His Love Endures Forever

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Today’s passage contains a very familiar phrase: His love endures forever. In fact, in the 136th Psalm, this precious phrase is repeated 26 times! Once for every letter in the English alphabet even though the Psalm was written in Hebrew. Obviously, the psalmist wanted to make sure the reader grasped this simple yet astounding biblical truth. God’s love is undoubtedly timeless, unchanging, unconditional, and forever enduring!

However, I want to focus on the first part of this exquisite passage: Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. This simple truth that the Lord is good is something I remind myself of daily. You see, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the pressures of life, the things happening around us, our daily struggles, the turbulent storms that blow our way, or the petty problems that seem to steal our joy. When we do, we forget the simple truth that God is good and His love for us endures forever!

I love what the Apostle Paul wrote to the folks in the church at Corinth, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).” Wow, what a refreshing promise! As I read these wonderful words from Paul, I honed in on the words “in all things at all times.” Could Paul be speaking directly to me about God’s glorious grace in the midst of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease? Did “all things” cover my particular situation? Of course he is! Why? Because Paul wants me to remember that God is good, He provides all I need, and His grace is sufficient!

If I truly believe in the glorious goodness of God, His abounding grace, my kinship with His Son, my eternal salvation, and His enduring love, then I must believe that God is working to the good in my particularly serious situation. Therefore, all I need do is continue to trust in Him, abide in Him, rely on Him, and serve Him. He will take care of the rest!

And that is exactly what I am doing! How about you?

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Compassion on His Servants

For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants. Psalm 135:14

Psalm 135 is one of those “big and bold” Psalms. Throughout the Psalm, the psalmist praises the one true God, the Lord of all creation. Perhaps that is why David Livingston chose to read this particular Psalm on the morning of November 17, 1841, before he said goodbye to his earthly father and loaded the Liverpool steamer for Africa. With the memory of this Psalm in his heart, he spent more than thirty years serving Christ under some of the most horrid conditions known to man.

As I read this Psalm, I somehow felt connected to David Livingston. No, I haven’t gone to Africa or spent thirty years as a missionary! However, I have tried to spend my life in service to the Lord and I also believe this Psalm portrays a “big and bold” God who, like today’s passage purports, has compassion upon his servants. Perhaps that is why I feel compelled to praise God with all my being; because He has unconditional compassion on me!

Even in the midst of dealing with the confusion, frustration, consternation, and fogginess of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, God delivers rich blessings to my life. You see, here at the Hornback Homestead, I enjoy these bountiful blessing every day. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, books to write, devotions to post, Scripture to read, medications to help my symptoms, activities to keep my mind focused, fruitful work in the gardens and other areas of the farm, dogs to keep me company, the Alzheimer’s Association to keep me active, and a loving wife who is fully devoted to me. What more could I desire? Absolutely nothing! The Lord has generously provided all I need and want because of His unchanging compassion.

If you are struggling with the demands of dementia, I encourage you to take a long look at your life and make a list of all your blessings. Try not to focus on the things that trouble you or things you can no longer do. Instead, focus on the things you have and the pleasurable activities you can still enjoy. You’ll discover that God has richly blessed you with a plethora of good things.

If you can do this, then you can come to appreciate how “big and bold” our God truly is. Then, perhaps you can thank Him for His generosity and praise Him for His compassion in your life. He is an amazing God who loves you dearly. Therefore, enjoy His bountiful blessings, revel in His compassion, and forever praise Him!

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A Walk through the Storm

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. Psalm 135:5-6

My wife and I love to visit our daughter in Florida during the winter months when it is cold and snowy here in Kentucky. One particular visit a few years ago was quite unusual because we encountered a severe snow storm on the trip down to Florida. Additionally, during our visit, it was unseasonably cold and rainy in the Sunshine State. Of course, this dismal forecast did not stifle my desire to walk on the beach. You see, I wanted to see the waves when the ocean was rough and unsettled so I went to the beach in spite of the cold, wet weather.

As I watched the turbulent thrashing of the waves against the shore, today’s passage came to mind. I was reminded once again that the Lord is great and He does as He pleases, not necessarily as I might desire. Obviously, after enduring the frigid temperatures in Kentucky, the previous week’s 14 inch snowfall, and a severe snow storm on the way down to Florida, I would have preferred warm, sunny weather so I could walk along the shore and peacefully pick up sea shells in my swim trunks and t-shirt. Instead, I walked on the shore in a hooded sweatshirt with a rain slicker over top, in long pants, in the wet rain, and in the piercing cold wind. It was a vivid reminder how men are not in control of anything on heaven and earth. Only God controls all things!

As I walked along the beach in the rain and cold, I still enjoyed being on the beach. I still looked for sea shells. I still watched the ocean. I still reveled in the awesome power of God. One early morning, as I walked alone along the shore, I thought about my situation with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I realized that even though I struggled with the demands of this disease, I was still able to find ways to enjoy life. I still found pleasure in the simple things of life. I still delighted in reading God’s Word. I still enjoyed writing. I still loved my wife and the time we spend together. I still enjoyed reading His Word. Despite the crashing waves of Alzheimer’s disease, God had still blessed me, allowed me to enjoy life, and loved me for who I was. What more could a humble man ask for?

Perhaps you are struggling today with a severe storm in your life as well. Whatever you do, don’t let it ruin your relationship with the Lord. Continue to walk through your storm with Him. Remember, He is still in control and He loves you dearly. He will not forsake you, so don’t you dare forsake Him. Allow Him to walk alongside you and allow his righteous right hand to up hold you (Isaiah 41:10)!

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The Chief Work of Man

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. Psalm 134:2

I absolutely agree with the infamous words of St Augustine, “Man’s chief work is the praise of God.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We were created to have fervent fellowship with Him forever and to praise Him for being the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God of all creation. As such, fellowship and praise naturally flow from the heart of a righteous believer who has been tenderly touched by the hand of God.

However, today’s passage poses an interesting yet ingenuous thought about worship. This particular Psalm, although strikingly short and simple, says loads about how we are to wondrously worship our Lord. Simply put, our worship should always be praiseful! Worship is a praiseful act of adoration, thanksgiving, and reverence toward the God who graciously gave us and continues to give us everything. In our worship, we should offer up prayers and acts of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving as we are humbly united before God.

In the Apostle Paul’s first pastoral letter to Timothy he states, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing (1 Timothy 2:8).” I’d be the first to admit that I’m not exactly sure what Paul meant by “lift up” holy hands in prayer. But the key in this particular passage from Paul is to pray without anger in your heart or words of dispute upon your tongue. We are to enter prayer and worship with a pure heart, a humble spirit, and a peaceful mind. Worship and prayer are far too precious to be entered into without praise, thanksgiving, and reverence.

Since my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, worship and prayer have taken on a totally different dimension. In both spiritual acts, I am much more praiseful and thankful for all God has done in my life. The depth of my gratitude has deepened in part because my pride has been replaced with humility. Having a humble heart, a peaceful spirit, and a thankful attitude allow my praise to flow more freely. If there are advantages to living with this disease, then perhaps I have discovered at least one of them.

Although early-onset Alzheimer’s disease has dramatically changed my life, it has forever changed how I worship and praise my God. What might have been meant to harm me and separate me from God, has in fact humbled me and drawn me ever closer to my Lord and Savior. For that I am truly thankful! Therefore, as St. Augustine declared, let your chief work today be to praise God!

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Brothers Living in Unity

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

When I was growing up in my loving parent’s household, I always wished for a brother of my very own. You see, I was blessed with two wonderful sisters but not a single brother. As the only son, most of the “manly” chores fell upon my back. When we moved to my grandparent’s farm during my teenage years, it would have been great to have had a brother to help with the never ending farm work!

Although I lack any paternal brothers, I now have an abundance of brothers in Christ. These men more than make up for my lack of male siblings. We work on service projects together at church, we have deep discussions on spiritual matters, we joke around together, we share meals together, we worship together, we meet regularly in small groups, and we share a brotherly bond molded by our sonship with Christ. In essence, we experience what David wrote in today’s Psalm passage; how good and pleasant it is to live together in unity as brothers.

When early stage dementia or some other serious illness strikes, having brothers (or sisters) in Christ who lovingly support you makes persevering through the difficult days so much easier. This has truly been the case for me because my brothers in Christ have continually sustained me, watched over me when working on service projects at church, helped me when I needed assistance at home, and spiritually supported me since my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2009. In addition, their companionship has provided many opportunities for stimulating discussions, vigorous exercise, mentally challenging activities, and spiritual enrichment which are all part of the Best Practices for dementia patients. These men have most certainly been the hands and feet of Christ in my life.

When dementia strikes, you cannot tend to all the demands this disease places upon your life! You will definitely need help and it is perfectly okay to accept it from trusted Christian companions. However, if you are not experiencing the unity and companionship of brothers (or sisters) in Christ, I urge you to get connected with a church where you can cultivate concrete Christian connections. God never intended for anyone to live as an “island person.” You were meant to live in community with other godly people. So get connected and start experiencing the good and pleasant life of living together in unity just like King David prescribed in today’s passage!

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Enduring Hardships

O Lord, remember David and all the hardships he endured. Psalm 132:1

Today’s passage from the Psalms underscores the fact that facing hardships is just a simple fact of life. No one is immune from hardships. Not even King David who faced unbelievable hardships throughout his life as he strived to be a man after God’s own heart. How did David endure these horrible hardships? By relying on the firm footing of his faith and totally trusting in God to supply his needs during the periods of hardship.

None of us like to face hardships in our lives. I’m absolutely positive David didn’t like it either as attested by many of the Psalms he wrote as he lamented about the disturbing difficulties he endured. But David’s footing was firm and although he lamented about his difficulties, he never gave up on trusting God to deliver him from his fiercest foes and most severe struggles.

I like the way the Apostle Paul put it to the believers in Philippi, “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. I can do all things through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12).” Like King David, Paul also faced hardships of unbelievable magnitude. However, he found contentment and joy as he endured these hardships because of his firm footing and resilient faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the key to enduring hardships can be found in faith, contentment, and joy which are the direct result of being firmly attached to the vine of Christ.

Even in the midst of the hardships I face with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I know my true strength to endure my struggles flows from Christ. As such, I have found uncommon contentment, jubilant joy, perfect peace, and continued comfort in the arms of a loving Savior. No matter what the disease throws my way, Christ is there to somehow stifle the blow and keep me courageously moving forward. Because of His grace, I have lovingly learned I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!

In the midst of the battles you face today, turn to Christ and gain spiritual strength for your most severe struggles. He alone can bring confidence, contentment, peace, joy, and purpose for whatever challenge you may be facing. Turn to Him today, trust in Him today, and thank Him today for He is the only one who can meet all your needs both now and forever!

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A Stilled Soul

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2

Can anyone truly cultivate a stilled and quieted soul? Is that even possible in the hectic and fast paced world in which we live today? Can our soul be still, calm, and peaceful even when stifling struggles or serious sickness strikes our doorstep?

These are difficult questions to answer but they are so relevant when distressingly difficult situations surface in our lives. The simple answer to all these questions is a resounding YES! In the midst of any storm, no matter how significant or severe, a stilled soul is possible if the firm faith of Christ flows through your veins.

The Apostle Paul put it perfectly in his second letter to the church in Corinth when he wrote, “But He (Christ) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).” Paul was providing the believers in Corinth with the perfect recipe for a stilled soul. That formula centered on the understanding that God’s glorious grace and His perfect power are more than sufficient for any situation in which they might find themselves.

When we are weak, Christ is strong. When we are sick, Christ’s power rests upon us. When we struggle, the grace of God holds us up. When difficult circumstances arise, Christ carries us through them. Therefore, our soul need not be unsettled because God is with us and He will never forsake us!

Does this imply we will never have difficult times in our lives? Absolutely not! But when these times come, the strength and stillness of our souls will be forever tied to the strength and solace of Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul and the psalmist were trying to tell us.

Remember, a stilled soul is never unsettled when faith is alive and well within you. No matter what trouble, struggle, or sickness you face today, allow the power of Christ to rest firmly upon you. Then, like the psalmist in today’s passage claimed, you will have a stilled and quieted soul even though the storm rages all around you!

 

 

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Hope in His Word

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he states, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).” In this particular part of his letter to the church in Rome, Paul is trying to encourage the believers and fill them with the hope found in the Scriptures so that they might overflow with hope for others within their circle of influence. He reminds the believers that the Scriptures produce both eternal encouragement and heavenly hope which will help build their endurance for good works and sacrificial service.

Today’s passage from the Psalms echoes the Apostle Paul’s declaration. It is God’s Holy Word that produces hope which makes waiting upon the Lord so much easier. I too have found hope in the Scriptures which has produced endurance, encouragement, and ease for living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Without God’s Holy Word, my daily struggles with dementia would be so much more difficult. I would have no place to turn to gain spiritual strength, rock-solid support, and serene solace for my daily battles.

Whenever I am overwhelmed with despair, discouragement, or disillusionment because of my disease, I just open up my Bible to locate my favorite underlined passages from which I garner encouragement and hope. I can’t imagine facing the daily demands of dementia without the hope the Scriptures bring into my life. These passages are my lifeline!

The psalmist and the Apostle Paul understood that life can sometimes be drudgingly difficult, disappointingly demanding, and degenerately discouraging. But there would always be hope and encouragement for anyone’s struggles contained within the Holy Scriptures.

If you are struggling today because of some overwhelming burden or disease, turn to the same place the early believers turned for help, the Scriptures. You will find heavenly hope, eternal encouragement, copious comfort, and spiritual strength so you might endure your struggles in a manner worthy of a child of God. Hope is always present in His Word, all you need do is read, meditate, pray, and be encouraged!

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Free from the Cords of the Wicked

But the Lord is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked. Psalm 129:4

I must admit that I have days when I do not want to leave the Hornback Homestead. These particular days are the ones filled with confusion and fogginess. So I stay at the homestead and stick to my familiar routine. There is truly great comfort in the daily routine to which I adhere. Feeding the chickens, walking the homestead grounds, working in the gardens, feeding the cats, playing with the dogs, and making repairs keeps me grounded on familiar tasks which I am still able to accomplish. These tasks require no conversation, very little brain power, and no social interaction.

When you suffer from early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you often feel cut off from the rest of the world simply because most people don’t understand what you are going through because of the disease. However, according to experts in the field, it is vitally important to remain socially active even if you don’t want to be around other people. Socializing can be done through memory cafes, church activities, worship services, or just meeting regularly with friends for a meal or coffee. Socializing keeps your brain active, forces you to engage in conversation, changes your routine, and stimulates your neural network even if it is only for brief periods of time. So I often have to force myself, with the encouragement of my wife, to participate in social activities even when the foggy days set in.

Today’s Psalm passage reminds us that our Lord is righteous and has therefore cut us free from the cords of the wicked. This is an important concept to comprehend as we do socialize because we must choose our social activities wisely. This is especially true if you are prone to staying home and limiting your outside interactions because of the disease. Choosing good quality social activities is not only good for your brain but also good for your spiritual well-being.

Of course, this is true whether you are dealing with dementia or not. Choosing godly social activities and Christian service opportunities helps maintain your emotional and spiritual health. As today’s passage implies, God is righteous, and as His beloved children, He deeply desires that we do not spend our time on evil and wicked activities. He has cut us free from the wicked cord so let’s not res-establish the connection. So get out and socialize with good people today!

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Walk Along His Ways

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. Psalm 128:1

I have always enjoyed hiking and being outdoors all my life. I have hiked in some spectacular places in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Maine, Vermont, New Mexico, and North and South Carolina. Whenever I have gone hiking in unfamiliar areas, I have always followed the marked trails because they provided the best routes and safest walking conditions for the rugged terrain.

Today’s passage reminds us that we are blessed if we fear the Lord and walk in His ways. Obviously there are many paths to take in life, but the path of righteousness is by far the best path with the safest conditions. Along this path, God will guide your steps, keep your safe, provide contentment along the way, and give your life purpose as you adhere to His wonderful ways. No matter what valleys you may have to travel through, you will never walk alone for His rod and staff will comfort you!

I still remember the day I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease back in 2009. I wondered how I was going to survive, how I would handle the daily demands brought on by the disease, and what the future would hold for me. I remember asking God to guide my daily steps and keep me on the right path through this unfamiliar valley. A path that would prolong my good days and ease the frustration of my foggy days. Somehow, He placed me on the perfect path of following the Best Practices which has made all the difference as I deal with the daily demands of this disease. These Best Practices include:

  • Taking my medication daily and at the proper time.
  • Exercising vigorously every day (walking, aerobics, vigorous housework, garden and yard work, and farm chores).
  • Doing mentally challenging activities each day (writing, reading, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku).
  • Socializing frequently at church, memory cafes, support groups, and friend’s homes.
  • Eating a Mediterranean diet.
  • Practicing my spiritual disciplines daily (reading the Bible, prayer, writing devotions, and attending church).

These best practices have kept me on a path that has enabled me to be somewhat independent and less of a burden to my caregiving wife. God has blessed these best practices in my life and for that I am truly thankful. If you are struggling with dementia, I urge you to integrate the Best Practices into your daily routine. Then allow God to keep you on the proper and perfect path to bless your efforts.

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