Expecting the Worst

Today’s Musing is from Donna Perkins.

Then the messenger returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. And he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.” Then Jacob said, “Oh God … deliver me.” —Genesis 32:6-9a, 11a NKJV (emphasis mine)

The air was thick with dread. Beads of sweat gathered on furrowed, worried brows. A lone tumbleweed rolled by the window outside. The corner clock ticked the minutes by while time seemed to drag to a standstill as they waited with baited breath for the arrival of the infamous Bad Bart.

Spurs clanged as his boot heels pounded on the boardwalk outside; the saloon doors swung open. His large frame filled the doorway and blocked the sun. A deathly hush fell over the room. As he approached the bar, the crowd parted with a gasp. He had come to give the bartender what he deserved, what he had coming to him.

With a graveled voice, he reminded the cowering, quaking bartender what had happened on his previous visit, and now the bartender was going to get what was coming to him! Thinking that the worst was about to descend on him, the bartender slunk down even further behind the bar.

Bad Bart reminded him that, not only had the bartender been out of sarsaparilla, but he had kept Bart waiting a really long time while he rode to the next town to get some. In the long wait, Bart had forgotten to pay for it; so here he was to give the bartender what he deserved. With that, Bad Bart slapped down the overdue coin onto the counter.

As Bad Bart turned and lumbered out of the bar, Miss Clementine proclaimed, “Like I said, the man marches to a different drum!” Life resumed to normal for the Sesame Street Muppets. (Air date March 29, 1990)

Expecting the worst! How easy it is for people who are Eeyore personalities like me. Remember Winnie the Pooh’s friend, Eeyore, who pretty much personified “expecting the worst” with his bleak outlook on life? So it was for the shaking bartender, and so it was for Jacob. He totally expected the worst from his brother coming to meet him with 400 men. In fairness, Jacob had every right to expect disaster after what he’d done to his brother, stealing his birthright. And yet … even though he was expecting the worst, he did the right thing: He cried out to God.

Crisis moments always reveal what lies in the heart. They show us where we really are in the things of God. Jacob could have run away from his crisis, but he didn’t. He met what he thought was sure disaster head on. He did some things right: He made a plan and he brought it all to God. In fact, he didn’t just casually mention it to God. He threw himself on Him crying out “Remember what You said God!” That’s a good pattern to follow when we are expecting the worst: Cry out to God who is our one true help in times of crisis.

Lord, help this Eeyore to remember more quickly that what seems to be, may not necessarily be how it is or will be. Thank You that I can throw myself on You every moment of every day. Thank You for Your Word that I can pray back to You. Oh, what strength it gives! I love You Lord!

Donna is 40+ years happily married, a thankful and proud mama and nana of three children and eight grands—and owned by one mischievous kitty, Shadow. Donna’s passions are animals, nature, “old people,” and spreading the love and encouragement of Christ through sharing His Word.

Safe in His care,
Donna Perkins

 

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

 Mission
To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Cloud Cover

Today's Musing is from Marlene McKenna.

… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. —Philippians 4:11b-13 NIV

The cool air blew through the parking lot as storm clouds skated across the sky, preparing the snow expected in the morning. We stood in line waiting for our ice cream, but licking our wounds after a different kind of cloud cover loomed. Just as cold and unwanted as snowfall in May, billows of disappointment threatened to steal our joy and contentment.

I wanted to know the end of the story—or at least the next step. After all, I’m the kind of person who likes to read the last chapter of a book to see if it’s worth reading. But my life story isn’t finished yet. I can’t turn the pages or control the outcome. However, in this situation we had expected a certain ending. We prayed and acted in faith and things looked good. We would get what we “wanted.” Then within a few hours, everything changed. Someone else intervened and what we wanted was lost.

Like the rolling waves of the nearby ocean, our emotions peaked, then receded into the vastness of normalcy. But it didn’t feel normal. It felt like we had been tricked or violated somehow—even though we prayed for God’s perfect will and He did answer.

He said, “No.”

Right now, even in the midst of disappointment, I know God allowed the cloud cover. What feels like a loss is actually a faith-building experience that reveals the goodness of God. His goodness demands that He offer His best to His children. Sometimes that doesn’t feel good. In fact, sometimes it is so anticlimactic it makes you angry. This time God and I wanted different things. Or did we?

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I said so. Because I know what’s best for you. Because I love you. Because I am the great I AM.” Then He asked, “Do you trust me?”

Then I realized the truth: This is a spiritual dilemma, not a physical one. Through this small disappointment God revealed that my heart was focused on earthly things, not on things above. My heart’s desire was not God’s best. Like a spoiled child, I wanted to cut across what God was doing in the waiting and live for myself. Instead, God’s love should compel me to echo Paul when He said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). God wants me to live for Him alone. Disappointment and discontent reveal that I believe Jesus is not enough for me. What He did is not enough for me.

Now, we sit looking behind us and realize this was a catalyst to action. We have a vision. We have plans. So, we wait. How long? I don’t know. As long as it takes. God isn’t going to plot our lives in a predictable way like a romantic novel. Boy doesn’t always get the girl. People don’t always live happily ever after. God surprises us with middles that don’t always make sense. In fact, the end is usually shocking or at least abrupt. There is no neat “The End” this side of Heaven. Instead we will be ushered into another realm altogether. A new life from the womb of the world to the fresh air of Heaven. There we experience everlasting joy. A joy that can’t be yanked out from under us like a cotton rug on a tile floor.

Ask yourself, do I live for the things this temporary world offers? Can I be content in all circumstances? Is God enough for me?

Ultimately, I thank God for unanswered prayers. Or, I should say, I thank Him for saying no. I praise Him for making me wait. I am content to live in the Hope of Heaven. In the meantime, God is the author of my messy middle. Besides, the end is already written.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. —Philippians 3:8 ESV

Marlene is a wife, mom, and empty nester. Her passion is writing, but she also enjoys golf, travel, and walks on the beach. She loves teaching a discipleship class and longs for all her sisters-in-the-Lord to find freedom in Christ.

God is gracious,
Marlene

 

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

 Mission
To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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A Labor Day Musing on Fruitful Labor

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. —1 Corinthians 15:55-58 NIV (emphasis mine)

There they were. Two quiches, crust browned to perfection—one broccoli and one ham—looking golden and perfect on the kitchen counter. I covered them lightly with a dish towel feeling immense satisfaction in a job well done. Our company would arrive in one short hour, joining us after church for lunch. I’d let my creations cool on the counter while we went to church and then reheat briefly for lunch. The salad was ready and waiting in the fridge and all was right in my little homemaker world.

I had not factored in two wily, always-hungry dogs who had very good sniffers and happened to think quiche sounded pretty terrific for a mid-morning snack while we were out and about. Yep. Attila, our Doberman-Shepherd, and Tank, our Chow-Shepherd, somehow manage to get their noses far enough up over that counter to nudge my perfections onto the floor. The lack of any crumbs left in the chipped pie dishes is a testimony to how delicious those quiches actually were.

Unsuspecting, we returned in high spirits after church with our company, only to feel pretty much as shattered as the pie dishes when we discovered two very full and satisfied canines and a horrific mess in the kitchen. Sigh. I had most definitely labored in vain.

Don’t you just hate that? You work super hard on something, and it all seems to have no point. Whether it’s a work assignment or a stolen quiche, the feeling is devastating. All That Trouble ... and for what? (Attila and Tank would argue that feeding their sneaky selves was purpose enough, but I firmly disagree.)

Our verses for today are a great reassurance! First, because of Christ’s triumph over death and His promise of eternal life with new bodies that don’t decay—and more than we could ask or imagine in Heaven. Death has absolutely lost its power to terrify the Christian. We have victory in Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

Second, we also have reassurance about this broken world in which we currently reside. What we do here for the Lord will not be in vain. It won’t. It matters now, and it will matter in the world to come. Hear Paul’s words and take them to heart when you are tired of doing the right thing, secretly wishing to be a little selfish, and wondering if the little bit you do really matters anyway: Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.”

Heavenly Father, remind me when I forget that the smallest thing I do for You … a cup of cold water shared with someone who is thirsty … a casserole for a family enduring sickness … a donation to help those who are suffering … all my big and small labors of love … matter to You and are not done in vain. Thank You for this reassurance from Your Word, Lord. What I do in Your Name and to further Your kingdom and Your love in this world has purpose and value. No matter how seemingly insignificant. Help me to stand firm in that knowledge and to not tire of doing good. In Your Name, Lord Jesus, who showed us servanthood supremely well, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

 Mission
To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Receive With Grace

Today’s Musing is from Margaret Fowler.

Freely ye have received, freely give. —Matthew 10:8b KJV

We all experience giving and receiving over and over in our lives. It is a joy to give—and a different kind of joy to receive. Both need to be done in the right spirit, giving freely and generously and receiving graciously.

I remember an incident in a nursing home. One of the ladies suddenly said to me, “I want to give you this flower.” “Oh, no,” I said, “I don’t want to take it from you.” She had so little, and I had so much. She insisted that she wanted me to take it, and I finally got it through my thick head, that I should just accept it. And then you should have seen the joy that spread across her face!

I suddenly realized that she was on the receiving end of everything: nursing care, her meals … so many people helping her in so many ways. How happy it made her to be able to give! I thanked her and showed appreciation, and I think it made her day.

As a child I learned about receiving and discovered the importance of being thankful. At Christmas I delighted in gifts, the new toys and books. And then it was time to put my thanks in writing. My mother was a dear, sweet lady, but very insistent on “proper” thanks. Oh! Those thank-you notes! A typical conversation went something like this: “It’s time to write your thank-you letters.” “But I don’t want to write letters.” And then in her typical British way, my mother would reply, “Well, you’re jolly well going to write those letters. Now sit down and write.” And so, I did! Was I receiving with grace? Definitely not!

Of course, I have learned over the years that sincerely showing thanks is very important. My mother spent the last five years of her life in a nursing home, and she always thanked the nurses and caregivers with her lovely smile. She demonstrated every day how to receive with grace. And now I truly am happy to write thank-you notes, hoping they will bring joy to those who gave.

Our lives are filled with opportunities to show a spirit of thankfulness, and it brings a smile, when that giving is appreciated. The young man who bags my groceries, looking bored and tired, smiles when I say thank you. The tired, young mother, juggling children and a shopping cart is grateful if I offer her the next place in line. Supermarkets are full of opportunities like that.

Ten lepers came to Jesus asking for mercy, for healing, and Jesus healed them all. Only one returned to thank Him, falling at His feet in sincere gratitude for his healing. And Jesus commended him. Jesus expects us to receive with gratitude and thankfulness.

I think of all the hundreds of gifts our Lord gives us every day—our lives, our health, our homes, our families, our salvation, our promise of eternal life with Him. Let us receive His gifts with grace, thanking Him with grateful hearts for everything.

Receive with grace.

The words of a well-known hymn remind us:

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ, His Son.
(Lyrics by Henry Smith)

Margaret is Sharon’s Mum. She and her husband have had 66 years of marriage and four children. They enjoy hiking, biking, canoeing, and just being outdoors, watching wildlife. Margaret plays the piano as part of a nursing home ministry. She has written many articles for her church newsletter, and some of these have been compiled into a book, Holding My Father’s Hand, available on Amazon.

 

Saved by grace,
Margaret Fowler

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

 Mission
To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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We Need Each Other

 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. —1 Corinthians 12:12 NLT

It’s a Wednesday night in June, and I’m busily preparing for surgery on Friday. Meatballs and sausages are baking so I can make spaghetti sauce tomorrow and have it ready for easy meals. It will be poured into containers and frozen next to the beef stew and the chicken soup already residing in the freezer. Bella, our pup, still wet from her bath, leaves in the morning to stay at a friend’s home while I recover. I’ve emailed various groups of friends to keep them updated on what’s happening, and several have volunteered to be the ones to relay updates to others after the surgery. Our daughter’s number is on speed dial to help her father with calls to family.

As I work, I’m interrupted by friends asking how they can help. Can they bring a meal? Where do we like to eat so they can order takeout for us? Will Ray need help with homecare? A friend with homecare experience stands at the ready. Another friend drops off gifts she thinks will be helpful to me as I recover. Still another stops by with DVDs for us to watch and books to read.

I am overwhelmed. How am I so blessed to have this kind of support?

Without exception, what these dear ones have in common is their love for Christ. Most of them are members of my church. This is not to say that my neighbors would not have offered to help. I have good neighbors, too. However, I haven’t even needed to ask them. In fact, I haven’t really asked anyone much at all. My Christian family has simply offered. I’m more comfortable on the giving end of things, so this receiving feels strange …

And wonderful. And humbling.

God made us interdependent on one another. That was His plan from the start for His church. Interdependent is “being mutually reliant on each other” (from DifferenceBetween.com). Sometimes I’m the giver, and sometimes I’m the receiver. Right now, I’m receiving. My friends with the gift of prayer are writing to let me know they’ll be praying all day on the day of my surgery. They actually, really will be. My friends with the gift of helps are offering to serve in a myriad of ways that are helpful. My friends with the gift of encouragement are sending notes and words of affirmation and kindness. The body of Christ is blessing my socks off!

How thankful I am to belong to God’s family! I have a pretty wonderful birth family, too. They are also pitching in with meals and prayers and calls and love, but the sweetness of being linked to a church and fellowship is that the load is lightened for everyone. It’s very possible that in the middle of a crisis, a member or two of my own family might be dealing with emergencies of their own and unable to help me. Yet, being linked to a larger body of believers means that God can tap the shoulders of His choice ones for the “take care of Sharon” brigade. No one has to do it all. Some don’t have to do anything at all. God chooses a few, and they reach out and offer their help with joy. I don’t have to wheedle or plead. I just have to be a part of a body of believers who know me. They do life with me and so they know when I’m having surgery. They’re family.

If I were not a member of a church, there’s a good possibility that in extreme need, a church would reach out to me anyway. That’s what we are called to do. Sometimes we give and serve ones who will not be able to return the favor. We do it for the love of Christ, and we do it for the joy of pointing someone to Him. However, when we are known and part of a body of believers, sometimes we don’t even have to ask. At least, in this case, I didn’t. They are just showing up. Ray and I are so grateful that the load of caring for me is not all on his shoulders. The burden is light.

I am not alone. God is always with me … and tonight? Tonight He’s revealing Himself through His people. I cannot say this strongly enough: Even if you’ve been hurt in the past by a church, don’t give up on fellowship. Try again. We were meant to be the body of Christ, serving one another. Go to church. Serve. Love. Forgive. Repeat. And then, someday in a time of need, your mouth will be wide open in awe as you see how God loves you through the body of Christ—like my mouth has been tonight.

Dear Father, thank You for the bounty of help I am receiving right now. Thank You for people who are willingly being Your arms and feet, caring for me, and encouraging me. I love belonging to You, Lord! I love how that gives me instant brothers and sisters in Christ. Bless Your church, Father God! Call us back to unity and love whenever we stray. Let us be known by the way we love one another … and You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Note: Sharon wrote this in June right before her surgery. We are happy to report that she’s had a full recovery and remains amazed by the many helping hands along the way.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

 Mission
To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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God Sightings

Today’s Musing is from Donna Perkins.

Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
                 —Psalm 119:18 (NKJV)

Even though I’m color blind, I still have a good eye when it comes to spotting wild animals … or finding lost objects. I’ve lost count of the times I just happened to glance out my window in time to see a big old fox whizzing by or a deer ambling across the upper field, a moose stepping out of the forest or a coyote making her rounds. At other times, sitting on the patio or walking in the woods, I’ve missed them altogether because they blend right in with the landscape. But they are there, and when I stay still long enough for them to move—or I startle them into flight—I spot them.

More than once my husband has dropped or misplaced something and spent forever, it seems, looking for it. Then I come along, look down, and “Oh, is this what you were looking for?” My poor Ralph is left completely torn between relief, thankful it was found, and frustration, that I found it so quickly after his long search. The fact is that he had probably been looking for so long that it just blended in with the surroundings and needed a fresh set of eyes.

“God sightings.” That’s what my friend Kay calls them. Those moments when God shows up unexpectedly. Actually, He’s been there all along; it’s really that we just now noticed Him. We can get so busy with our everyday stuff … even the everyday time with God in His Word … that we miss a God sighting. We need that fresh set of eyes.

I tend to stick pretty much with my New King James Bible. Mostly just because I love that one. I love the way the words flow. It touches my heart in a special way. Then along comes a devotional, a reading from another translation. All of a sudden, a word, a thought, a lesson jumps right out at me. Why? Because I saw it through fresh eyes.

It’s the same way God works. He shows up in our everyday moments, in our life seasons, and in our experiences. But we often miss Him in the little things, because we’ve grown accustomed to them, and He blends right in. Until maybe some tough times or some uncomfortable or unfamiliar stuff invades our day and forces us see things in a different light. Or… until … we stop and ask Him to give us new eyes to see.

God is everywhere! He wants to be in our everything, and He wants to be our everything. When we lie down, when we get up, when we go for a walk, when we work, when we play, all through our home, inside and outside, and especially the home of our hearts. If we ask Him, He will show Himself and show us wondrous things. I promise you.

Lord, would You bless me today with a “You sighting”? Would You help me to be diligent to look for You everywhere I go? I know You are there because You are an everywhere-all-the-time God, and also because You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me. Help me to see You today. And more importantly, Lord, would You help me to reflect You to others so that they can see You in me today? All my love, Lord, Donna.

Donna is 40+ years happily married, a thankful and proud mama and nana of three children and eight grands—and owned by one mischievous kitty, Shadow. Donna’s passions are animals, nature, “old people,” and spreading the love and encouragement of Christ through sharing His Word.

Safe in His care,
Donna Perkins

 

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

 Mission
To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Messy Me

Today's Musing is from Marlene McKenna.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. —2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

Anyone who knows me (by this I mean anyone who has seen my closet) would tell you that I am not tidy. Okay, they would tell you I’m pretty messy. For some reason I’m unable to work on a project unless all the inner workings of the project are exposed. When I’m writing I have handwritten notes and several books surrounding my computer; when I cook, I have everything out on the counter; when I get ready in the morning, my bathroom counter is cluttered with makeup, lotion, hair product, jewelry; and my bedroom is usually littered with clothes I am “in the process” of cleaning, putting away, or deciding whether or not to keep.

This way of living has consequences. Sometimes when I come home, I’m overwhelmed by all the “little” messes I’ve made during the week. Dishes, crumbs, papers, books, clothes, oh my! How did this house get so messy? Answer: A little at a time.

Similarly, when we find ourselves in a spiritual mess of our own making, suffering the consequences of a mountain of small rebellions, we too are overwhelmed. How did my heart get so hard? Answer: A little at a time. Surprisingly, the solution to both problems (messy house and messy heart) are the same. How is my house going to get clean? By repentance—turning 180° away from the direction I was going (bigger mess) and going in the opposite direction (putting things in order). How is my heart going to be cleansed? You guessed it—Repentance!

Some people may object to this observation. They say, “I was fully forgiven when I accepted Christ as my Savior,” and that is true. Because of the blood of Jesus we are fully forgiven. We are now family—but we are not suddenly perfect and sin free. We still make “messes.” Just like I fail to clean my messes until I recognize the chaos all around me, we bring our heart messes to God when we recognize they exist and are overwhelmed with grief and godly sorrow that leads to repentance—and we can come to Him, not as an outsider, but as a child to her Father.


David understood this to be true. His “little messes” turned into a mountain of rebellion. (If you’re new to David’s story, read 2 Samuel 11.) Step by messy step, each decision David made in opposition to God caused chaos in his life and the lives of those around him. His heart grew hard and his attitude harsh until Nathan, God’s messenger, confronted David. Only then did he recognize the overwhelming mess. David’s 180° turn away from his sin led him straight into the arms of God, and there David appropriated God’s gift of forgiveness. Through it all, his relationship with the Lord was strengthened and his heart forever changed. What a testimony to God’s faithfulness and redemptive heart toward His children! (You can read the remarkable details of David’s repentance in 2 Samuel 12.)

Psalm 51 was birthed from David’s repentant heart. I’ll leave you with the beautiful reality of our gracious God who longs for intimacy with every one of His “Messy Me’s” as He turns messes into milestones of His grace and intimate love for you and me.

Psalm 51
A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after
David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

—Psalm 51 NIV

Marlene is a wife, mom, and empty nester. Her passion is writing, but she also enjoys golf, travel, and walks on the beach. She loves teaching a discipleship class and longs for all her sisters-in-the-Lord to find freedom in Christ.

God is gracious,
Marlene

 

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

 Mission
To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Hard Heart Lessons

They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the LORD of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the LORD of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them. —Zechariah 7:12 NLT

I came across this Bible verse recently—and winced as I read. Is it possible, Lord? Could I make my heart so hard that I could no longer hear You speak? It surely sounds like the people in Zechariah’s day willfully chose to harden their hearts to the point they could no longer hear God’s instructions or messages to them. I can’t imagine anything more terrible! When the One who made us and loves us and holds the key to our eternal destiny speaks … we should listen.

Okay then. What would make people choose to harden their hearts? I have been pondering this conundrum. Sadly, I did come up with reasons that individuals might choose to block their ears and distract themselves—three reasons they might not want to hear from a truth-telling God with standards.

Little Sins. I think hardening happens slowly. It’s usually not the big, huge sins that harden us first, but subtly as we give ourselves permission to sin in small and seemingly insignificant ways. We want to look better, so we tell a “harmless, little” lie. We discover that the cashier failed to ring up some of our items, and we choose to congratulate ourselves on “free stuff.” We decide the government gets too much of our money already, so we fudge on our income tax return. We are hurt and decide not to forgive, justifying our coldness and refusing to think about reconciliation. We just ignore our consciences until they stop pricking at us.

Lethargy. We stop caring about God. We get lazy. We feel like we already know the Bible stories, and getting up early to meet with Him just isn’t doing anything for us. It’s becoming rote, we tell ourselves, meaningless, so why bother. And so we drift from God’s truth, because we are not reading God’s Word. We aren’t available to Him for His instruction—or for His love and care. We drift from relationship with the One who loves us, because we are no longer talking to Him or listening to Him. He calls us to come to Him, but we shrug our shoulders and block our minds to His voice.

Loving Idols. Instead of worshiping God and focusing on His majesty and power, love and mercy, we worship the latest Netflix drama or a musical group that stirs us or a product that’s super appealing to us. We buy cool gadgets, shop for fancy clothes, and plan our next vacations, filling our time with lesser things that soon fade in their attraction. But then the pattern repeats with the newest new thing all over again. The noise of our world shuts out the still small voice of the God who made it and who will someday come to judge it—and then make it anew and beautiful.

Like hardening of the arteries and plaque growing from feeding on the wrong foods, we grow hard hearts, and the plaque in our souls builds up until the message of God is no longer heard. Our ears are blocked, our hearts are blocked, and we did it to ourselves.

Oh, I do not want this. Neither do you! So, what should we do? First, when we sin and God points it out to us, we should confess it and not excuse it. He forgives. We are cleansed. No lingering plaque in that artery. Let’s be quick to confess and recognize that little sins don’t actually exist. All sin is an affront to God, and all sin damages. Second, let’s meet with God in prayer and His Word “in season and out of season” as Paul tells Timothy in his second letter to that young disciple. Not every meal we eat is going to be gourmet. But we still need to eat to maintain our health. Not every morning when we meet with the Lord will be riveting, but every time we pray and read His Word we will be nourished and reconnected to our Source of Life. Third, let’s guard against attractive, showy things of little substance that distract us from gazing at the King of kings who spoke the stars into existence. Let’s learn more and more about the God who made us for a purpose and then joyfully fulfill it. That’s where lasting happiness resides.

God was angry because His people deliberately chose to close their ears to Him. Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing” (Zechariah 7:11 NLT). We have a choice. Are we going to put our fingers in our ears and willfully harden our hearts against the Savior and Lover of our souls? Or are we going to turn to Him and learn from Him and gain hearts of wisdom and joy in the process? The choice is up to us.

Father God, I love Your Word. You teach me and admonish me through it. You reveal the areas where I need to work and grow. Make me eager to hear Your messages and Your truths. Keep me snuggled close, please. There’s no place I’d rather be than next to You. Help me keep a soft heart, Lord! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

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To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

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June 30. Revelation 4

 

June 30. Revelation 4

There are other passages in Revelation less strange and marvelous than this one. I love to read about how Jesus will someday wipe the tears from my eyes (Revelation 21:4). I get so excited to read about the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9) and I love imagining the river flowing through the city of God with the trees that have new fruit every season (Revelation 22:1-2). But Revelation 4 is SO full of majesty and awe and the Bigness of God that I had to choose it as our final example of poetic and descriptive writing in the Bible. How does one describe the throne room of the living God with human words? John does his best and it’s magnificent.

I am going to let Charles Swindoll describe this chapter to you because he does it far better than I ever could. This is from my NLT Study Bible notes: “This glorious chapter stands as a reminder that life is not all about us. In the final analysis, it’s all about God. We’re in the middle of an oratorio, a symphony of praise with majestic movements, and the Lord God is the paramount theme of the symphony. You won’t find your name in this chapter, and I don’t find the name of my godly grandfather in here, nor the name of a single president or queen. Every earthly thing fades into the background as we stand with John on the edge of the awesome presence of God.”

What better place to end our study than right here in Revelation 4? I’m so glad you joined me on this journey. I’d love to hear from you and how this study changed and grew you. I know that God’s Word does not return void and so I am quite sure He has spoken to you this month, friend. I know He has to me. Write a note in the comments or email me at sharon@sweetselah.org. I’d love to hear from you.  If you are able to “pay it forward” for the next online Bible study, you can go to our website and donate securely there. We’d be very grateful: https://sweetselah.org/donations/ . Until our next study, keep meeting with the Lord each day, friend. There’s no better way to grow up as a Christian than to spend time with your heavenly Father who loves you with an everlasting love! Thanks for joining me.

My verse: Revelation 4:6 “In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal. In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back.”

My response: Lord, this is deep mystery to me. It’s so different from anything I have ever seen. It’s a bit terrifying. How hard it must have been for John to try to record for us the glory and majesty of a place so vast and so unlike what we know! Yet there’s also reassurance. You are seated on the throne—alive as always—and given worship as is your due. “And all the earth is silent before You” … Amen.