A few years ago my husband and I were returning home to Belgium from a ministry trip to Austria. We stopped for the night in a little village in the mountains of southern Germany. It was late, a dense fog had rolled in, and the town was closed up for the night, but we found a small guesthouse to rest in for the night.
In the morning, we opened our drapes to this glorious sight right outside our window. It took our breath away! It was a new day with a beautiful mountain and the heavens on display! Well, we caught our breath and went outside to enjoy the beauty.
Breath. Health issues, anxiety, fear can easily hamper our breathing. And sometimes, we just need a breath from heaven to heal and restore us. Often God sends His breath in unexpected ways, through surprising sources. One thing is certain – our life is never the same.
THE WORLD OF WONDERS
“Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence. Remember the world of wonders he has made!” (Ps105:2, Msg)
During my devotional time the other day, I received a visual impression of an individual setting up a ladder. So desirous of sensing God’s presence, of feeling accepted by Him in some way, she, or was it he, climbed the ladder, calling out to Him but sensing nothing. Somewhat discouraged, she searched and found a taller ladder, another means of reaching Him, thinking surely this would help. Yet, nothing. Again and again, she pursued this undertaking, ladder after ladder, stretching as high as she could to the heavens, focused on those ladders.
As the disheartened seeker descended the final attempt, she stepped down onto a beautiful floral garden, fragrant and colorful. She looked up to view a majestic mountain and then out to its reflection in a sapphire blue sea. The scene was breathtaking – yes, God’s creation took her breath away. God’s creative presence had been all around her throughout her pursuit of Him!
Every blade of grass, petal, and seashell, and the sparkling sea shouted His Presence from before time to forevermore. The seeker’s senses filled with Him as she breathed in His majesty, and her soul burst forth with praise – He is everywhere! Her grateful, rejoicing heart then stepped into a more profound sense of Him than she had ever imagined. It was a moment, not serendipitous or by chance, yet unexpected just the same. You see, whether sensed or not, He is with us. He loves and accepts the seeker.
Addressed to Israel and authored by David in I Chronicles 16 as well, Psalm 105 travels down through the ages to you and me as a reminder of God’s omnipresence. “Sing him songs, belt out hymns, translate his wonders into music! Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek God. Live a happy life! Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence. Remember the world of wonders he has made, his miracles…” (vs1-5). He won’t disappoint.
As with the seeker, our sincere but often misguided striving leaves us wanting. As Oswald Chambers reminds us in My Utmost, “Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him.” His presence is not subject to our deeds but responds to our awareness. Regardless of our walk today, whether carefree or heavy-ladened, God’s presence surrounds us, and if we will but open our eyes, watch, be alert, and remember, we will sense Him. As we observe “the world of wonders He has made” and recall the miracles He has performed in our past, our abundant praise will leave us breathless with Hallelujahs on our lips.
WHAT WE’VE FOUND
I recently watched a series of videos that shared the compelling story of a business owner named Erin French caught in the throes of survival during the Covid pandemic. It was touching to watch the loss and conflicts this woman juggled daily, attempting to keep her successful restaurant afloat somehow while preserving her mind and body.
In the past year, this scenario has played out countless times around the world. In Brussels, where I live, I often frequented Mom and Pop restaurants for their excellent food and friendly service – after all, if I’m going to consume the calories, I want a great experience too! Sadly, they had to close last year, and many say they will never reopen. Owners have lost everything and moved away.
Somehow, through a good attitude, perseverance, and creativity, at the very least, Erin managed to survive last year and found a way to move forward until her restaurant is fully functional. She made a statement in one of the videos that has stayed with me: “We’re missing what we’ve lost but really thankful for what we’ve found.” I pray you can say the same as you reflect on 2020.
The Biblical Book of Mark was written during a time of chaos and uncertainty for many. People were dying, not from a pandemic, but from a conscientious effort by Nero to obliterate Christians from his vast Roman Empire. No doubt the Christians Mark addressed in Rome faced fear and anxiety for their lives, much like many in our world today are facing from the pandemic and many other causes.
Rather than reiterating in his letter the chaos happening in the world, Mark chose to calm the hearts of believers with the eternal message of hope: “This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1, NLT) The Good News! He shared story after story of the remarkable ministry of Jesus, our helper, our deliverer, our Savior. We receive encouragement from the life and example of Jesus.
Yes. Most have suffered loss. Loss of loved ones, financial stability, peace, and much more. The challenges are enormous. But what have we found? Many have found renewed love and respect within their families. Many have learned creative ways to earn money or stretch the dollar. Pastors have discovered an online presence for their church services they never knew existed, individuals who would never enter a church hearing about a personal relationship with God. The Good News! From the words of those I’ve encountered in recent months, the list of found things is endless.
When we focus on the good news, the found things, the undeniable presence of Jesus in the midst of our struggles, we have hope. The good news is but a breath away if we’re looking for it. Like Mark, this is the time to share it, let it spill out of us, let it breathe life into those overwhelmed by their loss. Just like Mark, we can share story after story about the remarkable ministry of Jesus in our world today.
HIS FAITHFUL LOVE
Most of the time, we feel the challenges we face are unnecessary. We wish events in our lives played out differently, in a less painful or annoying way. But the bottom line is that we most often do not know God’s purpose and intent in these situations. We don’t immediately see the soul whose life is impacted for good or even the many who may see their future in a different light because of our hardship.
The story of Joseph found in Genesis 37-50 is a perfect example. Was it his arrogance that God used to one day deliver the Israelites from bondage? It seemed so unwise for Joseph to share his dreams with his family. His colorful coat was not helpful. Or was it youthful innocence in sharing his dreams that enabled God to use him in this way? I don’t know, but I know that Joseph’s response to the hardships he faced opened the door to Israel’s future.
Joseph’s positive attitude carried him through abandonment, false accusations, imprisonment, and neglect. Instead of giving up in defeat, wallowing in self-pity, and assigning blame to others, Joseph accepted God’s help. “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love… and caused everything he did to succeed.” (Gen39:19,23). God sends, like a breath from Heaven, His help and guidance, and we won’t miss it when our eyes are on Him. “In our deepest trial or greatest joy, we are never outside of God’s abiding love. No matter what you’re walking through today, He is with you!” (Breath from Heaven)
No, we don’t like adversity. We’re not looking for another crisis. Nevertheless, the Lord is with us and shows us “His faithful love” in every situation, the good (yes, He’s with us in the good, too!), the bad, and the ugly. When, like Joseph, our attitude in our difficulty is one of reliance on the Lord, our response will affect at the very least one soul, if not ourselves, and perhaps more people than we can count.
May His breath touch your life today!
GOD’S KINGDOM IS MADE UP OF PEOPLE LIKE THESE…
Tom and I enjoyed connecting with Pastor Jeff and Donna Davis and our friends at Lakeland New Life recently. We’re grateful beyond words for their faithful support through the years for our mission in Europe. Between church services, I met Bonnie at our display/book table. She shared a story about her 11-year-old grandson, Phillip, that humbled me to my knees.
Bonnie saw me standing at our missionary table across the busy church lobby. She entered the sanctuary to find her seat, but she came out to my table to speak with me when she realized who I was. Bonnie was happy to see the missionary she had prayed for was alive and well, and she wanted to meet me and tell me about her grandson, Phillip.
When Phillip heard about my severe illness with Covid, he started to pray for me. He prayed for me every day and continually asked his grandmother if she had heard how I was doing. This young boy felt compelled to pray for a missionary living across the ocean he had never met. As Bonnie shared her story, I was moved to tears, humbled by this dear young man’s earnest prayer. Today, I’m praying for Phillip, praying for God’s blessing on his life, praying that his tender heart will remain.
Beyond a doubt, Phillip’s fervor also touched Heaven. When eager parents brought their children to Jesus for His blessing in Matthew 19, the disciples attempted to send them away. “Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.’ After laying hands on them, he left.” (Matthew 19:14-15, MSG) I wonder if we understand the impact our children have on the heart of God. Do we realize that He sees them, hears them, and responds to them with a passion even greater than our love for them?
Several years ago, during a visit with my son and daughter-in-law, Brady and Lacey, and my sweet grandchildren, I asked them to pray for some physical problems I had been dealing with for quite some time. Karis, who was somewhere around three years old, placed her hand on my knee, bowed her head, and whispered for several seconds. She lifted her head and smiled at me. At that moment, I felt something happen. The next morning, I was completely well! God’s kingdom is made up of people like these, with simple, honest faith, young and old alike.
Thank you, Phillip, my grandkids – Karis, Kai, Giana, Jett – and many other children who prayed for me when I was ill. God heard, God answered, and filled me with His Breath from Heaven.