Comforted and Comforting

“The question is not whether you ever gave yourself to God, but whether you are His now” Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward

Elizabeth_Prentiss

Elizabeth Prentiss, née Elizabeth Payson, daughter of an American Congregational preacher, Edward Payson, well known for her hymn “More Love to Thee, O Christ” and the religious novel Stepping Heavenward was deeply impacted by the death of her father who suffered from from tuberculosis for over a year.  She was eight at the time.  During that time, her father’s faith never wavered.  He wrote, “There can be no such thing as disappointment to me, for I have no desires but that God’s will be might be accomplished.” He died a few days before Elizabeth turned nine.

Elizabeth couldn’t calmly accept her father’s death as he had.  She threw temper tantrums, resented those who offered to help and misbehaved, causing her grieving mother great stress.  As she grew older, Elizabeth had conflicting emotions when it came to God.  She longed to trust Him as her parents did.  She was in between two extremes, one moment she believed that she loved God more than life itself and the next, she sank into deep despair about her standing with Him.  In May of 1931, after the family moved to New York City, Elizabeth made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ and joined the Bleecker Street Presbyterian Church.

In 1838, she opened a small girls’ school in her home and took up a Sabbath-school class as well. Two years later, she left for Richmond, Virginia, to be a department head at a girls’ boarding school. It was during her years of teaching and in her twenties, when Elizabeth was in agony because of her conviction of her sinfulness and lack of concern for the things of Christ.  She believed herself to be a hypocrite although the evidence showed otherwise.  She was deeply concerned for the salvation of her pupils, many of whom she led to Christ. When this crisis was over, she experienced a greater joy than she had before.  “Sometimes my heart feels ready to break for the longing it has for a nearer approach to the Lord Jesus than I can obtain without the use of words, and there is not a corner of the house which I can have to myself.”

In 1845, she married George Lewis Prentiss, a brother of her close friend Anna Prentiss Stearns.  The couple settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where George became pastor of South Trinitarian Church.  For a while Elizabeth enjoyed her duties as a pastor’s wife and a housewife and then in 1852, when she was expecting their third child, their son Eddy got sick.  He had “water on the brain”, which we know today as meningitis.  Elizabeth prepared her son for death by telling him stories about what Heaven would be like and urging him to trust Jesus.  Then, he died and at his funeral, the choir sang the hymn, Thy Will Be Done.  Elizabeth wrote, “It was like cold water to thirsty souls. This was all we had to say or could say.”

Three months later, Eddy’s little sister, Bessie was born and appeared to be in good health but a month later, she got seriously ill and died the following day.  So, within five months, the family had lost two children. “My faith has staggered under this new blow,” Elizabeth wrote, “and I blush to tell how hard I find it to say cheerfully ‘Thy will be done.’…Oh how I do wish, do long to feel an entire, unquestioning submission to Him who pities while He afflicts me.”

As a mother, I can relate to how devastating it is to lose a child.  However, I can’t imagine losing two and at such young ages.  It is said that when Eddy died, it was one of the darkest days in her life.  The little boy had broken into a rash and fever. Elizabeth did the little that the doctors could suggest in a desperate attempt to save his life but to no avail.  After Eddy died she recognized that going to Jesus was a great blessing for him in spite her own pain and she wrote lines, urging him to, “O, hasten hence! to His [Christ’s] embraces, hasten!”

Despite her struggles with chronic health problems, Elizabeth was able to to have three more healthy children.  During that time, she wrote a poem which became a children’s classic and a book.  In 1856, following the nearly fatal illness of her daughter Minnie, she wrote the hymn “More Love to Thee.”

Elizabeth, despite her frailty and battle with chronic insomnia, was described as a bright-eyed woman with a keen sense of humor.  With her life wholly dedicated to Christ, she purposefully lived a life of joy.  She said, “Much of my experience of life has cost me a great price and I wish to use it for strengthening and comforting other souls.”

In 1878, at the age of 59, Elizabeth died and her hymn “More Love to Thee” was sung at her funeral. After her death, her husband, George, published The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss (1882), using for the book’s preface, her words, “Much of my experience of life has cost me a great price and I wish to use it for strengthening and comforting other souls.”  Elizabeth had six children, four of whom survived infancy.  Elizabeth was the fifth of eight children.  She was one of the six who survived infancy.

When her two children died within months of each other, Elizabeth, through her grief continued to trust God.  She believed that there’s a purpose in suffering.  She said to a friend whom she was counseling, “We can’t understand it, but I have been thinking that this [suffering] might be God’s way of preparing His children for very high degrees of service on earth or happiness in heaven.” She learned how to be deeply sympathetic with other grieving parents through her own losses by comforting them with the comfort she received.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

“…God notices the most trivial act, accepts the poorest, most threadbare little service, listens to the coldest, feeblest petition, and gathers up with parental fondness all our fragmentary desires and attempts at good works. Oh, if we could only begin to conceive how He loves us, what different creatures we should be!”
Elizabeth Payson Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
“What grieves me is that I am constantly forgetting to recognize God’s hand in the little, everyday trials of life, and instead of receiving them as from Him, find fault with the instruments by which He sends them.”
Elizabeth Payson Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
“…if God chooses quite another lot for you, you may be sure that He sees that you need something totally different from what you want.”
Elizabeth Payson Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
“I see that if I would be happy in God, I must give Him all. And there is a wicked reluctance to do that. I want Him–but I want to have my own way, too. I want to walk humbly and softly before Him and I want to go where I shall be admired and applauded. To whom shall I yield? To God? Or to myself?”
Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward [with Biographical Introduction]

Sources:  Wikipedia; Christianity.com; Good Reads; Encyclopædia Britannica; Bulletin Inserts;

God Lifted Me Up

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God (Psalm 40:1-3).

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Sometime ago I had a rough week.  At one point I felt as if I were drowning.  I was so overwhelmed that I came close to quitting my job but God gave me the strength to carry on.  On my way home from work on Friday afternoon, I felt drained.  My tiredness was like a heavy burden weighing me down.

When I got home, I played some of my favorite Gospel CDs and I felt the heaviness lift.  I sang along, my heart filling with joy.  I was singing praises to the Lord and as I focused on the words I felt my self lifted up.  I became energized.  I was no long tired.  I played several CDs and read a couple of quotes and sayings from “God’s Little Instruction Book for Women”.  It was a wonderful way to usher in the Sabbath.

God lifted me out of the pit of despair and placed my feet on solid ground.  God lifted me up when I lifted Him up.  The best pick me up is singing praises to God.  The next time you feel low, pick up the Bible and read a psalm that praises God, put on your favorite Gospel CD or sing a few hymns.   One that comes to mind is Sing praise to God.

Sing praise to God who reigns above,
the God of all creation,
the God of power, the God of love,
the God of our salvation.
With healing balm my soul He fills,
and every faithless murmur stills;
To God all praise and glory!

What God’s almighty power hath made
His gracious mercy keepeth;
By morning glow or evening shade,
His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth,
Within the kingdom of his might,
Lo! all is just, and all is right:
To God all praise and glory!

The Lord is never far away,
throughout all grief distressing,
an ever present help and stay,
our peace and joy and blessing.
As with a mother’s tender hand,
He leads His own, His chosen band:
To God all praise and glory!

Then all my gladsome way along,
I sing aloud thy praises,
that men may hear the grateful song
my voice unwearied raises:
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart!
both soul and body bear your part!
To God all praise and glory.

Doubt

“Occupy your mind with My love, leaving no room for worry and doubt.”

doubt

Doubt is like a bad penny.  It always keeps turning up.  It seems that no matter how many times we see the hand of God working in our lives, there is always room for doubt.  Even when we have a close relationship with Him, there are times when we still have doubts.  The disciples, who spent so much time with Jesus, still had doubts.  When Jesus told them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” they thought He was referring to food.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said, “You have so little faith!  Why are you worried about having no food?  Won’t you ever understand?  Don’t you remember the five thousand I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of food that were left over?  Don’t you remember the four thousand I fed with seven loaves, with baskets of food left over?  How could you even think I was talking about food? So again I say, `Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6-13) He was reminding them that each time they needed food, He was able to provide.  Then it dawned on them that He wasn’t speaking about yeast or bread but the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The disciples had seen Him perform miracles before and they had forgotten how He had fed thousands of people with what seemed like very little food.  He had made a little go a long way.  Like the disciples, we too doubt the power of God and He has to remind us.

The disciples doubted the resurrection.  The Bible says, it was early on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead, and the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.  She went and found the disciples, who were grieving and weeping.  But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.  Jesus also appeared to two other people.

At first they didn’t recognize Him because He had changed His appearance but once they realized that it was Him, they rushed back to tell the others but they didn’t believe them.   When Jesus appeared to the eleven, He rebuked them for their unbelief” (Mark 16:9-14).  In the Gospel of Matthew, it says, that when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted (Matthew 28:17).

Mary had taken good news to the disciples but they allowed doubts to spoil what should have been a joyful moment.  Sometimes we allow doubts to get the better of us and we miss out.  Doubts could prevent us from seeing God’s blessings.  The religious leaders in Jesus’ time had the Light but their doubts kept them in darkness.  Doubts can hinder us from doing the Lord’s work.  Doubts can rob us of great opportunities.

Jesus does not want us to worry or have doubts.  He wants us to focus instead of Him and what He can do for us.  The next time you start to doubt Him, remember these words, “Only believe, only believe; All things are possible, only believe”.

Never doubt, only trust and believe.  Remember all the times Jesus came through for you.   Fill your mind with His love and promises.  Don’t clutter your mind with doubts.  As Paul advised us, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).  Searching the scriptures will also help.  Diffuse the doubts with God’s Word.  Whenever you have a task to do and you start to have doubts about it, say to yourself “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Devastating News

240_F_43342280_9fhJmIlVeQ5Zo89BgyO4mMkrzhXYj3UjSo, dinner with Marcus was amazing.  I had such a great time.  As I do my work, my thoughts take me back to that Saturday evening.  He came and picked me up at my place at exactly seven.  He looked very handsome in his expensive looking tan colored jacket and white shirt.  His eyes traveled over me in my red dress with the cap sleeves and flare skirt.  I had washed my hair and it fell in wavy curls about my face.  I could see the admiration in his eyes and I was thrilled.  “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

I smiled.  “Thank you,” I replied as I preceded him into the hallway.  After I closed and locked the door, we walked to the elevator.  The Hispanic woman who lived opposite me was coming towards us.  After she greeted me, I saw her eyes shift to Marcus and the way she looked at him.  I glanced up at him but he was looking straight ahead.  He was probably was used to women admiring him.  I can just imagine that a lot of his female students had crushes on him.  It made me feel great that I was the one he was taking out for dinner.  Nervous excitement filled me and soon we were on our way to the restaurant.  He drove a Bentley.

On the way, we talked about all sorts of things.  I learned that he was a Seventh-day Adventist like me.  The rest of the family was Baptist.  “What made you switch?” I asked.

“When I started studying the Bible, I realized that there were some major doctrinal misunderstandings of the Baptist church such as the secret rapture of the church, immortality of the soul, eternal torment, Once saved always saved, Sunday sacredness and the law being done away with in Christ.  There were Bible texts which refuted all of these teachings.  An Adventist colleague of mine invited me to an evangelistic series which I attended.  My life changed after that.  I left the Baptist church and became an Adventist.  What about you?  Were you always an Adventist?”

“Yes and I’m thankful for that.”

We reached the restaurant which such a warm and friendly atmosphere.  I loved it and the food was out of this world.  I loved being with Marcus.  He was so much fun.  I felt as if we had known each other for ages.  I could tell that he enjoyed my company too.  I felt that I was on cloud nine and I didn’t want the evening to end.  As we were having our dessert, he said to me, “I once had someone ask me if God only saves vegans.  The person asked me that question because he was told by a vegan member that those who are still eating flesh food will never see Heaven.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I exclaimed.  “What did you say to the person?”

“I told him that we are saved by Christ’s grace and His righteousness and not by our own works. We can’t earn our way to heaven by being vegan or vegetarian, nor do we choose to not eat meat because we believe that by doing so we will be saved.  It’s like what Paul said when the Jewish Christians were saying that the non-Jewish Christians had to be circumcised in order to be saved.  Being circumcised or not doesn’t save anyone.  We are saved by faith alone and not by works so that none of us can boast about how good we are and how much we deserve to go to Heaven.  Salvation is for everyone once they accept Christ.”

“I can’t stand it when people have issues with me eating fish and poultry even though these are considered clean.  Jesus Himself wasn’t a vegetarian.  He ate fish.  When the Lord visited Abraham with the two angels, didn’t they eat Veal?”

Marcus nodded.  “Yes.  It’s a shame that diet is the bone of contention in the church.  Eating meat became part of the diet after the flood and unless God Himself tells me that I should become a vegetarian or vegan, I will continue to eat fish and white meat.”

“Amen to that.”  The rest of the evening we talked about other things and then it was time for him to take me home.

When we were standing outside of my door, he said, “I had a wonderful evening.”

“So did I,” I was quick to let him know.  I wanted to say that I wish it wouldn’t end.  I couldn’t invite him inside because of what could happen.  As Christians, we had to be mindful of how easily we can become tempted to do things we know we ought not to do.  If we didn’t believe in the Bible then, we would not have thought anything was wrong with him coming into my apartment for a nightcap or spending the night.

“When can I see you again?”

“Anytime you wish,” I was happy to tell him.  Every single day would suit me just fine.

“Tomorrow I would like to take you to Napa.  I can pick you up in the morning and take a scenic drive.  It takes about an hour and forty-one minutes to get San Jose to there.  Once we get there, there are several fun things we can do.  What do you say?”

“I say yes!”

“Good, I’ll see you tomorrow.  I will call you.”

I smiled up at him before I opened my door.  I turned to face him.  “Good night and thank you for a wonderful evening.”

327_16843_17“You’re welcome, Abi.  Good night.” He reached out and gently squeezed my arm.

I leaned against the door frame, watching as he walked away.  My heart leapt in my chest when he stopped and turned to look at me, a slight smile on his face before he continued down the hallway towards the elevators.  I waited until one came and I heard the doors close before I went into my apartment.  For the rest of the night and all morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about Marcus.

The next day, he took me to Napa and the first thing we did was go for a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards.  It was an exhilarating experience.  Marcus told me that the next time we would go early in the morning when it’s even more spectacular.  Next, we went Olive Oil tasting, we had lunch a very nice Spanish restaurant called Zuzu.  Afterwards we went to Sterlings’s where we stomped grapes.  The grapes felt so yucky between my toes and my feet had turned purple but we got free tee shirts.

Before we went bowling, we wandered for a bit in downtown Napa with its shops, cafes and chocolatiers and visited the Oxbow Public Market where we treated ourselves to organic ice-cream.  It had been a long time since I had an ice-cream so it was a big treat for me.  After we finished our ice-creams, we headed to the bowling center where we spent the rest of the afternoon.  I never had so much fun in my life and I thanked God for bringing Marcus into my life.  As we drove back to San Jose, we made plans for our next date.  And we have been dating ever since.

The ringing of the phone brings me back to the present.  I stare at the display.  I don’t recognize the name.  I pick up the receiver.  “Hello?”

“Hello Abiyomi.  This is Philip Jennings.  We met at the barbecue.”

“Oh, yes, I remember you now.  You’re married to Bobby’s sister, Nicole.”

“Yes.  I called your mother and she gave me your work number.”

I could sense that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“It’s about Bobby.”

My heart was pounding now.  “What’s happened to Bobby?”

“He died this morning.”

I began to tremble.  “Died?  But how?” As far as I knew Bobby physically fit.  He hardly got sick.

“He took his life.”

Source:  Perspectives-Adventist; Seed Time; A Passion and a Passport; SFbaytripper; California Dream Big

Singing

I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me – Psalm 13:6

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Ranan means to sing, shout, cry out.  Ranan is often used to express joy, exultation which seems to demand loud singing, especially when it comes to praising God.

Isaiah 12:6

Proverbs 8:3

Psalm 32:11

Shir calls people to express their praises to God in singing

Psalm 96:1-6

 

Who sing?

Believers

Ephesians 5:19

The Redeemed

Revelation 5:9

 

When to sing?

Times of victory

Exodus 15:1, 21

Imprisonment

Acts 16:25

Times of Joy

James 5:13

 

Why Sing?

Thanksgiving

Psalm 147:7

Joy

Psalm 27:6

Gladness

Jeremiah 31:7

 

What to Sing about?

God’s power

Psalm 59:16

God’s mercies

Psalm 89:1

God’s righteousness

Psalm 51:14

 

What kind of songs?

Triumph

Judges 5:12

Spiritual joy

Psalm 119:54

Physical joy

Genesis 31:27

Deliverance

Psalm 32:7

Singing/songs help us to stop wrestling with negative thoughts.  It shifts our focus away from our problems to God.  King David sang to the Lord in Psalm 13.

Do you wake up in the morning and find yourself humming a song that keeps playing in your mind throughout the day?  What about when you are going through a tough time and a song that is just right for your particular situation comes to mind?  I have had the experience where I was going through a rough time and suddenly, out of nowhere, the words, “God will take care of you” started to go through my mind.  I could hear the tune.

I went and got my hymnal to see if there was such a song.  I was surprised when I saw it.  I wondered if it sounded like how I imagined it to be.  One day I got my answer.  When the hymn was sung in church the chorus was exactly how it played in my head.  Singing and songs have lifted my spirits, strengthened, given me hope, comfort and encouragement.

Two years ago a group of us went on the Great Controversy tour and we visited a place called Torre Pellice in Italy where the Waldensians hid from the Christians who were persecuting them.  We went into one of the caves where men, women and children hid.  It was cold, damp and dark.  We had to be very careful when we crawled in and we had to have torchlights, which those people didn’t have at that time.  We stood there in the cave and we thought of the people who had be flee into the wilderness and hide in caves because they would not compromise their faith.  We started to sing “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” Singing this song gave us the strength and courage and helped us to appreciate these brave men and women who ended up dying for their faith.  One of these days, we will meet them and together we will sing the song of the redeemed.

Stop Making Excuses

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When God calls us to serve Him do we make excuses?  Moses did.  When God asked him to go and tell the Pharaoh to let the Jews go, Moses protested, “O Lord, I’m just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I’m not now, even after you have spoken to me. I’m clumsy with words.”  So God asked him, (Exodus 4:10-12) “Who makes mouths?” the Lord asked him. “Who makes people so they can speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and do as I have told you.  I will help you speak well, and I will tell you what to say.”

Moses protested but in the end, he led the people out of Egypt.  He became a great leader.  After his death, it was written that, “There has never been another prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent Moses to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and his entire land.  And it was through Moses that the Lord demonstrated his mighty power and terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

We have to trust God and believe that He will equip us for the work He calls us to do.  He used the staff Moses carried to perform great things and He equipped Moses to become a leader.  When it became too much for Moses to handle the many responsibilities, God impressed Jethro, Moses’ father in law to give him this very good advice, “You’re going to wear yourself out-and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing him their questions to be decided.

You should tell them God’s decisions, teach them God’s laws and instructions, and show them how to conduct their lives.  But find some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes.

“Appoint them as judges over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.  These men can serve the people, resolving all the ordinary cases. Anything that is too important or too complicated can be brought to you. But they can take care of the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God directs you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” (Exodus 18:18-23)

Moses learned how to delegate and that too makes for good leadership.  God does not expect one person to do everything and that is why leaders in the church and in the world have people working with them.  Jesus taught this when He called twelve men into His ministry.  He could have done it all by Himself but He chose not.

Jeremiah was a youth when God called Him to service.  He shares the experience which must have been overwhelming.  “The Lord gave me a message. He said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

“Don’t say that,” the Lord replied, “for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 1:4-8)

When God calls us, He doesn’t send out to do the work and leaves us on our own.  He is with us every step of the way—instructing, guiding and helping us.  I used to be shy and didn’t socialize easily.  Since I allowed God to use me, I am not shy anymore.  He helped me to gradually get over my shyness.  I started with small things like scripture reading, poetry reading and then I graduated to telling the mission story, sharing my testimony in front of a large audience and making announcements.  He called me to be the leader of Singles Ministry.  I didn’t know anything about being a leader but I trusted that He would help me to do my best and He did.  He accomplished a lot through me.  Now, I am comfortable being a leader and I delegate like Moses was encouraged to.

Is God calling you to serve Him?  Don’t use your age or gender as an excuse not to answer His call.  David was a boy when he was anointed king of Israel and Josiah Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years.  He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn aside from doing what was right. (2 Kings 22:2)  God accomplished great things through women.  Deborah was a judge, Miriam was a prophetess and Dorcas was a disciple and community worker.  God can use you.  Stop making excuses and allow Him to do marvelous work through you.