrow and hope.  A tale of happily ever after.

And yet, this life seems to bring only the evil, the jealousy, the conflict, the sorrow. No good, no love, no victory, no hope. No happily ever after.

But God is good. He is a God of goodness. Of love. Of victory. Of hope. He is a God of the happily ever after.

If we don’t see it, its because the story isn’t finished yet.

He is the Author. He is the Creator.  He created. And it was good. He planted a garden. And it was good. He placed man in the garden. And it was good.

But jealousy appeared. A creature with evil intentions. Telling lies. Bringing conflict into a place of peace. Sowing discord and ultimately sorrow. The story took a turn for the worse and the ending seemed to have no hope.

But God.

God had a plan. A story. A happily ever after. He was not surprised by the unexpected turn in the plot. He was not shocked when evil, disobedience and sin showed up in paradise. Because He knows where these things abound, His grace abounds all the more. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. Where evil increases, God’s grace surpasses it every time.

As the history of man unfolds in Scripture, we see God’s grace, His redeeming love, His plan of perfect redemption and restoration.

Before the beginning, He had already begun to weave His promises into the story. From the beginning, He promised One who would come and “bruise” the enemy. Throughout the story, God provided glimpses of the One to come.

He chose a man. A family. A people. He guided them. He instructed them. He rescued them from captivity. He led them through the desert. He brought them into his promised land. He drove out the enemy before them.

Ah but the problem of wandering hearts. Straying affections. They left their first love. They believed the lies once again. They allowed the enemy to sow discord and ultimately sorrow.

But God was relentless. He would not be deterred. He made a way, where there seemed to be no way.

He dealt with the issue of the heart. He promised a Son. A king. A sacrifice for their sin. One who would defeat the enemy.

When the time was right, when the stage was set, as the suspense mounted, He appeared. In his redeeming love, God sent the Victor. The Savior. The valiant, humble prince. Who paid the price. Slew the dragon. Defeated the enemy. And conquered death.

God writes a story that unfolds even now. His grace abounds. He promises a wedding feast. Another garden. A happily ever after.

Because he is good.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, you are good. You have a plan, a story. To create in us new hearts. Good-hearted hearts. Regardless of how the story looks right now, I will trust in your relentless, redeeming love and eagerly anticipate your happily ever after. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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First Verse, a journey through the Psalms: Psalm 72

Give your love of justice to the king, O God,
    and righteousness to the king’s son.
Psalm 72:1 (NLT)

Let us hope in God’s Son, Jesus.

In our culture we put our hope in many things. A strong economy. A decent paycheck. A retirement plan. Higher Education. National healthcare. Military might.

We might put our hope in others. Our parents. Our spouse. Friends. Coworkers. Church leaders. We expect them to be there when we need them. We assume they can help us with any problem we have or whatever crisis we face.

But all too often these things or those we care about fail us.

The economy may tank. A job can be lost. A retirement plan can loose its value. Higher education may result in loans to repay but not guarantee a good job. National healthcare can turn out to be not all its advertised to be. And our military might may not always be able to ensure our safety at home and abroad.

If our hope is in these things, we may be sorely disappointed.

Those we love are fallible. They may not have the answers or may let us down. They may not be able to be there when we need them. They may be more of a hinderance than a help. Or they may even be the cause of our problem or crisis.

If our hope is in others, we may be sorely disappointed.

What have you been putting your hope in lately? In what ways have you been disappointed or devastated over something you hoped in/for?

Scripture exhorts us to put our hope in God alone.

The Psalmist says: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Ps 42:11, NIV)

and “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:5, NIV)

The prophets, Jeremiah and Micah, cry out “It is you, Lord our God… our hope is in you,” (Jeremiah 14:22, NIV) “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7, NIV)

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, knows this hope does not disappoint. “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5, NLT)

He also reminds us of the source of our hope. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NLT)

How do we do this? How do we hope? Through the Son, of course.

Paul went on to say “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (Romans 5:6, NLT)

It is because of Christ we have hope.

“As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Thessalonians 1:3, NLT)

And Peter tells us in his letter “Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.” (1 Peter 1:21, NLT)

And what should we do with this hope?

Peter has some additional advice in his letter. “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” 1 Peter 3:15-16, NLT)

It matters where we place our hope. Let’s put it where it belongs.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I always remain confident in my hope in Christ, because I know in him, I will never be disappointed. I confess, lately, my hope has been in __________ and if it has not failed me yet, some day it will. Instead, I will hope in you, the One who delivers, and in my Savior, Jesus. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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First Verse, a journey through the Psalms: Psalm 71

Lord, I have come to you for protection;
    never let me be defeated!
Psalm 71:1 (GNT)

Let us hope in God’s protection.

So many things in our lives can defeat us. We can be cruising along, enjoying life, when Bam! out of nowhere, we’re knocked down. Or maybe we see the forces mounting, surrounding, calling in reinforcements against us. However it happens, maybe we think, surely its all over.

But is it?

As a lover of fantasy and a good story, I can’t help but revisit the amazing epic battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings. Their fight for all that’s good in middle earth, their battle against the consuming darkness, their clash after clash with the enemy. In the Battle for Helms Deep, the heroes are trapped, their fortress besieged, the enemy barrages the gates, hope seems gone. Yet they rally. They will fight. They mount up. They draw their weapons. The trump sounds. And they meet the attack head on. In the midst of the defensive strike, they trust help will arrive. At the height of their engagement with the enemy “suddenly upon a ridge appeared a rider, clad in white, shining in the rising sun.”

Indeed. My heart can’t help but thrill at the image. Help. Protection. Victory.

Our daily lives tend not to be an epic war scene, and yet we may face conflict on every side. As we fight our daily skirmishes and big battles, we have to remind ourselves, our struggle is not what it seems. We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against an enemy who seeks to steal from us, kill us, destroy us. We fight against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (from John 10:10 and Ephesians 6:12)

Therefore, we cannot do battle as the world does. So how do we battle? Just how does the Lord call us to victory? We must recognize we can’t fight on our own. Like the Psalmist, we must come to the Lord for protection. He provides us with the strength and the weapons.

We are called to put on every piece of God’s armor so we will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle we will still be standing firm. (from Ephesians 6:13)

We are to use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. (from 2 Corinthians 10:4)

Two things, Scripture tells us, gives us victory.

Our faith in Jesus. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. (from 1 John 5:4-5)

Our testimony. And they have defeated him (the accuser, also know as satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. (from Revelation 12:20)

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. (Ephesians 6:13-18, MSG)

Prayer

Thank You Heavenly Father! You give us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. We who have Your word living in our hearts have won our battle with the evil one. And the victory belongs to You.

Grace and Peace

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Remembering 2017

As the year started, we looked forward with great expectation. But with great expectation often comes great accommodation, because rarely do things work out as we plan or hope. The Lord, however, blesses us with exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine.

 

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
1 Peter 1:2-4 (NLT)

A quick recap of our amazing year:

We built it.

This was the year we built our house. We broke ground in December, when UBuildIt placed a sign on our one-acre lot in the Texas Hill Country. Forms for the foundation were set up over the Christmas holidays and the foundation was poured in January. Construction moved along fairly quickly and despite some challenges and frustrations, everything came together and we closed on the house at the end of June.
To see pictures and read detailed descriptions of the building activity, check out my Country Living blogs.

In Loving Memory

My dad, sister and I sadly shared the news of our loving wife/mother, Shirley Ann English, 73, going to be with the Lord on Friday, May 26, 2017.
In May, Jon and I felt a prompting to make a crazy, weeklong road trip to the northeast. Daniel’s girlfriend, Kd, received her master’s degree at UMUC and invited us to the ceremony. We combined the trip with a surprise visit with my mom for Mother’s Day. We had the sweetest visit and we are ever grateful we went.
A week later, I received a phone call. My mom was back on the ventilator and unable to come off again. Too full of life to live on life support, mom made the decision to be taken off. I flew up to Pennsylvania to be with my sister and dad at mom’s side when she entered into the presence of the Lord. Her memorial was held on June 3rd.
We miss her very much, but rejoice in her glorious, inexpressible joy.
Read her full obituary at Glunt Funeral Home.

Welcome to the World

Proud parents, Heather & Jarred happily announce the birth of their second daughter, Charlotte Ann on October 15th.
Jon and I flew to Norfolk in February for a few days to visit granddaughter Scarlette. While there, Heather & Jarred surprised us with the wonderful news: Scarlette was going to be a big sister. Baby number two was due in October. Over the 4th of July weekend, we hosted a gender reveal party in our new home. Another little princess!
Then in October, toward the end of our visit in Pennsylvania, we received a text telling us Heather was in labor. We packed up and drove the nine hours to Norfolk.
In the early morning hours on October 15th, Charlotte Ann made her grand arrival. Right on schedule and right into our hearts.

Other Notable Events

Heather: notified in November she made Aerographer’s Mate First Class (E6). Congratulations!
Jarred: begin a new job as a mechanic at  U-Haul in January.
Daniel & Kd: transitioned from the Navy to civilian life and moved from Hawaii to Colorado in September.
Jonny: worked as a research assistant all summer and began his sophomore year at Baylor in the fall.
Jon & Jill: published their first book together, a photo devotional.
Praise: Proclaiming the Glory of God.
Check us out on Amazon.

A Time such as this

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die…, a time to tear down and a time to build up, a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones, a time to embrace and a time to turn away…, a time to keep and a time to throw away…, a time to be quiet and a time to speak…
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-7, NLT)

May all your days in the coming New Year be a time of grace and peace.

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First Verse, a journey through the Psalms: Psalm 70

Save me, O God!
    Lord, help me now!
Psalm 70:1 (GNT)

The cry of our heart.

Sometimes, we find ourselves on the bottom looking up.  We long to be free. Free from whatever holds us down. Free from the shackles binding us. Free from the situation we’re in. Circumstances in life have brought us to a place we did not plan for, did not expect, did not want.  Yet here we are.

And it may be from any number of reasons.

Debt. Divorce. Death. Discouragement. Disappointment. Unforgiveness. Mistakes. Loss. Lies. Joblessness. Illness. Hopelessness. Fear. Failure. Criticism. Betrayal. Anxiety.  Addiction. And everything in between.

So our hearts cry out. Save me! Help me!

And we wonder. Who can help?

Let us look, ask, and realize, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth.”Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

Our God is sovereign. He knows the circumstances in our life, the ones holding us down, holding us back. The devastating events that rock our world.

What shall our response be? On what do we focus? The problems and pains of this life? Or the goodness of the Lord?

He can release us, restore us, refresh us, so we can walk in the freedom and strength.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

“The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

The Lord lifts us up, “…out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2 (NIV)

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Let me pray as the Psalmist prayed: “I am weak and poor; come to me quickly, O God. You are my savior and my Lord—hurry to my aid!”
Psalm 70:5 (GNT)

Grace and Peace

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