A Surpassing “Weight of Glory”

Therefore we do not lose heart.
Even though our outward man is perishing,
yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

~ 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NKJV) ~

Photo by Noah Ann Wieland during a visit to Japan © June 5, 2016

My body is “taking a beating” as the Lord works on the pottery wheel to transform me. Saturday morning I hurt my left lower back; Sunday, I drank a different water and the left side of my tongue, mouth, esophagus, and body reacted by swelling. My immediate response was to cry out to the Lord for help; He heard me and helped me.

I know that my body is slowly falling apart, but the daily grace He gives helps me get through it. I won’t lie to you, sometimes fear creeps in, sometimes it comes in like a flood, but GOD is GREATER than fear, and His word engages it and destroys it.

He gives me perspective. For instance, the J.B Phillips New Testament combines verse 16 with verses 15 and 17:

 “We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.”

Finished cup. Photo by Noah Ann Wieland © June 5, 2016

I’m not saying that it’s easy going with my body, but hope in Him keeps me going. In other words, I don’t “lose heart,” because I know that He’s transforming my mind and conforming me into the person He wants me to be—stronger than the body, persevering through the discomfort and pain, and inwardly being renewed and matured in Him.

(One day, when He’s “completed” me, I’ll go home and then I’ll be perfect, no more corruption of this mortal body! In heaven I’ll be incorruptible and eternal; it’s the gift of God to anyone who receives His gift of salvation. Oh, what joy awaits!)

Today, a friend reminded me of Psalm 143:8 and Isaiah 43:2-3,

“Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.”

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.”

He cares for me throughout each day. Though I don’t know what’s before me, I trust Him. He walks by my side and keeps me on the way I should go. He truly cares for my soul. I “pass through the waters,” staying above their surface. I’m walking “through the fire” and not being burned nor scorched. Sunday was a most difficult day, but I see now that He was showing me the truth, “I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” He gave His beloved Son for my ransom; and, He took my place on the cross and took the sting out of death. Therefore, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

In verse 17 of 2 Corinthians 4, Paul states, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” George Campbell Morgan says of this verse, “This very ‘affliction worketh’ the glory. Affliction is not something to be endured in order to reach glory. It is the very process which creates the glory. Through travail comes birth. Through suffering comes the triumph. Through dying comes the living.”

We may not understand why we’re going through affliction, but can you imagine a glory that surpasses our afflictions?!

Verse 18 continues, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (NLT). 

Abba, Father, there’s no one like You to whom we can turn, who’ll tell us the truth, and who truly cares for our souls. We’re weak, but You’re strong. We’re temporal, but You’re eternal, therefore we live, daily, with our eyes on You. Your presence with us enables us to go through our “light” afflictions because You provide what we need. Enable us to see our afflictions through Your eyes, because it’s our response that determines whether or not the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” will be worked in us. Our victory comes from You! For Your glory and honor, Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray, Amen.

 

 

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The Lord’s Encouragement (“A Little Bird Told Me”)

The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms.
~ Deuteronomy 33:27a ~

I was sitting at the table finishing lunch and looking out the window when I noticed a little yellow bird fly into the lower branches of a tree. It kept hopping from branch to branch, going back and forth, and higher and higher until it flew off.

This little bird was both an encouragement and reminder from our Father that He cares for me just as He cares for this little bird. Also, that the difficult things He allows in my life are taking me higher and higher in my relationship with Him.

He knows us well, and when, where, and how to speak to us to remind us of His great love and care for us. Whatever today or the future brings, remember that our Father’s for us and with us. His love is so high and great that whatever comes against us will not prevail. That’s what the second part of verse 27 says, “He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!’”

He’s our refuge; His loving and open arms are always ready to receive us.

∗ ∗ ∗

Father, You’re so good to us! You’re patient and kind toward us; You’re our refuge and our strength; You set a hedge around us and protect us from the enemy—You’ve even given us armor and weapons to fight with! And in Your wisdom, You’ve placed us in the high places where You are, so that we can know that the world we’re living in right now, is not our home. It’s wonderful to know that You’re with us and for us, and that one day, You’ll call us home! Father, You are worthy of all praise and honor and glory! Hallelujah! Amen.

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“The Little Dogs”

But He answered and said, “It is not good
to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs
which fall from their masters’ table.”
~ Matthew 15:26-27 ~

This is one of those exchanges which Jesus had with women that touches me deeply. You see, I was one of those little dogs.

The interaction between Jesus and a Canaanite woman speaks of persevering faith that continually presses into Him, in humility.

When this woman came to Jesus, she was humble and worshiped Him as Israel’s Messiah. She was desperate for help and wouldn’t let Jesus’ initial silence to her plea for mercy, nor the disciples efforts to get rid of her, stop her (Matthew 15:21-23). And though Jesus told her afterward, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” (verse 24), she persisted in a manner that told Him, “Yes, Lord, I know that You were sent to Israel, but we also need You; I need You! Help me!”

When He says, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs,” she wasn’t offended. She accepted the distasteful word and responded in humility and hope, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” You could say she “conquered” Him with her faith.

Jesus commends her, “‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (verse 28). 

C.H. Spurgeon said, “She had come to her last word, and now Christ gives her his best word. It is his way, sometimes, to make us wait till we are completely exhausted, and can say and do no more; then he comes in with the fulness of his divine power, and gives to us what we have importunately sought at his hands. Our extremity is his opportunity.”

This greatly encourages me. It’s faith that says, “Father, You’re present with me. You know what’s going on and how overwhelmed and discouraged I am, yet I put my trust in You, I won’t let go of You.” This faith, exhibited humbly, perseveres and presses into the heart of God and pleases Him. Faith takes us straight to the throne of God where we’ll receive mercy and grace from Him to carry us through whatever we’re going through (Hebrews 4:16), and if it’s according to His will, will obtain for us what we desire.

If you’re in a situation that is difficult or overwhelming, and there appears to be no way out or possibility of it being resolved, press in, don’t give up. Trust the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows what is going on in your life and already has an answer for you. He wants us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12, NIV).

He’s also called us to daily “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We show our faith (trust or confidence) in Him by this:  Every day, regardless of whether our circumstances change or not, we praise, worship, and spend time with Him. When we do this, we give Him the opportunity to adjust our perspective and minister to us.

∗ ∗ ∗

Father, You knew we needed You and sent Jesus to redeem us. Once, we were “little dogs” who were separated from You, but Jesus came and found us, loved us, and when we received His gift of life by grace through faith, You adopted us and made us Your own. Father, You “made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

Help us to walk by faith and trust You to lead us in the way we should go. Help us to have faith that amazes You and brings You glory and honor. In the name of Jesus, amen.

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The Former Things; A Prayer for The New Things (of 2018)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
~ Psalm 46:1 ~

And my God shall supply all your need
according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:19 ~

If it hadn’t been for the Lord, we wouldn’t have been able to overcome the obstacles (things He allowed in our lives) that were placed before us this year:  A rainy season that ended the drought in California; several weeks of painting and remodeling in January and February; finding a new place to live and moving out by March 15th; and financial and health problems.

February prepared our hearts for the immediate future. It was a month in which the Lord met me in remarkable ways when I was very needy (body, soul, and spirit). Every day, He answered me, through His word, a radio pastor, a devotional I was reading, and/or the Bible studies I was doing.

On a stormy night, when I was alone and heavy-hearted, I cried out to Jesus. Afterward, at precisely 7:00 P.M., I turned the radio on to listen to one of my favorite pastors. The Lord used this pastor to speak directly to every issue I cried out about and gave me the “peace which surpasses all understanding” that Philippians 4:7 speaks of.

Our anniversary candlelight.

The next day, Don and I celebrated our 27th anniversary. It was a dark, cold, and thunder-stormy night. The power was out, but we still had the gas stove to cook on, so we were able to eat dinner and talk by candlelight.

As we spoke, the Lord reminded us that He would lead and guide us by His light into our own “promised land,” just as He had done for the Israelites. We needed to do our part in preparation for our journey—pack up and be ready to move—and trust Him.

By the end of February, when we were no closer to finding a place to live and I was asking Abba what was going on, He answered me through another pastor on the radio who spoke on Romans 8:28. Then, when I read that evening’s devotional, Abba confirmed that same message with this passage:  “Why did God allow those things to happen in that way? To teach you to be a man or woman of faith, to teach you to quietly and confidently believe that God is on the throne, that He is in control, and that all things work together for good.” Jon Courson, A Pillar by Day.

February ended with an encouraging word and March came in like a lion, seeking to devour us; but we had the Lion of Judah with us! He continued to meet me every day—everything I listened to or read was in sync with what Abba was doing in our lives. All of it was inspiring and encouraging; He was making me strong and able for what was coming.

The three days prior to us moving were remarkable; not only for our family, but also for the family that was moving into the house. God’s timing was precise for both of our families. I won’t go into detail over it, but suffice to say we found a place to live on Sunday; prayed on Monday that His will prevail; on Tuesday, He opened the door—our application was approved, and He provided the funds and people to help us move! We moved on Wednesday, March 15th!

He gave us additional blessings:  Because the exterior of the apartment building was being renovated, an “inconvenience” amount was taken off the rent until renovation was completed! At move in, we had a new washer and dryer set; and within two to three weeks of moving in, a new dishwasher and semi-new stove, too!

But you know, the enemy of our souls hates it when the Lord moves so strongly on our behalf—he was relentless in trying to make me succumb to fearful thoughts. I kept fighting these thoughts off, but was quickly wearying of the battle. Then I realized that I hadn’t told Don about them, when I did and we prayed, they immediately stopped! And so, March went out like a lamb, because the Lamb of God was with us and for us!

Yes, it’s been a very eventful year for our family. While we started some new things, we failed to complete other things. Still, we’re “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). You see, God, who is with us and for us, is faithful, even when we’re faithless; He continues to provide our needs and we’re thankful that He is gracious and merciful toward us. 

It was Abba who inspired me, at the beginning of 2017, to pray that my latter days be greater than my former days. It hasn’t been easy; it’ll never be easy while I live on earth—trust me, dying to self is never easy! He never asks more than I can handle, but is very tender in helping me obey. He’s given me His Holy Spirit to instruct and teach me, moment by moment, day by day. He’s done the same for you; ask Him, He’ll reveal Himself to you. I have proof: 

He showed “Himself strong on our behalf” (2 Chronicles 16:9) in a variety of ways:  We asked and received, sought and found, and knocked and it was opened (Matthew 7:7-8); He led us into a “promised land” of His choosing (Joshua 1); and He continues to “supply all [our] need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” so that “to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:19).

He continues to teach me to look at things from His perspective, has brought amazing and wonderful friends/sisters/brothers into our lives, and has grown us in faith and trust. Nothing is too small, too insignificant, too anything for Him; and His love for us is deeper, higher, wider, longer—it perfectly fits and fills our hearts. He wants us to draw closer and closer to Him; He desires our company and fellowship, our love and minds, and our well-being and abundance of life.

He wants us to know that He cares about everything that affects or concerns us. (For instance, as I write this, I’m having an allergic and respiratory system reaction to spicy food that a neighbor loves to cook and eat (I have no idea how it gets in our apartment). But I’ve decided to turn this “assault” on my body into an opportunity to trust my Father. I’m not doing this alone, either. I’ve reached out for prayer to others, and I know that He’s with me and for me. I’m getting slowly getting better.)

Abba wants us to trust Him that He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). It’s His work in us that brings Him glory that lasts forever and ever. 

The new year, 2018, is a new beginning for all of us; whatever it brings, make sure that you know that you are never alone, He is always with you! He loves you! Believe it and receive it; and as you embrace His love, He’ll take you into His arms and never, ever let you go! Go to Jesus, quickly, He’s calling you! As the old hymn* says, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me;…Come home, come home, You who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!” 

Dearest Abba, Father, our hearts rejoice that You love and care for us! We’re never alone! You know every detail of each concern that we have and You lovingly and tenderly meet us where we need to be met. Thank You for 2017 and the ways You showed Yourself strong on our behalf. Our prayer is that we always know and be glad in knowing that You are sovereign in our lives.

Help us to give heed to Your word, because You love us with an everlasting love and want us to have an abundant life filled with the fruit of the Spirit. Help us to follow Your desire for us, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3). And finally, to remember this:

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea
And a path through the mighty waters,

“Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.”
~ Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 ~

We pray in Jesus’ name, for Your glory and honor, forever and ever. Amen.

*Softly and Tenderly by Will L. Thompson, is a public domain hymn.

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Were You Born in a Barn?!

And she brought forth her firstborn Son,
and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
and laid Him in a manger,

because there was no room for them in the inn.
~ Luke 2:7  (NKJV) ~

Did your mother ever say to you, “Were you born in a barn?” because you left the front or back door open? The truth is most of us were born in a hospital or clinic—my husband and daughter were. I was born at home. I’ve never met anyone who was born in a barn or stable; but I do know Jesus was born in a place where animals were kept.

Tina the sheep

On the 23rd of this month I was at a high school Christmas play and had the “pleasure” of smelling a sheep as it passed in front of me. Though clean, Tina the sheep emitted a distinctive “animal fragrance.”

Tina’s scent got me thinking of Jesus’ birthplace—a place that most likely stunk. The animal menagerie that stayed there weren’t as clean as Tina the sheep. Think about it, did Joseph and Mary have time to clean up the place? Maybe or maybe not. Either way, it wasn’t sanitary, it wasn’t neat; it wasn’t a place where women give birth, yet that’s where God the Father chose to have His Son born.

Still, if you think about it, it’s the perfect location for His birth! Why? Because Jesus came to save us from the sin that stinks up our lives. Maybe that’s why God compares us to sheep. Not only do we share similar characteristics, we also get ourselves into things that we shouldn’t and end up dirty with sin and stink of it. Maybe others can’t smell us, but God can.

Jesus, who can truthfully answer “Yes, I was born in a barn,” left a door open to reconciliation with His Father. He guards that door so that none can enter it without going through Him. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”; He is the gatekeeper to the fold:  “I am the door of the sheep….If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture….I am the good shepherd” John 14:6; 10:7, 9, 11.

I’m thankful I “met” Tina the sheep because it gave me a different perspective on why Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice in leaving His heavenly home. From a lowly birth in a place that was fit for animals, Jesus overcame the world through His death and resurrection, so that we would no longer stink with sin, but have the “fragrance” of Jesus.

You may not have been born in a barn, but you can enter into the door that was left open for you by Jesus. He succeeded in reconciling us to His Father so that you can enter into a relationship with Him. Don’t think about what you’ve done, don’t make any excuses; take a leap of faith and run into Jesus’ arms. He’s waiting for you. You’ll be accepted, no questions asked. Won’t you come now?

Dear Father, You loved us and gave Your Son Jesus, “so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 (NLT). Thank You, Father. Thank You, Jesus. It’s in Your name that we pray, amen.

 

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Come to Me…and I Will Give You Rest

Come to me, 
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
~ Matthew 11:28 (NIV) ~

Those December 1987 meetings with my counselor also brought about another relationship. She told me that there was a greater need inside of me, “Maria, God is important to you, you need to get right with Him.” 

Still, I didn’t know how it was going to happen. Christmas and New Year’s were coming up and we couldn’t meet to talk about how God is found. I assured her that I would do my best to “get right with God.”

I began by searching for the only true Christian I knew—Wendy. She was the only one who could tell me how I could find God and make peace with Him. But, I couldn’t locate her; it seemed like every attempt at contacting her was being blocked. I was at a standstill.

Jesus is calling.

One Wednesday night in the middle of January 1988, when I was disheartened and sitting alone at the dinner table, the phone rang. I picked up the receiver to hear, “Hello Maria, do you recognize this voice from your past?”

It was Wendy! I was so overwhelmed that I kept repeating, “Jesus loves me, Wendy! Jesus loves me!”

I had sought God and He found me—a weary, sinful, burdened, and broken woman

When I spoke with my counselor, she was surprised to find that I was doing so well. “Jesus loves me,” I told her, “My life is different now, I won’t be coming to see you anymore.” It was true; that night my life changed dramatically. All the weight of the baggage on my back was gone. Jesus made me new again—my steps were lighter, my laughter heartier, and joy filled my heart. Jesus loved me!

In hindsight, I see that December 1987 had a purpose—reconciliation. I was first reconciled to my earthly father because it paved the way to reconciliation with my heavenly Father. You see, I needed to know the love of my earthly father in order to know that my heavenly Father also loved me. Also, that I could be forgiven for the wrong that I’d committed against them.

It makes sense to me that God began that reconciliatory work in me during Christmas. The birth of Jesus was the Father’s way of reconciling us to Him (see 2 Corinthians 5:18 and Colossians 1:19-20 below). 

This is love in its fullest expression, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT). He’s done all the work for us, all we have to do is accept His love. No one is too far gone that he/she isn’t loved or can’t be found by Him.

Are you weary and burdened and you don’t know what to do? Jesus is calling you to go to Him. Will you respond to His call? When you answer, you will find the love and rest you need. If you can’t go to Him, just call out His name, you will find and be found by Him. “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV).

Abba, Father, from the first, Your love captured me. And now, almost 30 years later, Your compassion and faithfulness are constant, as is Your presence. Your patience with me has never worn thin or out. When I fall, You’re ready to forgive me. You make me strong when I am weak in Your grace. You hold me up when I can’t stand. Nothing is too hard for You—all my need is met. You are the “the LORD who heals…” (Exodus 15:26, NLT).

Thank You, Jesus, for bringing me to Your Abba, Father, who is now my Abba; You love me! Amen.

 

2 Corinthians 5:19:  “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them….” (NLT)

Colossians 19:19-20:  “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (NLT).

 

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Love Has A Name: “Dad”

Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
~ Ephesians 4:32 ~

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of a search that changed my life. In December 1987 I found myself in a counselor’s office wanting to know the cause of the ulcers in my stomach. A middle-aged woman, quiet and gentle in her ways, told me what I already knew, but didn’t want to acknowledge:  I had to get right with my father.

“Write down everything that you have against your father; every single grievance. Then, write them in a letter to your dad. We’ll go over it next time we meet.”

At the next meeting, she read my letter, folded it back up, and handed it to me, “That’s a detailed explanation of each grievance. Now go and read it to  your father.” My face must have registered how incredulous her statement was, but she was not deterred by my, “I can’t!”

She told me that healing wouldn’t come until I complied; that our future meetings would be meaningless. She waited while I fought with myself and smiled when I agreed to meet with my father.

We were sitting together, on the sofa. I pulled out the letter and read it to him. By the time I was finished, all those grievances had rolled down my face as tears. He gently put his arm around me, “Mary (only my family called me Mary), in the old days men were taught not to show any emotion, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have feelings. I love you, I always have. I just don’t show it or say it.”

He didn’t have to say, “I’m sorry for hurting you. Forgive me.” Or, “I forgive you, Mija,” because my heart melted as love for him flooded in.

“Dad, I’m so sorry for hurting you,” I blubbered. He took me in his arms and caressed my hair. That night ended years of resentment, bitterness, and anger.

Dad, Noah, and me in 2002.

When I spoke with my counselor about that evening’s meeting, I no longer spoke of him as “my father,” but “my dad.”

Dad and I had a different understanding about our relationship. We loved each other without him having to say so, but he did, every now and then. Whenever I went home I gave him a hug and kiss and told him that I loved him. When I said, “Dad, I love you,” he knew I meant it.

If we hadn’t reconciled, I would have never known what a warm, tender, and loving man he was. I would have missed years of being able to comfort each other when my brother and mother died.

He’s been home with the Lord for 5 years now; I miss him so much! I’m thankful we reconciled our relationship, because regardless of age, a girl/woman still needs her daddy.

Father, thank You for the years I had with Dad before he went home to you. Reconciliation is something that You desire for us, both with You and with each other. I pray for those whose familial relationships are broken; that You, being our good, good Father, would make a way for reconciliation to happen. Bless those relationships with Your love and grace. We ask in the name of Jesus, amen.

 

 

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