God within the Verb

Before the mountains were brought forth,

Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

                                                                   ~Psalm 90:2

 

Often when we read, we neglect to look at the grammar and punctuation involved in the author’s message. After all, who wants to return to their school days and think about the construction of sentences and word phrases? But I tell you this, much is lost in the meaning of the message if we neglect to pay attention to grammar and punctuation.

Look more closely at the verse above, especially the verb tense within the sentence.

 

Before the mountains were brought forth,

Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

 

Were. Had. Formed. These verbs are in the past tense. They have already occurred. We are speaking of events that have happened before the writing of this verse.

Now look at the final phrase.

 

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

 

You ARE God. The to-be verb “are” is present tense. It is right now, as we speak. It has not happened in the past; it will not happen in the future. It is occurring at this very present time.

Can you perceive what this verse it telling us?

When standing before the burning bush and God was sending him to Pharaoh, Moses asked, “When I come to them, whom shall I say sent me?”

And God answered, “I AM has sent you.” (Exodus 3:14)

Beloved, do you see it? He is the great “I AM.” Not the “I was” or “I will be.” He is current and consistent, an ever-present help in time of need. Before the world was fashioned, He IS. He, our Lord and Savior, lives in eternity from everlasting to everlasting. Always present tense.

Read once more with me the verse, but this time look closely at the verb tense. Let the message infuse your soul. Feel the weight of the words, the depth of the message. Let your heart sing for the joy of His ever present Being.

 

Before the mountains were brought forth,

Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

                                                                       ~Psalm 90:2

Amen.

 

~ Susan

 

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Through the Fire

Imagine, if you will, that you are an Israelite in Jerusalem and the army of Assyria is encamped against your walls. All the nations around you have fallen. Jerusalem is the last city standing, your city, Zion, which God had promised to protect.

Isaiah 49:14 speaks of the people’s reaction:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.”

Forsaken by God. Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. Even Jesus experienced this emotion when upon the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I have felt forsaken.

Tuesday morning, a day like any other. It was a beautiful fall day: the air fresh, the sun warm, and the skies clear. As always the children and I began with Bible study. The day’s subject was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In discussing the three being placed into the fiery furnace for their unwavering faith in God, I made the cryptic statement that no matter what happens in our life, even when we go through the fiery furnace, still we must follow the Lord. I did not know that at that very moment my own life would be put through the furnace and my words tested.

Flag over PentagonThe day was September 11, 2001. My life forever changed as my father was ripped from the world by terrorists. In that moment I felt forsaken. All that I had believed in, trusted in, was stripped out from under me. How could a benevolent God, a God who loves me, allow such a tragedy to happen knowing full well how this would wound me?

But hear what God spoke through Isaiah, the prophet:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)

He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands…

This is not just taking a pen and writing your name on His skin. You have been inscribed, that is, engraved. He has taken a blade and carved His palm, wounding His flesh so that forever He will bear the scars of your name upon His hands.

Not only does He know our name, but He bears our scars upon His flesh—forever.

I have journeyed down a dark and empty road: alone, abandoned, and forsaken. But I have found something along this desolate way: a beautiful truth. My foundation is sure…and I am not alone.

I think the key is in the word “through,” for we do go through, we do not stay in the furnace. There is an end to our trouble. For even as the three young men stood within the flames of the furnace, they were not alone, but a fourth stood beside them.

We all face trials. We have difficult times. God never promised us otherwise. In fact, He told us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). But He did not leave us to travel this world without aid.

Listen what the Lord proclaims:

“I, even I, am He who comforts you.” (Isaiah 51:12)

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Though God’s protection is not always for our bodies, it is a constant for our souls. And in the end, it is our final home that is most important. This mortal coil, which we cling to so ardently, is not what it is all about. Yet when one that is loved is taken, we cannot help but look back at what has been lost.

“But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared— The Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” (Isaiah 51:15-16)

We serve a powerful God. An all-knowing God. So what then can man do to me? For the keeper of my soul watches me. We do not have a God who looks on from the outside as we struggle along the way. But we have a God who enters with us into the midst of the fire. He walks the troubled path with us, taking us through to the other side. He is our God and we are His people, engraved upon his hand: a perpetual covenant between the Lord and His chosen.

So as you travel the journey of this earthly life, remember: you are not forsaken.

Susan Van VolkenburghSKU-000524494_COVER

SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN

 

Oncology Nurse turned homeschool educator, Susan Van Volkenburgh is an award winning author of Christian fiction and non-fiction books. After the death of her father on September 11, 2001, Susan began speaking of her experience. Her book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (A 9/11 story), recounts Susan’s loss and subsequent spiritual journey.

Born too late to experience antiquity first hand, Susan spends much of her time studying and teaching ancient history. Therefore, it seemed only natural that she should draw from the experience of grief and trauma to write THE STONE OF EBENEZER, Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga, a story of faith and restoration through the medium of Biblical fiction.

 

I Have Not Arrived

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have not arrived

For the journey has just begun.

Oft I am weak and weary,

In the shadows, am undone.

–     –     –

I am a work in progress

The destination still in play.

Regret and disappointment

Often mar the traveled way.

–     –     –

Perfection far exceeds me

Far down the path it dwells.

Never grasping, always reaching,

All ‘round the shadow swells.

–     –     –

But in the distant twilight

Hanging in the shady nether,

A lamp is waiting yonder,

Reaching out beyond the tether.

–     –     –

Birds of carrion hover ‘round me,

At my heels, nip fear and galling.

Stumbling forward, I blunder onward,

All the while, the Master’s calling.

–     –     –

Words of comfort Jesus whispers,

In my ear, throughout the day.

“Stand thou fast and do not falter,

Darkness ends, for dawn holds sway.”

–     –     –

“Out of sorrow, hope is springing,

From your weakness, strength abounds.

Ever press you forth to journey,

Each step moves t’ward holy ground.”

–     –     –

“Soon the trials of life be over.

Then the day will e’er be won.

Rest awaits you ‘round the corner,

But for now, keep moving on.”

–     –     –

I strain to see the far illumine

I can almost hear them sing

Crying out in joyful tribute,

“Holy, holy is the King.”

–     –     –

Rest awaits me ‘round the corner,

So for now, I am revived.

I am a work in progress,

For I have not arrived.

~ Susan

 

My Wounded Heart

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The grief was still too near, a matter for tears and not yet for song.

                        ~J. R. R. Tolkien

      

You just sit and try to understand. But some things cannot be understood. Some paths are just too dark to see the other side, and once you have turned down the path there’s no going back. It’s dark and no one can take the journey for you. There is nothing but forward, though you do it with trembling and uncertainty. This journey is not of my choosing, but it is mine nonetheless.

*                   *                   *

          After two weeks of dealing with the aftermath of September 11, our family returned home. I was to resume the threads of a normal life. But how could life ever be normal again? Outwardly, I performed all that was expected. Inwardly, I felt as though I was moving through a thick fog, dazed and confused. Within days of arriving home, we celebrated our youngest son’s birthday. I sat there looking on, knowing that I needed to cherish the moment, this first birthday of my last child, but really, I wasn’t even there. I felt nothing. I was numb. My son’s entire life has been his mother trying to come to terms with 9/11. Yet somehow, I walked through the days and months that followed. The school year continued, more birthdays came; then the holidays approached, and the weariness set in.

Life is hard. Just the breath we take in can become a burden. There were days when all I could do was focus on the next moment, for to look beyond that next moment was overwhelming. I would go through the day saying, “All I am going to do is unload the dishwasher. That is all I have to do. I will think of nothing but unloading the dishwasher.” Then I would swallow the tears and unload the dishwasher. Then I would say, “Now I am going to load the dishwasher. I will think of nothing but loading the dishwasher….” Moment to moment was all I could handle. I wanted to throw the covers over my head and stay in bed forever. But I had a baby who needed me, so I got up and faced each new day, each day where no dawn could reach me.

The terror of it all surrounds me. Though I would shake it off, it pursues me, violently storming against me. How can I outrun the wind? The more I leave off, the more it seeks me out. My soul is poured out in my distress. I am dissolved in a flood of tears, my vessel full of holes so that nothing is contained. “The days of affliction take hold of me.” (Job 30:15–16)

How can God understand my hurt? “Does He have eyes of flesh? Or does He see as man sees?” (Job 10:4) Even worse, if He grasps how I feel, how could He let this happen knowing full well how this would affect me? If God is Love, how can He allow Hate to strike His own?

*                            *                            *

         “What strength do I have, that I should hope?” (Job 6:11a) My mind is like a house filled with archways. I have no doors that I can shut against the grief. My sorrow flows freely into all aspects of my life. I can never escape it. “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes.” (Job 3:26)

And so the tears come as the loss overwhelms, like a wave that crashes into me and tosses me, threatening to drag me out to sea. Each new memory casts me back into the grief and loss. The emptiness consumes me, a fire that cannot be extinguished.

Yet Hope springs in the darkest hour. book cover 1

~ Susan

See what God has shown me through the tragic events of September 11 in my true and personal account: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story)

Excerpts taken from SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story): Episode 2 – Awakened and Episode 3 – Tears

Take My Hand

The Hand of Jesus

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” Matthew 19: 13-15

This Sunday, our pastor told a joke and it went something like this:

 

Once there was a man who, while walking along a road, fell into a ditch.

A Pharisee came by and seeing the man, said, “My son, you are unclean.” And he walked to the other side, leaving the man in the ditch.

Next, a Presbyterian came along the road and said, “You were predestined to fall into that ditch.” He walked on by.

Then a Methodist was traveling down the street, and noticed the man in the ditch. He walked over to the fellow and, with pity, looked down at him. “Praise God in the bad times. I will pray for you brother.” And he continued on down the road.

A Charismatic followed soon after, and said, “Brother, just believe you are out of the ditch and it will be so.” And he walked on by.

A fundamentalist journeyed along the road, and seeing the man, said to him, “You deserve to be in that ditch.” And he, too, continued on.

And so the list continued, until Jesus walked over to the ditch. With love, He reached out to the man and said, “Come, take my hand.”

And He lifted the man out of the ditch.

(No disrespect intended to any denominational group)

 

All kidding aside, it left me with this thought: how complicated we make faith. As we try to figure out why difficulties happen, or what we did to deserve them, Jesus has His hand extended to us. He is willing to help us out of our present situation. May we always see His helping hand through the mire of man-made dogma.

Jesus offers Grace. All we need do is take hold of it.

~ Susan

Finding Joy in the Absence of Happiness

Happiness…People are always looking for happiness. But happiness is fleeting. Happiness is conditional. It is in response to what is occurring in our lives that makes us happy. Let’s face it, sometimes there is nothing to be happy about.

Joy is what we should seek. Joy comes from within. It is constant. Even in the worst of situations, when there is no happiness to be found, we can experience joy.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11

But how does one obtain joy?tumblr_m4avwpwxhL1r1o6z3o1_500

Philippians chapter four gives us a look at how we, as Christians, can have joy in the absence of happiness.

Look at verses four through five:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

So the first thing we must do is to rejoice always! Not just when we feel good about life, but in every situation. Not an easy thing to do! Sometimes, we just want to feel sorry for ourselves, to pout. Sometimes we want to wallow in our grief. I know, I have been there. But Paul tells us to rejoice anyway.

Next, we are instructed to let our gentleness be evident to all. Our gentleness….not our impatience, or roughness, or sharp tongued better than thou attitude. When I am happy, no problem. But what happens when I am mad, or sad? Can I still maintain an air of gentleness, meekness, and patience? Ah, that is the challenge.

Let me get this straight, Paul says we are to rejoice even when we don’t fell like rejoicing, and be kind when we don’t feel like being kind. How is that possible?

Moving on, verse six and seven give us more insight into this troubling guidance.

“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”

Do not be anxious about anything. Easy, right?

Let’s look deeper.

Take the word anxious. What do we know about that word?

The dictionary says that it is mental distress or to be greatly worried.

So verse six says – do not be anxious, or rather don’t worry. Even better – don’t worry about anything! Ever! How can we do that when there is so much to worry about?

Paul goes on to tell us how.

By prayer and supplication – wait. Supplication? What does that mean?

Supplication – humble prayer, entreaty, or petition

It just means to ask.

“You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2

So just ask. Ask God in every situation, no matter how big or how small, ask Him.

But there is a catch.

We are to ask Him with a thankful heart. Thanking Him even before we receive an answer.

Then what will happen?

Verse seven goes on to say that God will give us peace, peace greater than our understanding. This does not mean He gives us what we want, but whatever His answer, we will have peace.

This peace guards our hearts and minds.

Think of it this way- our heart is our soul. Our mind is our knowledge and feelings.

Why do we need to guard them?

The enemy is out there trying to make us afraid. Trying to make us doubt God. He will constantly try to make us stumble, to put bad thoughts in our minds – thoughts of self-doubt, depression, self-hate.

If we take everything to God, and give it all to Him, He gives us peace, and the devil has no power over our soul or our thoughts. But we have to obey God always and seek His will, not our own.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3

Okay, so we are to rejoice in every situation, be kind and gentle, and give all our worries to God. That is quite a list. But Paul gives us another step toward finding joy. Verse eight tells us to think upon only what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. If anything can be found that is praiseworthy, dwell on that.

“The best memory is that which forgets nothing, but injuries. Write kindness in marble and write injuries in the dust.” Persian Proverb

If you do as you have learned from Paul, the God of peace will be with you. He will grant you peace. And where there is peace, there is found joy. Joy that permeates into your very being. Even in the face of trauma and trials, joy fills your heart with the peace that passes all understanding.

Lastly, Paul demonstrate to us this peace as he writes:

“For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12

Contentment in all situations, knowing that God is in control, that He supplies every need, and that He walks beside us through the fires of adversity.

And here in verse thirteen, Paul gives us the answer to how we can do what is necessary to obtain this joy beyond measure.

“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

It is not by our strength, but through God’s strength that we are able to experience joy even in the dark valleys of life. No matter what disappointments or trials you must face, give it all to God. Let Him work it out in His way and in His time. Don’t hold on to your burden, but leave it at the cross. Then your heart will be open to experience true joy.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 19

~ Susan

I have faced dark days. On September 11, 2001, my father was killed by terrorists. In the aftermath that followed, my faith was shaken to its very foundation. Through it all, God has shown me His benevolent nature as He walked each step with me. Truly, there is joy in the Lord.

Join me as I share with you a message of hope: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story).

Press Toward the Goal

8170164_f260“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” Philippians 3:1

Philippians chapter three brings us a final word from Paul. Here the apostle exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord.

Then, a warning…beware of dogs, of evil doers, and the mutilation.

Dogs devour – in ancient Israel, dogs were not considered cute little pets, but scavengers that prey on the weak. As Christians, Paul implores us to watch out for those who would exert a harmful influence over us, to deceive us and lead us astray. Not every evil doer is obvious. Some manipulate the truth and cause us to stumble. So we need to know what the scriptures say so that we can discern when others teach things contrary to the word of God.

“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Philippians 3:3

Paul says we are the circumcision. Circumcision is a seal and sign that we are set apart for God’s use. Here the apostle speaks of a spiritual cutting away of our will. Fully surrendered, we are now instruments of God, completely submitted to His will, who worship the Lord in the Spirit and rejoice in our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have no confidence in our own flesh. All we are comes from the Father. We are nothing without Him.

Yet, if anyone would have confidence in the flesh, it was Paul. He was a Jew among Jews. Physically circumcised on the eighth day of his life, an Israelite by birth, from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Pharisee, a Hebrew knowledgeable in the law. He had a burning desire to do God’s will, even to the point of persecuting the Church. In the eyes of his fellow Jews, he was blameless in his zeal. (verse 4-6)

All that Paul held as his great accomplishments on this earth were nothing. He had given up all thing for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ. Everything he thought was valuable was but rubbish, waste, trash, compared to the treasure he had obtained through Christ Jesus. He had surrendered all to gain Christ.

It was not by the righteous acts of the apostle that he found the Savior, but by his faith in Christ Jesus. It was not the law, but by Grace that he had been saved. And in so doing, Paul now knew Jesus and the power of His resurrection. He shared in the suffering of Christ, being conformed to His death – or rather, the world was crucified to him.

This message is for us as well. We no longer hold the world in us, but are transformed, resurrected to a new life in Christ Jesus. We risk it all, surrender everything, in order to gain this new way, this eternal life in Christ.

Yet, Paul says, even after all this, he has not obtained perfection. But he presses on so that he can grasp what Christ has set before him.

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

My father once said, “Don’t let anyone or anything have dominion over you but God.”

How true a statement. No matter the past, whether it be a death, trauma, or a bad decision, do not let the past rule your future. Tragedy and trials shape us, but they do not have to define us. We are more than what has happened to us.

We cannot get discouraged by our mistakes, our failures. When we fail, we must pick ourselves up and continue on our journey. The goal is set before us. We must keep our eyes focused on the end game. We may not understand everything we face, but we should not look back. Reach forward to what lies ahead. Press on toward the goal. The prize waits.

Therefore, as you keep this in mind, walk in the light before you. You may only see a step ahead, but in faith take the next step. God will reveal what you need to know when you need to know it. Do not look at the light before others, only look upon your own. We cannot judge what other people do, or what knowledge they have obtained. That is between them and God. We must be mindful of our own light, and walk within our illumination. In this way we obtain peace with others, and grace with God.

Be careful who you set as your example. Christ is our pattern. Humans often fail, setting their minds on earthly things. Set Christ as the model for your life, for your conduct. He never fails. Remember, our citizenship is in heaven. Earth is not our home. And when Christ returns, we will be transformed to His glorious body!

“For He is able to subdue all things to Himself.”

So rejoice in the Lord, always, as you press toward the goal!

~ Susan

Are you struggling with difficulties and circumstances you do not understand? Are you wondering how God could allow bad things to happen? Have you suffered loss and are having trouble working through your grief? I have experienced these. Let me share with you a message of hope. SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story), my true story of loss and resolution after the death of my father on September 11, 2001.