God’s Light Penetrates Those Hard-to-Reach Places

The night Jesus was arrested he told his disciples, “You will all fall away.”

Peter protested. “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”

Most of us know the rest of the story. Jesus answered, “This very night, before the rooster crows twice you will deny me three times,” Mark 14:30

And it was so.

It is so easy to think more highly of ourself than we ought, but Jesus brings light to the darkness revealing all that is not of him. I was reminded of this through the words of a worship song the very Sunday morning my pastor focused on Peter’s denial. As I sang this attribute of Jesus, the Holy Spirit prompted the recollection of a Proverb I read earlier in the week. “Don’t eat with people who are stingy; don’t desire their delicacies. They are always thinking about how much it costs. ‘Eat and drink,’ they say, but they don’t mean it.” Prov. 23:6-7

Although the Scripture was meant as a word of advice to avoid stingy people, that day it was a word of conviction. I had been determining what to prepare for dinner during a visit from a few family members and I wanted the meal to be special, but was not trusting in God’s provision. The fear of not having enough money had become strongly embedded in my heart. Satan had watched me stress over purchases at the grocery store when money was “tight” and gained a foothold. I was fearful of giving generously, although my Heavenly Father is a generous giver. Always concerned about the cost, I was beginning to live miserly which does not glorify God.

As I sung the worship song, I envisioned the light of Jesus flooding into those dark crevasses of denial deep in my heart that are hard to reach. Strongholds not easily recognized.

During the sermon my pastor said, “Reading the Bible shows us who we truly are.” He talked about the conviction of the Holy Spirit that often comes as we read the Word and added, “God’s Word is a spiritual scalpel that cuts deep into our soul.”

Peter heard the words of Jesus face to face and while we read the words, either way they are transformative.

2 Timothy 3:16-17– “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

The light of Jesus revealed a characteristic in Peter he had not recognized. As soon as the rooster crowed a second time, he realized he had denied Jesus three times, exactly what Jesus had told him.

And he broke down and wept.

The conviction of the Spirit can bring great joy. We are grateful at those times that God is forever patiently instructing us in his ways. But sometimes the revelation is so shattering to our ego we are filled with remorse. We never saw ourself this way. We are truly brought low, broken.

There are things about us that need to be broken, my pastor said, such as our self-will and sinful habits.

Essentially Peter called Jesus a liar by denying the truth of what Jesus had declared. All the disciples would fall away including Peter. We too call Jesus a liar when we fail to see how God’s Word applies to us.

“If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:10

But when we walk with God, he brings light to the darkness so we can practice the truth.

The fact that God is light came to my attention during the worship that Sunday at church and the final Scripture reading at the end of the sermon confirmed it. “…God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5b

God speaks, I wrote in my notebook that morning. Then jotted “full circle,” meaning that God grabbed my attention at the beginning and end of the service so I would remember to seek the light Jesus shines to uncover all that is not of him.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Let’s Talk:

1-How have you experienced Jesus bringing light to the darkness?

2-God speaks to us in many ways. In my blog, I shared an experience I had on a Sunday morning at church. How has God recently spoken to you?

Every Step We Take

With fall approaching, I made plans to have brunch with friends at Carol’s Café on the outdoor deck that overlooks the lake. Brunch al fresco is one of those best of summer activities we try to squeeze in one more time before a layer of frost covers the ground and then snow. Soon Carol’s will close for the winter.

But an overlooked commitment on her schedule prompted one friend to cancel and then a sore mouth from a dental procedure resulted in the second cancelation.

Therefore, instead of dining on a deck I found myself seated at my desk writing, reminded once again of Proverbs 16:9.

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

I often complain about not having enough time to write but I do not block it on my calendar as I do breakfast with friends, an appointment to get my hair cut, or completing lessons for my Bible study class. Quickly I realized God was gifting me with the opportunity to write.

It is not the first time I have noted this Bible verse in play. As a new Christian I was made aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit during a change in plans. I had registered for a creative writing class at a university, charging the expense on a credit card. My decision process was covered in prayer but I felt no direction. A few days before the class was scheduled to start, I received a call from the registrar. She told me not enough students enrolled so the course was canceled. Immediately the Holy Spirit confirmed in my heart that God had indeed heard my prayer and was directing me.

Many times, the Holy Spirit has made me aware of God’s faithful oversight.

Before a scheduled biopsy I went to a lab for a blood draw required prior to the procedure. When it was completed, I planned to leave but seeing a restroom I asked if I might use it. “Of course,” the technician replied so I darted in hoping to get out to the parking lot as quickly as possible for I had a few shopping stops to complete before returning home. When I exited the restroom the lab tech told me she had missed one of the blood draws. I knew God had sent me to the restroom to ensure my labs were complete.

We receive direction in many ways.

–God’s Word.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

–Trusting the LORD and seeking Him

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding: In All your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6  

–Through prayer

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT

But it is reassuring to know that God has our back. That even when we think we have sketched a good map with His guidance, life may not go as planned. But God is for us. He’s in the micro moments of life, step by step.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Photo by Rihaij on Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-When have you suddenly had your plans change? In retrospect, how did the change reveal God’s oversight?

2-Do you cover all decisions and plans in prayer or just the “big ones?” Why might it be wise to acknowledge God in both the big and the small plans we make–the macro and the micro? 

One of a Kind?  

Yesterday at the lake, I saw a dog fetch rocks. He would bury his face in the water and come up with a rock in his mouth. (Not little rocks, but amazingly big rocks.) He brought each one to shore, piling them on the beach near his owner. He took great joy in this endeavor. When it was time to leave, he insisted on carrying one souvenir rock to the pickup truck.

You couldn’t help but like this dog who was like no other. He didn’t stop to consider what impression he would have on those around him, he simply enjoyed being the dog God created him to be.

Recently, I read a Facebook post from a young woman I know talking about cruel words someone used with her daughter causing tears of anguish. It made me contemplate how much we allow critical assessments and negative responses from people to mold and shape us. Often in our preteen and teen years we change or suppress characteristics and attributes to please others, to be accepted by our peers, because we want to be “liked.”

I am frequently inhibited by the eyes of other people. But it seems likely that God desires us to be the person He created us to be, not stifled by the opinions of other people. It makes sense that we should be molded and shaped by God alone.

I am currently working on an essay about all the twists and turns my life has taken as I avoid “looking the fool.” Decisions that set the course… where I went to school, what jobs I applied for, what I tried and didn’t try. Most of this is before Christ, but even in Christ self-consciousness can take control.

Stepping forward in ministry can be halted by doubting our capability in a situation. When I was asked to pray with people after church my heart was gripped by fear. At that time, I was just learning to pray out loud with fellow believers and thought that people would not think me eloquent enough if they came to me for prayer. My husband would tell me to take my eyes off myself and put them on Jesus.

This “self” issue is something worth sorting out. Scripture teaches us to “deny self” (Matthew 16:24). Gotquestions.org describes this as “the natural human inclination toward selfishness,” such as accumulating material possessions rather than living modestly so we might give to those in need.

This doesn’t seem to mean giving up personality traits and the skills and gifts that make us unique. We are created in God’s image. We have attributes and characteristics in common with Him. One is creator. We all are creative and desire to create in some way.

I must write. This passion seems to be part of my DNA. It is who I am.  

Once I read that we often describe ourselves by our vocation and roles but that isn’t really who we are because this could change. After reading that I thought, for a while, I should not introduce myself as a writer. But it seems to me that certain things are part of our makeup. Our status may change, or our ability to do something may change, but that doesn’t mean those roles, vocations, and creative endeavors aren’t a piece of the puzzle that makes us, us.  

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Photo by geralt on Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-What makes you one-of-a-kind?  

Searching for Sabbath  

I am searching for the shape of my Sabbath. True rest is found in God alone. It is where I put down my “to do” lists, my worry, my striving, my demands and concentrate on God’s provision in all areas of my life. I become like a weaned child, as described by David in Psalm 131.

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

I need Sabbath rest when my mind grabs hold of a problem or issue it cannot release and rabbit trails from solution to solution but cannot find relief.

I need Sabbath rest from repetitive chores that enslave me. It seems that laundry, dishes, meal prep, dusting… are never done.

I need Sabbath rest from responsibilities, the things that don’t get done if I don’t do it.

Many suggest setting aside a day, free from routine work so our focus is God. Although the Israelites were commanded by God to take a day this is a requirement of the old covenant. We are under the new covenant.

“So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.” Colossians 2:16-17

At this point in time a day feels like another project to me. Something to strive to accomplish. As I contemplate this, I make notes of ways I might rest in the Lord. My early morning quiet time is one way. Leaving my desk a few hours before dinner and reading a book in the backyard or praising the Lord in prayer or journaling. Finding a Scripture on which to meditate throughout the day.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I begin to notice ways to Sabbath rest. For example, in an email sent by the Navigators I discovered a one-sheet resource titled “How to Meditate on Scripture Day and Night.” This helps when we take a problem to bed with us and dwell on it as we fall asleep.

When our conscious mind rests, our subconscious mind keeps our body functioning. “Whatever your conscious was working on prior to falling asleep will be transmitted to the subconscious.” So, when we prayerfully meditate on the word of God at bedtime our subconscious will dwell on these passages rather than our problems and worries. (navlink.org/meditate)

Finding a Scripture to dwell on whenever I labor without ceasing mentally seems like one way I might find Sabbath rest. I will continue my pursuit and let you know what I find in future posts.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Let’s Talk:

1-What are some of the issues that cause you to labor mentally at night?

2-When you lay your head on your pillow, how do you take your thoughts captive so you can find Sabbath rest?

Spiritual Eyesight Required to See God’s Provision

     “Lord, please give me eyes to see your provision.” This is my prayer.

     As my husband and I drove into the forest to cut a load of firewood the second day of summer, I realized the task at hand was one of the ways God provided winter warmth. My heart filled with gratitude rather than resentment for having to take time for this task, which kept me from my desk where I write.

     Recently a brother in Christ was telling me about some added expenses he had. An unexpected bill and traffic ticket meant the “extra” money he earned from a business he was developing would need to be used to cover these debts. He was disappointed.

     “But the Lord went before you,” I said. “He provided the funds to cover these added expenses.”

     So often we are blind to God’s provision. Yet one of God’s names, Yahweh Yireh, reveals that meeting the needs of His children is part of His character.

     Ann Spangler describes God’s name, Yahweh Yireh-The Lord Will Provide, in her book “Praying the Names of God” thus: “Since God sees the future as well as the past and the present, he is able to anticipate and provide for what is needed. Interestingly the English word “provision” is made up of two Latin words that mean “to see beforehand.”

     His provision is not limited to the material such as firewood, food, or money. God also provides for our spiritual and emotional needs as well.

     A search of Scripture reveals a multitude of ways God provides. Here is a quick review:

     He provides what is needed for good works:

     2 Cor 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” ESV

     He provides the answers needed to calm our hearts:

     Phil 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ESV

     He provides what is needed to live a life of godliness:

     2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” ESV

     When we are burdened, He provides sustenance:

     Ps 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord,

and he will sustain you; he will never permit

the righteous to be moved.” ESV

     God provides wisdom, counsel, and understanding:

     Job 12:13 “With God are wisdom and might;

he has counsel and understanding.” ESV

     He provides the strength and protection we need to make us an example to others:

     Ps 71:7-8 “My life is an example to many,

because you have been my strength and protection. That is why I can never stop praising you; I declare your glory all day long.” NLT

     If I determine that I do not have enough, think my life is meager, and complain about my circumstances I misrepresent God. I am telling the world He is not who He says He is… provider. Therefore, I pray for greater insight so I will have praises, rather than complaints on my lips. I will declare His glory all day long.

Let’s Talk:

1-My list of ways God provides is not complete. If you know a Scripture that adds to the list, please share it in the comment section.

2-I began the blog with a couple provision stories. Please share one of your own in the comment section.