Friday, September 30, 2005

The Doctrine of Divine Providence or Bloom Where You Are Planted

As a lay speaker, I’m often called upon to fill a pulpit when a pastor is sick or out of town. Occasionally I’ll post sermons that I’ve given. Over the course of the next few days I’ll be posting one of those - broken up into parts, of course…

Sermon Series

The Doctrine of Divine Providence
Bloom Where You Are Planted - Part One

The date is April 473BC, the place is Shushan, the capital city of Persia - in modern day Iran, the world leader is Xerxes, also known by his title of Ahasuerus.

A proclamation has just been issued in his name that every Jewish person, in every providence in Persia, is to be executed on March 14th, 11 months from then. His wife, the queen, is Jewish, but he doesn’t know it.

How did we get here? A little background - Ahasuerus was a descendant of Cyrus the Great. Cyrus had conquered the great Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar in 538BC. Along with that victory Cyrus inherited all the nations that Babylon had conquered. Included in that was the very tiny nation of Judah.

Cyrus was a wise ruler, rather than try to keep all these nations in bondage, he allowed the people to return to their own countries, rebuild their cities and their temples, serve their own gods, and for this great freedom, they would pay him tribute, also known as taxes.

The Israelites were free now to return home. God’s will was that they return home, but not everyone wanted to return home. Those who remained in Persia, and other parts of the empire, were still God’s children, but they were out of the will of God. They were disobedient. It is here, at this time and place, that we find the setting for the book of Esther.

Scripture: Esther 4:13-17
Father, open our eyes as we hear these stories of your chosen people. May we see your Divine Hand moving in history, from your promises to Abraham to the fulfilling of prophecy in Christ. May we see and understand that you are still moving today. You are still in ultimate control.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Random thoughts of comfort


In reading in the book of Corinthians last night I came across the passage that says that about God not putting more on us than we can bear... you know - the phrase that everyone quotes when they don't know what to say...HOWEVER what it really says is that God will not put more on us than HE will provide a way through! "WE" ain't got anything to do with it! (ain't that the way it always is!)

By the way, the Greek word for “temptation” is peirasmos which means
a putting to proof (by experiment [of good], experience [of evil], solicitation, discipline or provocation); by implication adversity: -

Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him.”

And I say, “through my tears (or sick stomach) yet will I exalt
the name of my God!


“All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord,
and are called according to His purpose.”

As Christians, we embrace this scripture;
as humans, we tend to forget it
unless we are espousing it to someone else during their struggle.

Oh that the faith we have in God’s working in another’s life
would consume our own hearts and spirits during times of trial.


He is There

I cry with the Psalmist
and even My Lord

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Where have You gone
Why have You hidden Your face?

But even as the cry
tears forth from my lips
The very words I’ve forgotten in my head
hold tight
in the depths of my heart

“I will never leave you
nor forsake you…”

And I know
He is there....


(Oh Jennifer, my friend, I love you and will continue to pray for you and your family.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

When God's Peace Scares Me

We have just received word that dear friend, a man of God, has been in a serious accident.

Of course, my immediate response is to pray.

First of all, I feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach - a fear - he may not make it. He has a young family - Oh God!

And I pray more…

Then a peace washes over me - a calmness - an understanding if you will, of God’s perfectness, of His Divine Will and perfect plan.

And I know, everything’s going to be ok. But now that scares me.

How can God’s peace scare me? What if it means that we still have to trust God, even in the midst of pain and suffering? What if it means God is saying, “You know that I am perfect.”

What if… I don’t know.

All I know is, God has given me peace.
And now, I pray for peace for them.

I wrote that about midnight last night. And at 1:30am I heard that he had died.

And I feel - what?
Is it peace or just numbness?
I don’t know.
And that scares me…

Who do I think I am, that I hear God? That I’ve got this big deal “gift of the Spirit”?

Right now, I ain’t got nothing…


Monday, September 26, 2005

Prayer Circles...

Father, I lift up this child of Yours. I looked into her eyes and saw pain. She didn’t have to say a word, in fact when I saw her, it was in the midst of an ordinary occasion, but still, I saw the pain.

As we talked I found out, at least some of her angst and realized, “I’ve been there…” Oh, I realize Lord, that none of our situations are the same, but still, I’ve been very close to where she is. And so, I pray for her.

I pray Lord that she might be able to see some glimmer of hope in this situation; that others who’ve “been there and done that” will give her encouragement and support (and hopefully I did.)

I pray Lord, for strength in the midst of what seems like forever in her life. Give her good nights of sleep, give her good days often enough to ease her mind, and give her a good “ear” to stand by her. We all need these - these, Your other children who speak to and pray for us.

And then today Lord, I pray for me. I pray for someone who’s been where I am, to come to me and give me words of encouragement and support. I am in the midst of a situation that seems like forever in my own life, and I pray for good nights of sleep, and good days often enough to ease my mind. And I pray for an “ear” to stand by me.

Father it seems, that as we are Your children, we create a “circle.” As we go through situations, we’ve been through situations, and we have yet, situations to go through. We are all within one of those stages in our lives.

May we, Lord, pray for and help those “behind us” as we are prayed for and helped by those “in front of us.”

I ask this in the name of the One Who has gone before each of us, has paved the way and opened the door - even Jesus. Amen


Sunday, September 25, 2005

I don't feel like praying...

This was written a few days ago. I couldn't even bring myself to post it then...


Oh Lord, I need to pray, but I don’t feel like praying.
I need to read my bible, but I don’t feel like reading my bible.
I am so tired.
When I set out to pray, my mind goes blank.
When I pick up my bible, the words just jumble together in a heap.

I need to just close my eyes and imagine your arms holding me.
Bear me up Lord. Carry me along.
Let me hear Your soothing “mothering” noises that comforted me as a child.

Let me pick up my bible and just read the “underlined” passages. Let me hear words that have spoken to me in my past. Let my “history” lead me through my present and on into my future.

Remind us Lord, when we read Your word in good times, to let it be as refreshing rains that fill reservoirs. So that in times of “drought” (or is that “doubt”?) we can draw from our reserve.

I once wrote a poem that said, “A woman gives, and gives, and gives;
then has to give some more.
Not only must I meet my needs, I need a reservoir.”

And I do. Today especially, I do.

Thank You Lord for comfort.
Thank You, that as the song says,
“Though my body is weary, my soul is uplifted
My sins are forgiven, and my Jesus is real!”

Thank You, that as I don’t feel like praying - You listen anyway…

Betty J. Newman © September 22, 2005

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Sometimes I think of the great hymns of faith. We sing them weekly (or is that weakly :-) in our Church services. Do we ever really think about the words we sing? Take for instance the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Let us look at the words as they speak to us…

Oh, Thou overflowing Fountain of every conceivable blessing
Put my heart in tune to sing Your grace;

Your streams of mercy Lord, they are never ceasing - they go on and on…
They call for songs of my loudest praise.

Oh Father, teach me some melodious sonnet,
The kind sung by those flaming tongues of the Saints above.

Praise the mount - Mount Moriah - I’ve fixed my eyes upon it,
It is the Mount, the place, of Your redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer; - my place of memorial
It is here, by Your great help I’ve come; I could never have come alone…
And I hope, and have faith and believe, that by Your good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home in heaven.

Jesus sought me when I was a stranger,
when I did not want to be found, He came searching for me.
I was wandering from the fold, the place of safety of God;

And He, in order to rescue me, yes ME! from danger,
Bought me with the payment of His own precious blood.
(That gives me chills just thinking about it!)

Oh to Your Amazing grace, how great a debtor
Daily - every single day - I’m constrained to be!
Let Your goodness,
like a fetter, a binding, a chain of love,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Oh my God, I am so prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; I know it.
I am so prone and apt to leave the God I love.
HERE! Here’s my heart,
Oh God, please take it and seal it,
Seal it for heaven and for Your courts above…

The next time you sing the hymns of the saints - listen to the words…


Monday, September 19, 2005

An overwhelming prayer list

Have you ever been overwhelmed by your prayer list?

I have what I call, my “refrigerator” list. It began as a small list of people that I wanted to be reminded to pray for, more often than “specific” prayer times. I would see this list on the refrigerator as I passed by “a hundred” times a day, and I’d lift them up in what A.W. Tozer calls “countless thought prayers.”

As time went on, names kept getting added to the list until today the page is covered, and names are written in margins, along the edge and scribbled even between other names. And I, at times, am overwhelmed by it all.

How do I pray for all these people? What about all the others with the same or similar situations? And, what do I say when I don’t know what to say…?

One day as I was looking at the list I began thinking about the “list” as a whole. I thought, “There must be others with the same dilemma. How would I tell them to pray?” And this prayer was born…

Prayer List Prayer

Father, I lift up to You today, Your servants of the Kingdom. I lift up those who are doing battle - those who are fighting the good fight; those who are running the race, who are staying the course.
I lift up those who are striving on to perfection, those who are children in the faith, and those who are unaware, or worse, uncaring.

I lift them up by name:
(Look at your list. Read off the names, remembering and praying for each person’s need as you know it.)

I lift them up by occupation:
(As you’re looking at your list, pray for others of their occupation. For instance, if someone on your list is a nurse, lift up other nurses, members of the medical field, and those for whom they will be caring this day . If someone is a teacher, lift up teachers of all kinds and their students, etc.)

I lift them up by affliction:
(If someone is sick, lift up others with the same sickness. If someone is traveling, lift up others who are traveling for business or pleasure. If someone is an unbeliever, lift up other unbelievers.)

Father, as I see faces with each name, I know that you see hearts, spirits and souls. Touch them I pray. Speak to their hearts and meet their needs. Strengthen their spirits, and comfort their souls. May they hear Your call and come to know the Joy of the Lord.

Father, I pray that in all we say and in all that we do, Your Name may be praised and glorified.
In Jesus’ Name,

Betty Newman

Friday, September 16, 2005

Back porch prayer

Father, as I sit out here on the back porch, I realize how blessed we are - how very blessed I am. As all I hear are the birds twittering, squirrels chattering, jar flies - well, jarring, and dogs barking in the distance. I think about what I don’t hear. I don’t hear families fighting, people cursing, tires squealing, or sirens wailing. I don’t hear babies and children crying from fear or hunger. And I have never, ever, heard a gun shot in anger.

I can’t even imagine hearing machine guns, tanks, or bombs.

Oh God, my heart aches for those who do…

Even our animals are blessed. Our dog moves from one spot to another and emits a low moan as she flops down. The cat stretches and begins to clean himself, without a worry (if cats worry) about where his next meal is coming from.

If our horses are injured, we don’t hesitate, we call the vet. And Father, there are those who can’t even call a doctor if their child is ill. Are we wrong for what we have? Should we, like those in the early church in Jerusalem, sell our possessions and give to those who have nothing?

Or should we just be more responsible stewards, and more thankful for our wealth (and that is, what it is - wealth) and these great blessings that You’ve given us.

Father, show us what You would have us do…

Betty Newman

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Evening prayer

Father, the scriptures tell us that You “walked with Adam in the cool of the evening.” I understand that on these cool early-autumn evenings.

The sun has dipped beyond the trees and it’s cool now. The birds and bugs and “critters” are “making a joyful noise.” And I feel Your presence.

Oh, I feel it at other times as well - sitting in the cancer treatment center with my Dad, as well as when I sat in the ICU waiting room worrying about our son. I’ve felt it during graduation exercises, wedding services and funeral services. I feel it in the hazy moments just before drifting off to sleep at night, and in the arms of my husband - I know You are there.

But there’s just something about feeling You in nature that is sooo different - so comforting. This must be kinda like it felt on that Seventh day for You. All was created, all was done, all was complete, and all was perfect - for the moment.

And now, all is perfect - for the moment…

Thank You, Lord.


Now, as the evening progresses, it is getting too cool, and so I must go in. But, what about those who have no “in” to go to? I lift them up to You tonight, Lord, and pray for their safety, their warmth, and especially for the wisdom to know how to help them…


Monday, September 12, 2005

I saw a little worry...

I saw a little worry the other day - it wasn’t very big - not enough to bother God with - so I just picked it up, stuck it in my pocket, and went on my way…

A day or so later, I ran across a concern, but I just threw it over my shoulder and traveled on…

The same with a care, it wasn’t much to bear - or so I thought…

As time passed, I collected several more cares, concerns and worries. They didn’t seem like much at each particular incident, but after a while, I began to notice that I’d picked up quite a collection - quite a load.

These distresses began to be a burden. They started gaining weight, and inter-marrying, and multiplying until they completely overwhelmed my life! They were there when I went to sleep, and there when I woke up. And sometimes they even invaded my slumber.

They swung from the rafters and hid under the bed. They perched on my shoulders and played tag in my head.

Ultimately, I reached the point of sheer exhaustion and utter despair. Then finally, I cried out to God, “HERE! YOU TAKE IT! I CAN’T HANDLE THEM ANYMORE!

And God said, “My child, why did you wait so long? Did you not know that I would have taken every worry, every care, and every concern right from the beginning - no matter how small?”

And I thought, “Yes, Lord, I know…”

And I wonder why do we do that; when He is more willing to speak than we are to listen; when He is more willing to give than we are to receive; when He is more willing to save than we are to serve? Why do we think we can do it all - when in reality, we can do nothing…

And so I vowed to take Him everything - every hurt and every pain, every mar and every stain, and every joy and delight, every thrill and every height of wonderment - everything!

For He is Lord - He is Yahweh - He is Jehovah-Jireh, and He will provide…

Betty J. Newman © August 31, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

It is well with my soul...

I’m just human. There are times when I have difficult days. You know the kind - when you just want to say “what’s the use? Just WHAT is the point?” You know what I mean? You ever have a day like that?

One particular time that this happened, that night I had to go to a Knox County honors band concert that our younger son was in, and I didn’t want to go. I just wasn’t in the mood to go. But, I hadn’t missed one of his concerts, and so I went.

On the program, one of the songs listed was “Unknown Hymn”. That didn’t mean anything to me, but when they started playing this song, my eyes flooded with tears.

When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I left there saying, “Lord, it is, well with my soul, but it still hurts” and I heard in my spirit, “just because it is well with my soul doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still hurt. It just means that I know God is in control.”

The Psalmist said
If I ascend up into heaven, you are there:
if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

And Paul said

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And so through my tears I declare, “It is well, it is well, with my soul…”

Just recently I attended the funeral of the father of a friend of mine. It took place at a small country church where you could feel the love, and you just knew that decorum and ritual always took a backseat to caring and humility.

There was a delicious meal prepared by the ladies of the church, and there were smiles, and stories, along with the tears.

During the service, the Preacher announced that we were going to sing a congregational song and that this song was the favorite of this man who had obviously become his close friend.

I was making it pretty well until I heard the first strains of this song - and I again dissolved into tears. It brought back to my remembrance the comfort and peace that I feel in my Father’s arms. And no matter how much it hurts - it is well with my soul…

Can you say, “It is well with my soul?” If you can’t, you need to come to Him.

I know we have a difficult road ahead of us, but "It is well, with my soul..."

Betty Newman

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Sacrament of Living

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God. 1Cor. 10:31

“One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas, the sacred and the secular.”

Thus begins chapter 10 “The Sacrament of Living” from A.W. Tozer’s book “The Pursuit of God.” Tozer goes on to say, “it may be difficult for the average Christian to get hold of the idea that his daily labors can be performed as acts of worship acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”

He tells of the fact that Jesus was fully man and fully God, and nothing He did, while “fully man” was not pleasing, and worshipful to God.

Our struggle, he says, is in seeing and understanding that overlapping in our lives.

“It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular” he says, “it is why he does it. The motive is everything.”

Marjorie Holmes, in her book “I’ve Got to Talk to Somebody, God” has prayers for making the bed and prayers for peeling potatoes… She has prayers for every aspect of our daily lives. Nothing is out of God’s realm.

“Whatsoever ye do, do all for the Glory of God…”

As we go about our “labors” let us be aware that we are serving God. Our lives are statements of our faith - good or bad - we are telling the world where we really stand by our actions. There is no separation between Sunday and Monday - between Wednesday night and Saturday night - what we are - we are. Whom we serve - we serve. In everything we do.

Just as Paul’s letter to the Romans states, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” neither can washing dishes, mowing the yard, going to the dentist, or going to our “labor” separate us from serving God.

Have a blessed “labor” day…

Betty Newman

Some time back I wrote a piece titled, “In This Place, At This Time” and subtitled “Incorporating and Penetrating Worship.” It is my version of this very topic. It is rather lengthy, so I divided it up into 3 separate posts. To read them, go to July 27, 29, and 30 in this blog.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Please permit me

Please permit me to ask you all to put us on your prayer lists.

We just got home from the lung doctor - and my Dad has lung cancer. He has (at best) 6 months if we do nothing - and a year or so if we do.

And before you ask, he is 82, and yes, he smoked - heavily. (If you do - please quit.)

My Mother passed away in January 2004. She was almost 85 and also a smoker. But what I remember most about her illness was folks asking her age, and did she smoke.

We seem to have this fascination with wanting to know the ages and circumstances of folks' illnesses. If someone is in a wreck, we immediately want to know if there was drinking involved and if they were wearing their seatbelts. It seems, in some curious way, to give us relief if we don't do what they did, or do, what they didn't.

I've since come to believe, that when Job's friends kept asking what he did to bring the (seemingly) "wrath of God" upon him and his household, they weren't trying so much to discern his sin, as they were trying to ease their own consciences that they weren't in danger of receiving the same thing!

We live in a fallen world. It "rains on the just and the unjust." True, there are things we can do to improve our health and circumstances, but everyone is going to die of something.

The key is not what we'll die of, it's Who we're living for...

And Daddy serves God. But that won't keep it from being a difficult "row to hoe..."