“I bow before You, looking to Your holy temple, and praise Your name, for Your unfailing love and Your truth; for You have placed Your name and Your word over all things and all times.” Psalm 138:2 (VOICE)
As my family rounded a corner on a winding coastal road in Maine, we came upon this inviting sea-side chapel. We were drawn to its entrance by a sign out front that said “All Welcome.” It wasn’t a Sunday, but the front door of the church was standing wide open, welcoming inside anyone who wanted to enter. The church, built with sea-washed stones, has been standing in this spot for over 125 years, creating a symbol of unwavering permanence ~ just like God’s unfailing love and truth.
While walking around the exterior of the church, I imagined all the extremes in climate that this little building had weathered through decades of time ~ from tempestuous tropical storms and hurricanes, to the massive nor’easters and piles of snowdrift during the harsh New England winters. Yet through it all, this enduring chapel has survived. As we passed through the front door of the church, we immediately felt a sense of peace. The effect that this little place of worship had upon us was awe-inspiring. We wanted to bask in the reverent atmosphere and linger in the presence of God.
And just like the front door of this stone church, God’s arms are open wide, welcoming anyone to come inside. You don’t have to enter a sea-side chapel to experience His peace. His unfailing love and truth are for everyone. He is our Rock in whom we can take refuge. You can linger in the presence of God right where you are today. No matter the phase in life you are going through at this moment, remind yourself that God has placed HIs name “over all things and all times.” He’s there in your most joyous moments as well as the dark and grungy times; your seasons of elation, as well as frustration; your mountain-top experiences and your deep-in-the-valley periods; your days of good health and those of pain and suffering. And through it all His unwavering truth and unfailing love are constant. Step inside and experience His peace…All are Welcome!
“The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.” Nahum 1:7
As you read the account of the Easter story below, (Isaiah 53 VOICE), take note that this was Isaiah’s prophesy long before Jesus was even born! God’s servant foretold the coming of the Messiah and gave an astoundingly accurate account of the suffering Jesus would endure for the sins of all people…the healing for our sick-to-the-soulness:
“Indeed, who would ever believe it? Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told? Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?2 Out of emptiness He came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground. He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence— He had no physical beauty to attract our attention. 3 So He was despised and forsaken by men, this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend. As if He was a person to avoid, we looked the other way; He was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of Him. 4 Yet it was our suffering He carried, our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness. We just figured that God had rejected Him, that God was the reason He hurt so badly. 5 But He was hurt because of us; He suffered so. Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed Him. He endured the breaking that made us whole. The injuries He suffered became our healing. 6 We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep, scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits; The Eternal One laid on Him, this silent sufferer, the sins of us all.
7 And in the face of such oppression and suffering—silence. Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it. Like a sheep to a shearing, like a lamb to be slaughtered, He went—oh so quietly, oh so willingly. 8 Oppressed and condemned, He was taken away. From this generation, who was there to complain? Who was there to cry “Foul”? He was, after all, cut off from the land of the living, Smacked and struck, not on his account, because of how my people (my people!) Disregarded the lines between right and wrong. They snuffed out His life.9 And when He was dead, He was buried with the disgraced in borrowed space (among the rich), Even though He did no wrong by word or deed.
It is hard to understand why God would crush His innocent Servant. But it is in His suffering for sin that God deals decisively with sin and its harmful effects.
10 Yet the Eternal One planned to crush Him all along, to bring Him to grief, this innocent servant of God. When He puts His life in sin’s dark place, in the pit of wrongdoing, this servant of God will see his children and have his days prolonged. For in His servant’s hand, the Eternal’s deepest desire will come to pass and flourish. 11 As a result of the trials and troubles that wrack His soul, God’s servant will see light and be content Because He knows, really understands, what it’s about; as God says,“My just servant will justify countless others by taking on their punishment and bearing it away. 12 Because He exposed his very self— laid bare his soul to the vicious grasping of death— And was counted among the worst, I will count Him among the best. I will allot this one, My servant, a share in all that is of any value, Because He took on Himself the sin of many and acted on behalf of those who broke My law.” Isaiah 53: 1 – 12 (VOICE)
Hallelujah! He is Risen!!
Go in confidence and grace—no rushing, no frantic escape.
There’s no need to be anxious—the Eternal One goes before and behind you.
The God of Israel paves the way with assurance and strength.
He watches your back.
Isaiah 52:12 (VOICE)
“Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (1956). Section “December 31″).
God is the God of your yesterdays, your todays, and your tomorrows. Often memories of the past keep you from fully experiencing God’s grace and joy for today. It’s possible that you are longing for days gone by because they were happier times (the good ‘ole days), or it could be that you are wallowing in the junkyard of past memories, allowing the blunders of the past to overshadow God’s blessing for today. In either case, you are stuck in the quicksand of yesterday, and you can’t move into the future that God has in store.
Just remember, that God’s got your back! He’s your rear guard, and His hand can reach back into your past and settle any claims against your conscience. He can use yesterday’s mistakes and turn them into today’s ministry of growth for your future. He has a grand plan for your life, so let the past rest in God’s sweet embrace. He’s paving the way ahead with assurance and strength, so step confidently into your irresistible future with Him! “And He will be leading you. He’ll be with you, and He’ll never fail you or abandon you. So don’t be afraid!” Deuteronomy 31:8 (VOICE)
A personal message from your Heavenly Father:
“But now, God’s Message,
the God who made you in the first place…
the One who got you started…:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you…:
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.”
Isaiah 43:2 – 3 (MSG)
So today if you are experiencing deep waters of difficulty, and you feel like you’re in way over your head, don’t be afraid and don’t lose hope. God knows you by name, and He knows every messy detail of your life. He’s right beside you in the rough waters, and He will bring you safely through them ~ You will not go down. This feeling you have, like you’re between a rock and a hard place, is only temporary. God has big plans for your future, and He can use everything you’re experiencing for your good. Your Savior paid a huge price just for you ~ That’s how much you mean to Him! That’s how much He loves you! Trust that He is capable of bringing you through this tumultuous period. Nothing is impossible for Him, and there is no limit to the boundless strength He can provide for you. With Him by your side, you can endure anything.
“Try to remember that the ‘bottomless sea’ can’t hurt us as long as we keep on swimming”…with God!
- “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43: 1 – 3 (NLT)
- “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 118:5-6 (NIV)
- “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11(NLT)
- “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28(NLT)
“Look! I’m making everything new.
Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”
On the first day of a brand New Year, are you looking forward to closing the door on your past and opening the door to your future? Perhaps you are glad for the chance to breathe in the freshness of the new possibilities that the coming year might bring. Are there pages (or entire chapters?) that you would like to delete from your life’s story? “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.” Ephesians 3:14 – 17 (MSG)
By opening the door of your life to Christ, He promises to bring about a glorious transformation inside of you, and you’ll be renewed from the inside out. There’s no better way to start out the new year than by accepting the gift of a fresh start with God. He alone can erase the pain of your past and the mistakes you’ve made along the way. You don’t have to spruce up for God or clean up your act before turning to Him. He meets you right where you are with His limitless love and grace. By inviting Christ to be the center of your life, He’ll be the compass guiding you along the path to your very best future.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 1-2 (MSG)
Now take a deep breath, close the door to your past, open the door to your best future, and step through to a new life with God!
- “In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord. Isaiah 66:9 (NCV)
- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2(NIV)