The Lord Has Not Forsaken You

Psalm 9:10 is highlighted and underlined in my Bible, evidence of other times this verse has ministered to my heart. It says, “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” As I review this verse I’m struck by the ways believers respond to the Lord. For some reason at this point, I hear English actress Maggie Smith’s voice matter-of-factly stating the obvious, “That’s just what people do, you know.” And so it is, Maggie. Christians put their trust in the Lord. That’s just what we do.

And yet, before doing there is knowing. The text says, “Those who know Your name.” This doesn’t mean they know about God. It means they know Him in a real way. The kind of knowing that comes from testing something and finding it to be completely trustworthy. And when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in His righteousness to cover the debt of our sin, then the adventure of knowing God begins. It starts as we read about Him in the Bible, talk to Him about it in prayer, and then test it out in our life. So that it is a truism that “those who know God’s name put their trust in Him.”

Believers trust God. It’s just what we do, you know. We trust God because we know and have experienced what David already revealed in verse 9, “The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble.” He is our refuge, a place of safety. Psalm 9:10 reminds us, "You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You." The One who is our refuge will never leave us when the going gets hard or we grow fractious and fretful. We can take refuge in the promise that those who seek Him find Him because He never leaves us. We will never deal with abandonment issues when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. David reinforces that truth with these words in verse 12, “He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.”

Not forsaken. Not forgotten. Not abandoned. Not left alone.

Welcomed. Remembered. Loved. Comforted. Safe.

It’s the way of things—to trust God because He is so very faithful and loving and kind. Such an obvious truth, and yet there’s a reason that verse has been underlined and highlighted and prayed through and cried over in my Bible. Sometimes it’s just plain hard to trust the Lord—even when we know Him, really know Him; even when we have trusted Him in the past; even when we believe His Word and His promises. Even then, there are times when every believer comes face to face with these truths and cries out like the desperate father in Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”  

Maybe right now you are looking at Psalm 9:10 desiring to trust the Lord, yet Unbelief hasn’t blinked. You’re feeling woefully deficient and insufficient. And you wonder, “Is there any way I can really live out Psalm 9:10?” Absolutely! My friend, Kris Goertzen, has a sweet way of responding to me when I’ve asked her if she could help me. Her response? “For you—the world!” Do you realize that’s God’s response to His children?

Lord, I need you.

You will find me. I’m here.

Lord, I’m scared.

Trust Me. I am THE place of safety.

Lord? Do you see me? Do you know what’s happening in my life? Will you help me?

For you, child, the world! I gave you My Beloved Son, so you would know me. I will never leave you, not now, not ever.  

Those who know the Lord trust Him because the Lord never forsakes His children. That's why trusting Him is just what we do, because we know that the Lord always helps His children. He has helped us in the past. He will help us in the future. He is helping us today. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 

Recommended Books for Boys

One of the sweetest scenes for a parent is to see their children curled up in the corner of the couch reading, oblivious to the what's happening around them because they are caught up in another world. Our kids have all carried that love into adulthood and enjoy talking books with parents and children who are looking for more reading material. Our son Nate used to look "for really fat books so the story wouldn't end so soon." If you have a child like that you understand the challenge of finding enough good books to satisfy their voracious reading appetite. Our son Mark has compiled a list of recommended reading that other boys and growing young men might enjoy. Take a moment to read his comments below before whizzing through the list. I need to ask our son Nate for his list since his reading interests were different than Mark's and would provide more books to try. Mark and I hope this list will help those parents who are trying to keep their sons in good books. 

I've also included a PDF version if you'd like a hard copy of Mark's recommendations. 

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Books for Burgeoning Boys by Mark Hughes

          If you had asked me at the age of six to go read a book, my response then would have been drastically different than it would be today. What changed? The books I read. For me, it wasn’t that I didn’t like reading; it was that I didn’t like what I was reading. Finding the niche for each child is difficult at times, especially for squirrelly boys with overactive imaginations.

         By trial and error I found my way, with the help of persistent parents. I found I loved reading about fantastical realms, filled with the impossible. Those fantastical realms normally occupied my mind, so naturally I enjoyed reading about them in books. Finding the right books to read can be trying at times which is why I have compiled a list of books to recommend. The books I’ve listed below are ones I’ve enjoyed throughout the years. The list includes titles for quite young readers, as well as others more mature in content and difficulty.

         From time to time I am asked to recommend a list of books to some one. I am always excited to do so, but also carry out the task with trepidation. I do so because each parent and child brings specific needs and wants to the table. Is a book too mature in content for my child? Is it too worldly? Does it contain things that our family doesn’t want our child to read? I can’t answer these questions for you. What I can do is give you this list of books I enjoyed and then leave the keys in your hands. I have included links to several websites where content reviews of many books can be found. This is helpful even when reading “Christian” books. Please peruse as you feel necessary.

         http://www.compassbookratings.com

         http://www.factsonfiction.org

         http://novelbookratings.com

         Also I have included general age indicators in my recommendations, but these aren’t law; many children are well beyond the average reading level and able to handle more mature material. You know your child's needs best.

         I still find pleasure in some of the earliest books I read, but continually search for new material. I am not a fast or prolific reader, rather I seek for what is engaging. Where there is interest there is industry. May God bless you in your search for enjoyable, challenging and encouraging literature!

 

Happy reading!

Mark Hughes

 

Alcorn, Randy - Deadline, Dominion and Deception

       A series of three loosely related stories. The books deal with serious adult themes, but with a Christian perspective. They revolve around murder mysteries. The first in the series was my favorite. High school on up.

         Safely Home

       An extremely moving and influential book, it is a fictionalized account of the persecuted church in China. The book deals with serious themes, but is an excellent read. High school on up.

Alexander, Lloyd - The Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King

       An entertaining series that doesn’t have a high difficulty level. I enjoyed these I think in late elementary or junior high.

Card, Orson Scott - Ender’s Game

       A very well written coming of age sci-fi, packed with weighty themes. It does have quite a lot of profanity, but a riveting read. High school on up.

Christie, Agatha - Miss Marple Mysteries

       Fun English mysteries, that are easy to digest. Centered around the spinster Miss Marple, they are good every time. Junior high on up. A great place to start is The Thirteen Problems, a collection of short mysteries, or 4:50 From Paddington.

Doyle, Arthur Conan - The Complete Sherlock Holmes

       Need I say more? It is, to my memory, a clean, engaging set of stories, comprising several short novels along with many short mysteries. Late junior high or high school.

Dumas, Alexandre - The Count of Monte Cristo

       One of my first forays into less fantastical fiction during high school, a wonderful long read, entertaining and with a very satisfying ending. Make sure to get the unabridged version! High school on up.

Graham, L. B. - The Binding of the Blade Series: Beyond the Summerland, Bringer of Storms, Shadow in the Deep, Father of Dragons, All My Holy Mountain

       A great series, full of complexity following in Tolkien’s tradition. The author is a Christian so there isn’t any questionable content. There are great theological themes in play throughout the series. The first book is slow but the series becomes enthralling later, persevere! Junior high or high school.        

Lewis, C. S. - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, The Last Battle

       Classics that really everyone should read. Elementary on up.

Osbourne, Mary Pope - Favorite Greek Classics

       Excellent retelling of many of the Greek myths. I loved this book in elementary school and junior high.

         Magic Tree House Series

       A great series for early elementary school kids, one of the series that got me reading!

Paolini, Christopher - The Inheritance Cycle: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Inheritance

       One of my favorite series growing up, Paolini follows Tolkien in complexity, yet his books are more accessible to the younger reader. The prologue of Eragon was a one of a kind experience for me in literature; I never before had felt such excitement and fear from a book! Junior high or high school age.

Paul, Donita K. - The DragonKeeper Chronicles: DragonSpell, DragonQuest, DragonKnight, DragonFire, DragonLight

       This entertaining series is a fun read, written by a Christian author. It follows the growth of a young wizard, Kale and her many adventures. All fairly easy reads, late elementary on up.

Platt, Richard - Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page

       Growing up, few books caused me more delight in reading than this, I bought an edition for pure enjoyment years later. It chronicles, with pictures, the life of a young boy training as a page. Filled with hilarious moments and witty drawings. I recommend you buy the full color 1999 edition if possible; later editions come in black and white. There are a few things which may be of questionable character. Elementary on up.

Rowling, J. K. - Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

       An extremely well written series, that follows Harry Potter throughout out his teenage years. Books one to three are more light hearted, starting with book four the series grows darker and more serious as the stakes are raised. Over all a highly entertaining series. There are some more adult themes that emerge in around book three or four. Elementary on up.

Scott, Michael - The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Alchemyst, The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer, The Warlock, The Enchantress

       A great fast paced book series that centers around a brother and sister, Josh and Sophie. They are cast into a dramatic world where all mythological figures are fair game. A great read, maybe for junior high or high school age.

Stewart, Sean - Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

       I had not read a Star Wars extended universe book before, but thoroughly enjoyed this book, as Master Yoda, one of my favorite characters, played a central part. It is a well-written, fast paced adventure. Junior high or high school age.

Tolkien, J. R. R. - The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King

       All classics of literature, the Hobbit is the most accessible of all the books, so I would recommend that first. The Lord of the Rings, is more literary, but still well worth reading through. The Silmarillion was published after Tolkien’s death, but contains the mythology of Middle-Earth. If all these books have been consumed, there are quite a few other posthumous publications about Middle-Earth as well. Late elementary on up. 

When a New Year Means More of the Same

A new year, a fresh start, different opportunities, hope—all come to mind when we think of a new year. I fully intended to write from that perspective. I wanted to search the Scriptures and see what God has to say about new things and starting fresh, but I’m shelving that idea for now. I’m shelving that idea because…well, because sometimes a new year means continuing in the same. For us, it means continued waiting for the Lord to bring a church for Jack to pastor. Instead of quickly slipping into ministry, as we thought would happen 3 years ago, the Lord has taken us so deeply into the wilderness and on such a twisted track that the only way we’ll ever find our way out is when the Lord leads us. So, for us, for right now, another new year means more of the same.

I read these words in James 1:12 yesterday, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” What caught my eye was the “under” part. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial. That sentence of course means that there are those who are still in the midst of the trial. They are remaining “in” it.

This follows what James said earlier in the chapter in verses 2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Those verses contain enough fodder to nourish our souls for many weeks, but I want to direct your attention to the part about letting trials have their perfect result.

Trials have a purpose. They produce a perfected faith and a completed character. You know this; I know this. The difficulty comes in staying still while God does His work in us with that trial.

So, the first thing we need to consider is just how do we persevere under trial? Here are some ways I’m applying these words to “persevere under trial”:

  • Don’t look to others or things to fix the situation. Psalm 33:16-17, “The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.” This no-no is so tempting and can be so subtle that we aren't immediately aware we are doing it.
  • Place your hope in the Lord. On the heels of the admonition not to put our hope in outside rescuers, we read in Psalm 130:5-7, “I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption.” The earnest desire of the psalmist to wait and hope in the Lord more than that night watchman looking to the east for the rising sun compellingly brings my heart back to the Lord. Our God is a God of deliverances (Psalm 68:20). 
  • Reign in your thoughts so you think rightly about the Lord and your circumstances. James understood our tendency to grumble at God or grow bitter toward God when times get hard, that’s why he lovingly reminds us not to give in to that temptation in James 1:13-16. And it’s also why immediately after he reminds us that every “gift” and circumstance is good and perfect and comes from God Himself (see James 1:17). Listen to this prayer from Fenelon, “Let me, O my God, stifle forever in my heart every thought that would tempt me to doubt Thy goodness. I know that Thou can only be good [Fenelon, Dictionary of Burning Words, page 262].” Reminding ourselves of God’s character helps us remain under our trials.
  • Fill your heart with Scriptures to strengthen and encourage you. Isaiah 49:15-16 has been a balm to me, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” It’s so good to know the Lord has not forgotten us.

Even if your New Year looks like more of the same like ours does, we have the promises of James 1:12 to help us “stay put.” Verse 12 tells us those who persevere are blessed and that with the enduring comes approval that we have passed the test. And at the end of the test, we will receive the crown of life from the Lord Himself, which He promised to all who love Him. Your patient enduring of the trials the Lord has given you reveals your love for Christ, for only those who love Him persevere.

Advent Meditations: The Wonders of His Love

The final advent candle of Christmas represents love. How fitting to spend the last few days before Christmas thinking on “the wonders of His love” as the hymn, “Joy to the World” puts it. I think most people get the fact that Jesus’ birth is a huge proclamation of God’s love. We’re told this in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God loved the world, and specifically the people that He created, so He gave His Son, His only Son, as a sacrifice offered up in substitution for our sins.

Oh, the wonders of His love.

Who would ever think of something like this? Think about God in eternity, perfect in His existence; and yet, something stirs within His creative being to make something. So with the Word of His mouth, the cosmos is born; the angels, the stars, the moon, the sun, the planets, and earth. Then He speaks the features of our world into existence and populates it with living things—everything from DNA and atoms to plants, birds, insects, animals, fish, and a man and a woman. Yet, Creation wasn’t the end. He never intended to just create and then watch to see what happened. He always intended to interact with mankind—to fellowship with them, as evidenced by God walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Oh, the wonders of His love.

Then, when Adam and Eve sinned, God provided for them, clothing them by killing an animal to cover their nakedness. Even more importantly, He displayed His infinite patience in not slaying them immediately when they sinned. Their sin offended His holiness as the Bible tells us that the payment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet they didn’t die; they lived. First Corinthians 13:4 says that love is patient. Patience holds back righteous indignation. And how many times since then have we—have I—sinned against Him?

Oh, the wonders of His love.  

Just as God’s love moved Him to provide covering for Adam and Eve, His love moved Him to send His Son to pay the penalty of all our sins. His love planned and prepared and paved the way for the appointed time when the little babe in Bethlehem would be born. The Bible says we can’t even count how often God thinks of us (Psalm 40:5)! God is personal, involved, and concerned about His children. He eloquently reminds us of this when He says in Isaiah 49:15-16, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”

Oh, the wonders of His love.

No matter what your year has been like or even these short weeks of the Christmas season, we can rejoice as we consider the Lord’s great love put on display at Christmas.

What wonders of His love have captivated your thinking this Christmas? I’d love to hear from you! 

Advent Meditations: Tidings of Great Joy for You

Advent Meditations: Tidings of Great Joy for You

You might be struggling for joy because of trying circumstances and great sorrows, yet joy is possible. Good news leads to great joy when we remember the hope and exhilaration that forgiveness of all our sins, fellowship with the Eternal God, and the hope of heaven can bring. Joy isn’t out of reach. Joy just needs to be uncovered so it can be recovered. 

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