Friday, October 31, 2014

Sifting - Results



“Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31 - 32 (HCSB)

We are looking at the account of Peter's denial so we learn deep truths about this process. We pondered yesterday that the devil cannot sift a believer without Christ's permission. Jesus told Peter ahead of his rejection and denial. Satan is called the "accuser of the brethren" in revelation 12:10. He comes before God and seeks to place accusations against us. He asks to be able to sift believers - especially those that God will use or is using. So, why does God allow this to happen? The answer is - God uses sifted people. He uses the sifting to bring honor and glory to Himself. He uses weak, imperfect people. Every sin we commit as a Christian is a denial of our Lord. 

As I said yesterday, I am so thankful in my life that God did not end the account of Peter here. He was warned, he denied Christ, and he wept bitterly. Feeling condemned, Peter thought that any use by God was over. However, God writes the final word.

When he was sifted, he had some choice s to make after he failed the temptation. He could have rebelled. He could have blamed God for letting him fail. He could have used many excuses, he could have run. And, had he done any of these - he would have failed the test as well as the temptation.

Peter, went out, wept bitter tears and repented to God for what he had done. We know the account in John 21. we see the 3-fold restoration of Christ. The one who denied Christ, after repenting was restored. And the one that denied Christ went on to preach the sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The one who denied Christ was used to open the door to the Gentiles (Acts 10). God didn't throw him away, but when he earnestly repented of his sin - God went on to use him as only a broken believer can be used. To bring honor and glory to Jesus and to build the Kingdom.

Today ponder, have you denied your savior by sin in your life? Do you feel He can never use you again? Have you sought Him in repentance for restoration? If so, look forward to how He will use you once more.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sifting - The purpose of God



“Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31 - 32 (HCSB)

We are looking at the account of Peter's denial so we learn deep truths about this process. We pondered yesterday that the devil cannot sift a believer without Christ's permission. Jesus told Peter ahead of his rejection and denial. Satan is called the "accuser of the brethren" in revelation 12:10. He comes before God and seeks to place accusations against us. He asks to be able to sift believers - especially those that God will use or is using.

So, why does God allow this to happen? The answer is - God uses sifted people. He uses the sifting to bring honor and glory to Himself. He uses weak, imperfect people. Those who are prideful or strong are sifted to remove these "lumps" in their lives. He allows the sifting so that we can grow and mature in our relationship with Him. We cannot be used until we are broken. When God allows us to be broken (from our pride, self-confidence, self-assurance) then and only then can He use us. David realized this and wrote about being restored following his sin with Bathsheba.

Every sin we commit as a Christian is a denial of our Lord. We defame Judas for his betrayal, yet at the same time God showed us the betrayal by Peter of Jesus. Judas did not repent. Peter went out with bitter tears and felt that God was through with him. No matter what we do in sin, it is a denial of our Lord and Savior.

I am so thankful in my life that God did not end the account of Peter here. He was warned, he denied Christ, and he wept bitterly. Feeling condemned, we will see what God did in the next devotion.

Ponder today, what areas of your life have you denied Jesus. What sins have you allowed to come in, the sifting you have allowed. And look up, your redemption draws near.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sifting - Permission granted.


“Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31 - 32 (HCSB)

Sifting can be thought of as sifting flour to remove the undesirable lumps. In the Bible, Satan comes and seeks to sift Christians, not to remove the undesirable parts, but to shake our faith so that nothing will be left. In the account of Peter's denial we learn so deep truths about this process.

First, the devil cannot sift a believer without Christ's permission. Jesus told Peter ahead of his rejection and denial. Satan is called the "accuser of the brethren" in revelation 12:10. He comes before God and seeks to place accusations against us. He asks to be able to sift believers - especially those that God will use or is using.

Ponder today over the truth that Satan knows our name, and he seeks to make sure that we are out of service for God. He seeks to shake our faith, to cause doubts, to make us feel inadequate to serve our Father. And when he succeeds in this, we no longer serve, we no longer seek to build the Kingdom, we no longer are useful to God. But, this is not the end of the story. In the truth of redemption, we can see how God can take that which is marred and broken and restore to His usefulness.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do it - Now. God's Will for us.


"For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose." Philippians 2:13 (HCSB).

John Wesley is credited with saying that "God does nothing redemptively in the world – except through prayer."* This speaks to the issue of God's Sovereignty and Man's Cooperation in His work. Growing up, I was often reminded that we are to pray as if everything depended upon God (and it does), and to work as if everything depended upon us. There is great truth in this concept of balance. Jesus in John 15 reminds us that we can do nothing outside of Him. And in the Great Commission, He reminds us that the work is what we are to do. The quicker that we conform to His will here on earth, the more quickly that Kingdom issues will be accomplished. One of my mentors would say that "We cannot do what God does, and He will not do what we are to do."

We must focus our prayers fervently, passionately on God's Will for today. What is His Will? That we accept Jesus, and then show Him to others. Today, seek out how that you can be a vital link in His Will on Earth. 



*http://www.cwr.org.uk/doc/pdfs/extra/EDWJextraMJ14.pdf 



Monday, October 27, 2014

Stifling the Spirit




Christians cannot commit the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit. Or, as is referred to as the Unpardonable Sin. And, one thing for sure - if you are worried that you have committed it - that is a good sign that you haven't. It is a conscious resistance and decision against the Holy Spirit of God.

However, we as Christians have all been guilty of "quenching the Spirit" as the Apostle Paul warns us against in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. I like the translation in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, it says, "Don’t stifle the Spirit." The Amplified Bible helps us understand this as it renders this verse as, "Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit...." As I was reading this last week, I came across this quote by Anglican Bishop Dr. Handley Moule. He said, "The difference between someone who is quenching the Spirit and someone who is allowing the Spirit to have free course in their life, is the difference between a well in which there is a spring of water choked, and a well in which the obstruction is removed so that the water springs up and fills the well."*

If we allow fears, self-centered expressions, self-centered thoughts, and self-centered minds to control our lives, then we will find that we are stifling the Holy Spirit of God. The danger today in our churches is not that we are going to be "Boiling Believers," but that we will be the "Frozen Chosen."  Let us today seek to find what obstacles are in our "wells" of life and remove them so that the "Water of Life" can freely flow through us.


*https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=473322746039175&story_fbid=612517978786317

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Prayertime



I praise You Lord, for Who You are; the Alpha, Omega, Beginning and the End, Savior and Lord, You're my best friend; Creator of all. Thank You for being my best friend forever. Thank You for being my heavenly Father, always present and always there for me. Thank You for being my sustainer and protector. And thank You for saving me and setting me upon the solid Rock--Jesus. In His name I pray. Amen.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Prayertime



Dear God, Thank you for having a purpose for my life and for telling me what Your expectations are through the Bible. I know You must be disappointed with me many times, when I fail to meet Your expectations of me. I can identify with that from a human standpoint. When I expect a family member to be responsible and to do something that they do not do, or when they make wrong choices in life, I am very disappointed. Sometimes I feel frustrated or angry and other times heartbroken. Help me to be kind-hearted and long-suffering with them, like You are with me. Guide me to handle those disappointments with integrity; to remain quiet when I should and to speak up when I should. Please give me the thoughts, words, and actions You want me to have. And God, please forgive me for disappointing You. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Stress Relief - Preparation in Solitude



"Satisfy us in the morning with Your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:14 (HCSB).

I try to start every morning with some time alone with God. I spend time in reading His Word, and then talking with Him. As I have so often taught - two things to do every day - Read Your Bible and Pray.

You can take time anytime during the day for getting alone with God, but saints down through the ages have found that rising first thing in the morning and spending time with the Father prepares them for whatever comes their way during the day. We start our day God-centered, and then our minds and hearts continue through out the day focusing on Him. He takes this time to help us be prepared for whatever comes our way during the day. He can equip us for the day.

Starting now, plan on setting aside some time first thing in the morning to connect with God. To let Him establish and develop your hearts and minds for what is coming that day. It will reduce the anxiety and frustrations that you will face during the day - because you are prepared.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Stress Relief - God longs for our time



Genesis 1:26 (NKJV) - Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 

We are the only thing listed in the Scriptures that is created in the image of God. And because of this, He wants to spend time intimately with each of us. No other created thing has this privilege. He wants us to come and be quiet with Him. And, when we do this, we will find that He becomes very intimate with us.

It is in these quiet times with God that we see the as Paul refers to Him in Philippians 4:9 - "the God of peace will be with you." He speaks of this in Romans 15:33 also. It is this God of peace who will calm all of our worries, our fears, and the stress of life. He will remove them and give us a calmness of soul and a peace of mind.

Today, take the time to get quiet with Him, alone with Him, and listen to Him - and we shall see Him provide sweet fellowship and shower peace upon our being. Don't rush it - linger and enjoy the presence of God.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stress Relief - Listening to God's Voice


Mark 6:32 (MSG) - "So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves."

Solitude. We spoke of that yesterday. I pray that you took your list from Monday and got alone with God. We need to consistently find times when we can get into a "remote place by" ourselves. Finding a place that we can draw aside with God and be alone with Him. Jesus spoke of going into our "prayer-closet" to talk with God. He often went out into a solitary place to be alone with God. Why?

There are many distractions in our world today. These distractions will hinder our time with God. Wait you say, I can talk to God any time and any place. Yes you can - and should. However, drawing aside into a solitary place allows you to stop and hear God speaking to you. We spend too much time talking to God instead of God talking to us. We are told about Susanna Wesley - she was the mother of 19 children (two being John and Charles Wesley). She found it hard to find a place of solitude in her small home. She would pull her apron up over her face, and the children soon learned that she was not available at those times. What was she doing? Escaping from the chaos of those around her? She was spending time praying for each of her 19 children, and listening to God for His directions.

Today, take the list you made on Monday, the one that you took before God yesterday, and find a solitary place with this list to hear God directing you. {A word of caution, it may need to be repeated for a number of days before you begin to hear the voice of God over the many distractions that you allow around you.}



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stress Releif - Solitude With God



Matthew 14:22 - 23 (HCSB) - "Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone."

God wants us to release our stress into His hands. Charles Stanley has taught that God wants us to see that the solution for stress is solitude with God. When we learn to release our concerns and cares unto Him, we will discover a great reduction in our level of stress.

We need to start our journey of release and refreshment by going to God and spending time with Him in solitude. Psychology Today addressed this concept by making a difference between loneliness and solitude. "Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness."* Biblically, solitude can mean to draw aside and focus entirely upon God without any other distractions. This allows us to totally connect with God. The sweet psalmist David speaks to this in the 16th Psalm. He says in verse 8, "I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved."

Spending time with God in solitude doesn't mean we will never stress again - but it will help us to view our problems and stressors from God's point of view.

Today, look at that list you made on Monday, and consider taking time to be in a solitude relationship with the Father and look at the stressors from His point of view.



http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/what-is-solitude



Monday, October 20, 2014

STRESSSSSSSSSSS


1 Peter 5:6 - 7 (HCSB) - "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you."

We live in a fallen, sinful world - and because of this we can never escape from the pressures and stress around us.  Some stress (called eustress) is actually good for us. It is the stress that helps us to strive forward, to accomplish things in our life. Other forms of stress (called distress) is not helpful, and causes us physical, emotional and spiritual issues. So, how do we handle stress? Doses God's Word help us any in this?

Peter assures us that we have a God who cares, who is willing and able to handle all of our stress in life. He wants to help us - if we are willing to let Him. So, let us consider over the next few days some important lessons in letting God handle our stress.

Today, ponder over what causes you to be stressful. Make a list of those things that you stress over. Get that list ready, and over the remainder of this week we will seek four important lessons for handing that list over to God.





Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday's Prayertime



Oh Dear Lord, Thank you for your promises! Thank you for opening your arms and welcoming me to come to you, to find rest in you, to find freedom in you, to have abundant life in you. I cry out to you now for those who are heavy on my heart, for those who are going through the fire and those who are going through the valleys; for those who face difficulties and those who have come through trials and are triumphant because of you. I pray for your grace and mercy, your peace and love, your hand upon their lives. I pray for miracles and ministries. I pray that all who are weary will cry out to you and trust you. And I thank you so much for all that you have done and all that you will do. May your works and miracles in our lives be witness to the world that you are God. May you be glorified and souls be saved. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Prayertime



God, I have heard that you are never late, seldom early, but always on time. When I think back through the experiences of my life, I can see the truth in that statement. Thank you for always being on time. Thank you for the lessons you have taught me through waiting, through suffering, through the storms and valleys and for your faithfulness always. Thank you for the rays of sun that peaked through the clouds in the way of a praying spirit and helping hand from other Christians. Thank you for the sun that shone brightly after the storms and cloudy days, and for your son who is my sun and shield, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you had always been on my time schedule, I wouldn't have learned much in life, so I am thankful that you are always on time according to your schedule. I praise you for who you are and all you've done. May I be found worthy in your sight through the blood of the Savior. In His name I pray, Amen.




Friday, October 17, 2014

God's Protection


I still can remember the tragic events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, how a coordinated group of terrorists brought tragedy to our doorstep. The scenes, I watched unfold before my eyes on television. I was at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland, the elementary Principal and responsible for a number of young lives. I stood in horror as the second plane flew directly into the second Tower. It felt as if I was watching a movie when they collapsed. For the first time in my life in the United States of America, I felt vulnerable, unprotected fro the world around me. Things I had read and heard about was now in my backyard.

With no inscription to allow us to associate Psalm 91, I believe that God has given it to us to hold on to in times of troubles. When we seek and need a protective hand, He reminds us that He is there. Verse 1 reminds us that if we live under His protection, we are dwelling with El Shaddai – the most-powerful One. As we spend time in God’s Word, we find that there are a number of names attributed to Him – it is not that there are many different Gods; it is to show us the many facets of Yahweh. Each name covers a different feature of our marvelous God.

El Shaddai is one of the best-known compound names of God in the Scriptures. It literally means the “All-Sufficient God.” It is used 48 times in the Old Testament, the first time being in Genesis 17:1 – God had appeared to Abraham and was ready to fulfill His promise of making him the father of a mighty nation. His name was given to reassure Abraham that God was all that he needed to trust in for fulfillment. Job uses this name frequently in the book of Job. It also carries the connotation of omnipotence. He has all-sufficient power.

God has shown Himself faithful in the past. Because of this, we can trust Him for today and the future. He holds all power in His hands and being. He can be totally trusted to protect those who are His. This is a blessed thought when we consider our standing with Him. When a person accepts Christ as his Savior, God’s all-sufficient power is able to protect them from ever being separated from Him. He is enough, Jesus is enough.



Thursday, October 16, 2014

God's Peace


Selah. A word used 74 times in the Hebrew Bible – 71 of these are in the Psalms. We find it used three times in Psalm 46 – possibly marking the end of each stanza or thought in this Psalm.

So, what does Selah mean? Many believe it is a musical interlude, a pause, a rest. I like the way the Amplified Bible states it – “pause, and calmly think of that.” We struggle day-by-day facing obstacles, fears, and turmoil. If we listen to the news, it is enough to “scare us to death.” Diseases, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, floods, wars, and the list can go on and on are happening in the world right around us, and to some reading this – to you. The writer of this Psalm tells that “we will not be afraid,” according to verse 2. 

How can he say this? How can we know peace in a world that seems so out of control? The Psalmist begins by telling us “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” God is our Peace. God is in control. The answer to finding peace is not complicated. Selah. Pause. Rest easy. We should never expect life to make sense. We should not fear because surprises occur. Life is full of surprises, shocks, and senselessness. However, remember that nothing takes God by surprise.

Consider the three stanzas in this Psalm. First, even if the whole world should crumble, we can find Selah (verses 1 – 3) because God is our refuge. Then, even through floods and nations collapsing, we can find Selah (verses 4 – 7) because God is our stronghold. Finally, the Psalmist invites us to witness the works of God – He is exalted, with us, and the Stronghold.

Horatio Spafford in 1871 lost most of his investments in the great Chicago Fire. He sent his wife and daughters for some much-needed rest and recovery. The ship they were on sank, and all of his daughters drowned. He boarded a ship to go to his wife’s grieving side in England. As the ship went past the spot where this had happened, he went on deck, then he went back to his cabin and penned the words that would become a well-beloved hymn during crisis – “It is Well With My Soul.” This reminds us to settle, to pause, and to find rest in God. God our Refuge, our Stronghold, our Selah.




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

God's Encouragement

Donald McCulley had a sermon entitled “Got Hope?” In this sermon, he tells of a famous painting by G. F. Watt with the title of “Hope”. The painting pictures a poor woman against the world. Her eyes are bandaged so that she cannot see ahead. In her hands is a harp, but all the strings are broken save one. Those broken strings represent her shattered expectations, her bitter disappointments. That one last unbroken string is the string of hope. She strikes that string and a glorious melody floats out over the world; it fills her dark skies with stars. The artist painted a great truth: Even when all else seems gone, you can still have hope!

Have you ever felt depressed? If so, then you will find good company in Psalms 42 and 43. These psalms are attributed to the sons of Korah, who comprised Israel’s worship team of singers (Numbers 26:11). Essentially, these Psalms are about a person who is desperately longing for God’s presence and rescue but is overwhelmed with feelings of depression. Water comes out as a big theme in Psalm 42. This writer is feeling separated from God and he can feel it so much in his soul that he is like a thirsty animal, searching for water. He has a spiritual need in his life like this—longing for God’s presence.

The psalmist cannot figure out why he is so depressed. He goes on to describe himself as “deeply depressed.” Now the theme of water returns—describing the depression, which he sees as a conspiracy of the waves that cascade over him and are dragging him down to the bottom. Depression is like that—you cannot breathe, cannot see your way out—and are sinking fast. Even in the midst, he knows that he must continue to look to God’s faithful love at all times. Sometimes all we can in the midst of depression is to keep crying to God.

Ponder over two truths from this Psalm. First, depression can happen, even to a believer. We are not immune from this struggle. Then remember that ultimately it is God who is our hope. We can trust in the promises of God, that no matter what is happening around us, it will be okay—God is in control. God does have a plan, God does love you—and he will see you through even this.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

God's Forgiveness


Some one has said that life assurance is far more valuable and important than life insurance. I read where not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said, "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me."

God designed man to have a need to relieve the guilt that he has I his life. Guilt is a spiritual issue, not a psychological issue. We try to cope and explain away the mechanism of guilt, while continuing to struggle with it. We seek all sorts of ways to conceal, to release, to endure the pangs and feelings of guilt that is unresolved in our souls.

This reminded me of an account I heard of a man by the name of Val Patterson who died on July 12, 2012 due to cancer. He knew the end was coming, so he chose to write his own obituary notice. On the Social Media outlets, this obituary went viral. In this account he said, "Now that I have gone to my reward, I have confessions and things I should now say. As it turns out, I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June 1971. I could have left that unsaid, but I wanted to get it off my chest."

Forty-one years earlier as a teen, he had committed a robbery. Though the police did not catch him, he was never able to escape the voice of a guilty conscience. Just as many today seek to hide or remove this voice, it keeps coming back to cause us pain and remorse. King David said in Ps 32:1, 2 (HCSB): "How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is the man the Lord does not charge with sin and in whose spirit is no deceit!" Jesus Christ came into this world to offer us forgiveness for our sins, and to remove them completely from us (Psalm 103:12).

It will be no small comfort when we come to the end of our journey to know that our sins are forgiven, removed, that they are not screaming at us in the corridors of our mind, hounding us and chasing us as we pass from this world to the next.



Monday, October 13, 2014

God's Salvation


Okay, let’s admit together – there is a power outage, and when you walk into a room you still hit the light switch to turn on the lights. Be honest. Yeah – it is human nature. Why? Because we depend upon it. It is always there – well most of the time. Moreover, when it isn’t, we fell totally let down. People will fail us, material things will fail, plans will go awry, and all that we see and know around us can fail us when we count on them most. Someone has said that there are two things we can depend upon – “Death and Taxes.” The Bible says that we can be sure of two things (Hebrews 10:27) – death and judgment. The entire Word of God shows us clearly that the one thing that is unchanging (James 1:17) is God. In Psalm 27, David gives us a clear picture that the One he ultimately relied upon was God, and it is God who we can rely upon today.

The ultimate reason that Jesus came into the world was to “to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) He came to bring us salvation through His sacrifice upon the Cross. Moreover, because He is God, we can rest assured that what He has provided is enough. When He completed the work of salvation that day, He provided us an assured guarantee of our safety, security, guidance, and rest. We can count on His work – it is perfect in every way.

David had a desire “…to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) Jesus came and provided the way that anyone “…who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) I have always loved this verse – it is infinite in it’s scope, and finite in it’s meaning. Anyone, that is ANY one, who comes to Jesus, who puts their trust in Him, is guaranteed eternity in the presence of God. Because of this promise, we do not need to fear the future, we have confidence in what we have, and know the security that only God can give.

As you consider this truth, do you know the security that comes from a personal relationship with Christ? Have you shared this with others around you so that they too can have security of salvation?



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Prayertime



Dear Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your loving hand of guidance. This is hard to do from a human standpoint (even a "child's" viewpoint), but thank You for Your chastisement. I know that You love me because You care enough to bring about or allow things to happen to stop me and redirect my priorities and my paths. When things don't turn out like I expect, it's usually because I'm not doing what You want me to do or I'm doing something that would not bring about the best results for me, my loved ones, or those in my circle of influence. I pray that You would continue to direct the work of my hands, the desires of my heart, the steps that I take, and help me to turn in trust when You redirect my paths. For God, I know that all things work together for the good of those who love You (Romans 8:28). I love You. In Jesus' name to come to You. Amen.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Prayertime


Dear God, Thank you for always being with me. Please help me, and remind me, not to react to situations in a fleshly manner. When I am faced with vicious gossip or wrongdoing against me or something I strongly disagree with, please help me to remain silent when I should and to speak with calm wisdom when called for, but to never lose my temper or just "react." I want to act like a Christian should act. I want to be a testimony for my Lord and Savior. I want to remain faithful in whatever circumstance. May You be glorified. Thank You so much for Your guidance, patience, and love. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.



Friday, October 10, 2014

God's Presence




Six simple verses, yet there have been many words written about them. The 23rd Psalm is a short passage; it only takes about one minute to read. It is not the language of philosophy or theology, not a legal or scientific document; it is just simple and sublime. As has been said, here God puts the cookies on the bottom shelf, not just any cookies, but the grandest assortment of delicacies to delight our mouths and fill our hungry souls.

There is no question on who wrote it. David – the Shepherd boy turned King. The main discussion is on when he wrote it. Was it as the shepherd boy or King? Dr. J. Vernon Magee says David was mature when he penned this. Life had beaten, battered, baffled and bludgeoned him. He was a hardened soldier. He knew songs and shadows. He was tested and tried. He was looking back and reflecting upon how God took care of him, just as he had taken care of the sheep under his care.

As we begin a study on the shelter of God, it is like a fine diamond. Jewelers speak of the 4 C’s of diamonds: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. We see that the Presence of God is the basis of the facets of this gem. The cut refers to how perfectly the symmetry and proportions of the diamond capture light and then deliver it to our eyes in the form of sparkle. The facets of salvation, forgiveness, encouragement, peace, and protection reflect the very Glory of God. In perfect harmony, they shine in a clear and majestic way. 

The color of God’s shelter is as James taught, “… from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow…” (James 1:17, HCSB). The clarity of God’s provision (Ps. 23:1 – 3), His protection (verses 4 – 5), and His presence (verse 6) is all due to His unchanging nature. Finally, consider that the carat weight of God’s shelter is His Glory. The Hebrew word kabod originally meant "weight" or "heaviness." This is used to express importance, honor, and majesty. When we are in the presence of the Glory of God, we become conscious of something greater than ourselves pressing upon us, crowding and weighing on us, like a heavy spiritual presence.

We can see that in the midst of the storm, we can find shelter in the embrace of God.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Leaky Shelters?


Have you ever been caught unprepared for a sudden summer downpour? The first thing we naturally do is look for a shelter from the rain. In our lives we find ourselves often caught off guard by a sudden "downpour" of events. We seek shelter in many different forms - depending on the circumstances we are in. Often, we find that the shelter we sought - isn't something we can count on.

We seek to cope, while God is trying to show us in His Word how to be sheltered from the storm. Many of our mechanisms of trying to hold off the rain ultimately fail. Under a heavy deluge of a summer rain holding a newspaper over our heads may work temporarily, but ultimately it falls apart. We might grab an umbrella, only to find that it turns inside out in the wind. Or, we step under an awning, and it collapses under the weight of the water. These things may look funny in the movies - but when they happen in our "storms of life" they are anything but humorous.

We need to come to the point that we understand that God is the ULTIMATE shelter from life's storms. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who comes and takes up residence in our lives when we repent and ask Him in. When He is Lord of our lives, we find that He is a shelter that does not leak. We can count on Him. As we trust Him in our difficulties, then our faith grows and we are able to trust Him again and again.

Today, ponder over how He is a shelter in your storm, and then share with someone how He can be a shelter for their life.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

But God...



There are a number of powerful 2-word phrases found in the Word of God. Each of these phrases is used in context with the power of God. However, there is one such phrase used 45 times in Scripture that causes my spirit to leap for joy. 

That phrase is: BUT, GOD!

This small two-word phrase communicates a tremendous message to all who will hear. It is God’s response to Satan’s challenge. It is the bottom line. It is the last word. It is the “all over but the shouting.” “But God” stands diametrically opposed to the negative roar of the world. Consider that the world says no – “but God” says yes. The world says can’t – “but God” says can. The world says won’t – “but God” says will. The world says stop – “but God” says go. The world says don’t – “but God” says do. The world says defeat – “but God” says victory! “But God” climbs the highest mountain; traverses the darkest valley; and sings songs of victory in the midnight hour. “But God” exclaims, “I’m going to the enemy’s camp and I’ll take back what he stole from me!” 

Satan thought he could stop the plan of God. Satan sought to end the Jewish race – because he knew the Messiah would come from them. If he eliminated the nation – God’s plan would be thwarted – and he would win!

“But God” had things in control. God would defeat Satan’s plan through Joseph. Acts 7: 9 (HCSB) reminds us – “The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt, but God was with him.” God has a plan for you – for your life (Jeremiah 29:11). Satan will try his best to stop it. In our lives today, Satan seeks to hinder God’s plan and purpose, just remember – “But God!” If we could see things from God’s vantage point, we would know who is in control. We would be trusting in the Divine conjunction – “But God!”

Satan could not and cannot destroy the plan of the Father. We need to see things from the Father’s perspective. Satan says defeat, but God says victory! Satan says disease, but God says healing! Satan says you’ve blown it, but God says He’ll forgive! Satan says it’s too late, but God says there’s still time! Satan says wait until later, but God says today is the day! Satan says to roll over and play dead, but God says stand up! Satan says to give up, but God says to reach up! Satan says it’s over, but God says not yet!




Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bitterness


I love the “Andy Griffith Show.” I always get a kick out of the episode dealing with Aunt Bee’s pickles. She loved to make pickles, however they always tasted like kerosene. The faces of those who ate those bitter pickles always brings out the laughter in me.

Bitterness - having or being a taste that is sharp, acrid, and unpleasant. That is the way that we usually use the word. However, it has come to refer to a very negative emotion, one that a person has from mistreatment by circumstances or people. Hebrews 12:15 (HCSB) warns about this. The writer says, “Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.” Psychologists have stated that bitterness is the direct result of a person’s refusal, inability, or unwillingness to forgive another of offense.

Bitterness left unchecked will allow hurt and anger to grow until a person’s view of life is overshadowed by pain and resentment. It is destructive on all levels: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It grows like a cancer in a person bringing about more harm to the offended, while often nothing to the offender. 

In the Bible, we find the antidote for bitterness. Forgiveness. The Greek word for forgiveness can mean, “to release.” Bitterness holds on to an offense, while forgiveness releases it. Bitterness can only be conquered and healed through forgiveness.

Not all persons in the Bible lived a life free from bitterness. Examples are given in the lives of Cain, Job, Esau, Joseph’s brothers, Naomi, and Jonah to name a few. The Scriptures show us that those who did not “release” suffered the consequences of other negative effects; rage, malice, envy, slander, hatred, and even murder.

Joseph shows us (next to Christ) the epitome of forgiveness. As you study his life, he had every reason to develop the “root of bitterness” spoken of in Hebrews 12:15. However, when faced with his brothers in Genesis 45, he does not take retaliation against them, he welcomes and provides for them. He chose an attitude of forgiveness over bitterness.

When we display this attitude of forgiveness, we are displaying an eternal view, one that shows the world we understand how much God has forgiven us. One who displays this attitude is not ignoring the fact that they have been hurt. They recognize the pain, however they look at it through an eternal perspective. They seek to live each day as Paul challenged in Ephesians 4:31 – 32.



Monday, October 6, 2014

Trials


Christians believe in a sovereign God who never says "Oops". Nothing ever takes Him by surprise. We may have Crisis meetings here on earth, but they are never seen in the Heavenly Throne Room. We have a God who is omniscience. The Illustrated Oxford Dictionary defines “omniscience” as “knowing everything,” and the Bible certainly ascribes omniscience to God. We can understand this to mean that God knows every past, present, and future action. He knows every human thought and need. That means that when we are faced with hard times, He knew that before we got there. Moreover, the good news is that He is there ahead of us.

Over my many years as Christian (52 years) and as a Minister of the Gospel (34 years), I have learned and held on to two major truths when facing the hard times in life. First, I have learned that nothing touches me that has not passed through the hands of my heavenly Father. Nothing. Jesus said in John 10:28 – 30 (HCSB) – “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish —ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” Anything that comes my way first goes through the hand of the Father, and then through the hand of Jesus. We must remember that no matter what occurs in our life, God has surveyed and approved it to happen.

Second, I have learned that everything I endure in this life is designed by the Father to prepare me for loving Him supremely and for serving others effectively. Again, understand it is everything that happens. We like to quote Romans 8:28, holding on to the promise that all things work together for our good. However, we need to go to the next verse and understand what that ultimate good is. Romans 8:29 (HCSB) – “For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Hard times may not seem logical, dare I say even fair, but we can be assured that when God is directing the affairs of our lives – they are always right. So, let us learn to live, not for just the present moment, we need to live for the future. Receive the hard times as a molding of God’s plan into our perfection in Christ.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Prayertime


Dear God, There are times when I feel "down and out." I see so many precious people who are in that state today. I may not completely understand their reason and their situation, but I know who has the answer. You Lord, are the one who can help us overcome whatever burden, trial or temptation we face. You are the one who provides a way out. You are the one who can lift us out of the pit of sin, shame or depression. I pray that you will be merciful to me as you have always been; that you will give me grace for today and keep my focus on Jesus--my Savior. I don't want or need to feel down and out, because I know who holds the future and works all things to the good of those He loves. In His name I thank you and love you. Amen.



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday Prayertime



God, sometimes I wonder why in the world I go through the things I do. What lesson is it that I am supposed to learn? I rejoice in the times You have allowed me to have "faith experiences"--times that have tested and strengthened my faith in You. I know that faith experiences are usually not easy, but they end up being a blessing in disguise. Please, hold me up and keep me from stumbling. Continue to bless me that I may be a blessing to others and to You. Work through me so that my faith experiences will be a testimony to help others who need a special touch. I love You, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.



Friday, October 3, 2014

Forgotten


One of my all-time favorite movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus. Maybe because I have spent many years as a teacher – but more because most people can identify with Mr. Holland. He spent his life as a teacher, while wanting to write his musical masterpiece. He feels throughout the movie as if he is totally forgotten in all the needs of family, students, and others.

Most of us can identify that feeling of being forgotten or overlooked in life. Just as with Joseph, we can do all the right things and still wind up on the short end of the stick. We strive to advance, we study to be better, we work hard, we do everything exactly the way we should – and still it seems that nobody notices. Worse yet, it feels as if nobody cares.

Joseph’s life went from pinnacles to pits repeatedly. He was his father’s favorite and his brothers put him in a pit and sold him as a slave. He rose to a position of prestige in Potiphar’s house only to be lied about and sent to prison. He had every right in our human way of thinking of throwing in the towel.

Nevertheless, Joseph kept on keeping on in serving God. God had gifted him in special ways (just as He has each of us). Joseph saw the need to love God and other people. He did not let the circumstances of his life dictate to him whether he would serve God or not. He appears to understand that God’s payday is not always that same week.

We have the privilege of seeing the end of the story while Joseph did not as he lived through it. We have a God who knows the end of our story – even while we are living through it today. We are reminded in Hebrews 6:10 (HCSB) – “For God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints—and you continue to serve them.” We have a choice when we feel that we are being forgotten. We can choose to sit around and hold a one-person pity-party, or we can respond by doing what we have been called to do. God never promised that serving Him, loving others, and staying the course would be easy. He did show us that it will have a future reward.

By the way, in the movie – at the end Mr. Holland is shown how much he is loved and appreciated in a great way.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tempted



What is the difference between a temptation and a test? We know that God tests people (Hebrews 11:17) but does not tempt people (James 1:13). A good definition might be: A test is hard to do and aimed at increasing faith, while a temptation is easy to accept and is aimed at pleasure. 

Too often we fail to overcome the temptations in our lives because we place ourselves right where we shouldn’t be. A mother heard a noise in the kitchen and called to her young son, “Where are you?” He replied (while holding the cookie jar), “In the pantry.” She asked, “What are you doing in the pantry?” His response, “Trying to resist temptation.” The best way to resist the temptation is to stay out of the pantry.

In Genesis 39 we see that Joseph had to be in Potiphar’s house. He daily faced Potiphar’s wife and her tempting him. However, he had prepared for what he was facing. Joseph established the standards and convictions that he needed. He knew that God was blessing him. This reminds us of what is written in Ezra 7:9 – 10, “[T]he gracious hand of his God was on him. Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra studied God’s Word, and he sought to obey what he studied. Joseph knew God’s teachings, and he determined to obey them.

You are familiar with 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” I can personally attest to the fact that God is faithful to control the circumstances around what He allows in our lives. He sets the fences (Job 1:12; 2:6) around these temptations. The phrase “a way of escape” is one word in the Greek and means a place of safe landing. Not that we will escape temptation, but He has provided a place of landing on the other side for us. Sometimes we are forced (as Joseph) to endure the temptation. 

Joseph resisted the temptation, yet it still left him facing trouble. We may pay a price for standing strong, but God will honor it in His time – like Joseph.



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Betrayed


A good friend asked, “How are you doing.” The response was, “Pretty good, under the circumstances.” To this the friend responded, “What are you doing ‘under’ the circumstances – try being ‘under’ God’s grace.”

Once I was at the beach on a very overcast day thinking that because I couldn’t see the Sun, I didn’t need any sunscreen. After spending the entire day out, sunburned I painfully learned the lesson – even if I couldn’t see the Sun, it still was at work. That is an example of this teaching – even when we can’t see Him at work, God is faithfully working on our behalf.

Betrayal. A word that can cause even the strongest of heart to tremble. Who hasn’t at some time in their life felt that someone had betrayed them? Even Jesus was betrayed by Judas, a disciple. We need to understand that we can live beyond the circumstances we are involved in. Joseph went through a lot of life’s circumstances to arrive at the point where God was preparing him – to be the one who would save his family – and in turn, the line of Christ.

We see in Genesis 37 the brothers of Joseph discussing killing him, however Reuben intervened and sought for them to just toss him into a pit. The Hebrew word used here for pit – bore – can be translated a pit or cistern, a well, or a dungeon or jail. The ones who should have been protecting and watching over him became the ones who betrayed him. They imprisoned him because of their jealousy and hatred. I am sure that Joseph could not understand how any of this could be for his good. Often when we are betrayed we feel as if we are in a dungeon – dark and separated from all that is good.

Consider how today there are those who we look up to, we trust, we place on a pedestal – only to see them stumble, fall, or worse betray us directly. How we respond speaks to where our faith is ultimately placed. Faith in earthly things will fail. Faith must be in the One Who is ever faithful, Who is ever trustworthy, Who is constantly working all things for our good (Romans 8:28), even when it seems that there are clouds blocking the way. The old statement of C. H. Spurgeon rings true, “If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”



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