Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“ANSWER ME; when I call, O God of justice. You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me and hear my prayer.”
“The devil may wall you ‘round
But he cannot roof you in;
He may fetter your feet and tie your hands
And strive to hamper your soul with bands
As his way has ever been;
But he cannot hide the face of God
And the Lord shall be your light,
And your eyes and your thoughts can rise to the sky,
Where His clouds and His winds and His birds go by,
And His stars shine out at night.
The devil may wall you ‘round;
He may rob you of all things dear,
He may bring his hardest and roughest stone
And thinks to cage you and keep you alone,
But he may not press too near;
For the Lord has planted a hedge inside,
And has made it strong and tall,
A hedge of living and growing green;
And ever it mounts and keeps between
The trusting soul and the devil’s wall.
For the devil may wall you ‘round,
But the Lord’s hand covers you,
And His hedge is a thick and thorny hedge,
And the devil can find no entering wedge
Nor get his finger through;
He may circle about you all day long,
But he cannot work as he would,
For the will of the Lord restrains his hand,
And he cannot pass the Lord’s command
And his evil turns to good.
The devil may wall you ‘round,
With his gray stones, row on row,
But the green of the hedge is fresh and fair,
And within its circle is space to spare,
And room for your soul to grow;
Thy wall that shuts you in
May be hard and high and stout,
But the Lord is sun and the Lord is dew,
And His hedge is coolness and shade for you,
And no wall can shut Him out.”
Annie Johnson Flint
Today’s Study Text:
“Now a certain man named Lazarus was ill. He was of Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived.”
“The Fragrance of His Presence” Part 11
“When The Future Is Unknown ”
“Do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.”
How do I feel when the future is perplexing and unknown?
How do I think Mary and Martha felt when their only brother became ill?
“I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow.”
“The next moment is as much beyond our grasp, and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for a day in the next thousand years. In neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything.”
C. S. Lewis
The well-known actress and beauty, Elizabeth Taylor noted that when people would say about her, “She’s got everything,” she would respond with these profoundly truthful words, “I haven’t had tomorrow.”
What insight. none of us know what tomorrow holds. In fact, none of us even knows what the next minute in our life will be like. I’ll never forget driving away from my parent’s home in Reno, Nevada nearly 30 years ago. Jim and I had just spent what I like to call, “a heavenly weekend,” with my mom and dad. Both Jim and I were waving our hands off until we rounded the corner and the vision of my parents standing at the edge of their driveway waving back at us became a treasured memory. How little I knew at that moment. In just over 24 hours our entire family was turned upside down because of my father’s sudden death.
As I’ve reflected on that day over the passing years, the one lesson that continues to stand out in my mind is this: We don’t know what the future holds. But, and this is critical, if we have laid the moments of our lives in the hands of our Master, we have nothing whatsoever to fear.
In the coming days, as we continue to become better acquainted with the family in Bethany, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, we will be reminded, repeatedly, that because they opened their lives to the presence of Jesus, no matter what they faced, they were able, even during the darkest and most foreboding events, to keep their trust in their Master and Lord.
As we turn to the words left by the beloved Apostle John, we uncover the fact that they are colored by the sudden illness which struck Lazarus and apparently, it became evident very quickly, that the physicians who might have been available at that time in history, were not able to provide a treatment which would cure him. As the disciple John states: “A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany” (John 11: 1, The Message Bible).
This is how John 11 begins and it is an emphatic declaration, that is for certain. As John also points out, this was Mary and Martha’s dear brother. We can only imagine how they felt, but be assured – they were deeply concerned. I appreciate how commentator Matthew Henry writes about this situation when he observes: “Lazarus was sick; and the sickness of those we love is our affliction. The more friends we have the more frequently we are thus (filled) by sympathy; and the dearer they are the more grievous it is.”
Right now in Transformation Garden, we are experiencing many prayer requests which call for us to join together to pray for the physical healing of God’s children all around the world. Sometimes prayer requests come in “waves.” We have hundreds of requests in the past several years for God’s children who needed to find jobs. While we still are praying for individuals who need work, at this point in time, so many of God’s children have, like Lazarus, been suddenly struck by unexpected illness. And for many, the future is not laid out before them in a well-defined map. So instead of falling under a cloud of discouragement because of the path we can not see, we trust our Guide who promises, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” no matter how our way twists and turns.
As I was writing for this chapter, I came upon a prayer penned by an unknown author, which struck a cord in my heart and encouraged my spirit that indeed my Father has my future planned down to each minute detail. In fact, these words could very well have been written by any one of us during critical times when we have questioned what’s going on in our own lives:
“Almighty God, who in Thy wisdom hast so ordered our earthly life that we needs must walk by faith and not by sight, grant us such faith in Thee that, amidst all things that pass our understanding, we may believe in Thy Fatherly care, and ever be strengthened by the assurance that underneath are the everlasting arms; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Lazarus became ill. But thank God that nothing that happened in Lazarus’ life or that is happening in your life and mine happens capriciously or without the notice of our Father. In the beautiful words of Francois Fénelon, “We sleep in peace in the arms of God.” May we speak with King Solomon, who penned these words of wisdom and truth: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the “One” who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!” (Proverbs 3: 5-7, The Message Bible).
“The fairest things are those that silent come;
You may not hear the first approach of morn,
And though you listen as the golden sum
of hours fade into dusk, no sound is born.
When the stars dance on high no bugles blow;
The footsteps of the flowers fall silently,
As softly come the blossoms of the snow,
And clouds by in pale tranquility.
No voices herald moonlight on a lake;
The silvery dew is still; these gifts are given
As quietly as Christ, who for our sake
Was sent to us, the greatest gift of heaven.
Tenderly now, as in the yesterday,
He leads earth – weary children in His way.”
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow
“I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from it’s sunshine
For it’s skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
Every step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb;
Every burden’s getting lighter,
Every cloud is silver-lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eye;
At the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains touch the sky.
Many things about tomorrow;
It may bring me poverty.
But the one who feeds the sparrow,
Is the one who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion
May be through the flame or flood;
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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