God, my shield and the lifter of my head

shieldBut You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill.  Psalm 3:3-4

Have you ever been so depressed or overcome that you can’t even lift your head?   Or have you felt so attacked by troubles, people and problems that you need a shield to protect you so you can stand?  Then this is good news for you to grab a hold of and to live by!

God is our shield.  In Genesis 15:1 God appeared to Abraham and told him, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”  So fear not–don’t be afraid or anxious.  In Psalm 5:12 David declared, “For You bless the righteous, O Lord; You cover him with favor as with a shield.”   Just like Joseph, David and Daniel had God’s hand of favor on them, we can be covered with God’s favor shield as we walk obediently with Him.  There are many verses that tell of the shielding benefit of God to rest on.

God is our glory.  If you are absorbed in weight lifting and stare at your muscles in the mirror while you’re working out, you might say that your glory is in your strength.  You take pride in how much you can lift, or in how trim or muscular that you are.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 commands, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understand and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”  We do not glory in our smarts, our strength or our money.  We glory in the love, justice and righteousness of God.  In God we trust.

God is the lifter of our heads.  There are those days when you can’t lift your head out of shame, depression, tiredness, or even an injury of some sort.  On those days, call out to the lifter of your head to do for you what you simply cannot do.  He will hear and He will act through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Ask for His strength and His grace when you need it.

I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me.  That’s what He does.  Jeremiah 33:3 promises, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”  Don’t wait until you’re in trouble to pray to God, pray early and pray often!

 


God’s prospering hand on you

tree plantedHe is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the ways of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.  Psalm 1:3-6

There is a contrast between the one who daily seeks the Lord, meditating on His word.  It is the difference between a sturdy and strong tree vs. chaff that is blown away by the wind.  The strong and mighty tree yields fruit.  It doesn’t just eek by.   These verses tell us that whatever we undertake, we will prosper.  That’s another way of saying that we’re blessed.  

The wicked might prosper short term.  They might have a lot of money, nice houses and things look like they’re on the top of the world.  But this is not a prosperity that will continue beyond this life.  In eternity they will be condemned and they will perish.  It is easy to envy those people who seem to have it all, thinking that somehow we went wrong.  Oh no.  Filter it through the eyes of God, with His eternal lenses, and we see their end.  It’s not good.

Joseph, David and Daniel are guys who God had His hand on to prosper them.  In Genesis 39:2-4 tells us, “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and because his attendant.”  NIV  

When you flee wickedness and make faithful people your friends, get to know the Bible as your best friend, and then put its principles into practice, you will prosper.  No, you might not get rich or suddenly become a star of some sort.  But you will have God’s hand on you and your paths will be straight.  You will make decisions that turn out to be the right ones, avoid trouble, and doors will open up as people see that you are a good worker.  They might not even want to hire or advance you, but God makes it happen.

And in the end, you will have eternal life in Heaven.  That’s where our rewards come, our true blessings, our time to be with Jesus face to face forever.  But the end of the wicked is not good.  They will spend eternity in hell.  

 


Are you blessed?

blessed

Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but delights in the law of the Lord, and on His law meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed.  Who doesn’t want to be blessed?   Is being blessed an ‘entitlement’?  Not necessarily.   David, the psalm writer, tells us how to be blessed.  There are things we need to do and ways to live our lives.  Would you describe your life as being blessed, or is it one big struggle?  If it’s a struggle, read on.  It might help you to figure out why ‘there’s always something.’

Is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.   It  has something to do with not living the same way that people who don’t know Jesus live.  It is also taking our cues from them, seeking advice from those who don’t love the Bible.  If we make our counselors and closest friends those who do not live according to God’s principles, we think and act like them, not like God.  Further, if we consistently watch TV shows and movies that are wicked, we are contradicting this spiritual principle.  Can you sing all of the old TV jingles, but not be able to quote a Bible verse from memory?  

Nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.  We must hate sin.  In Psalm 139:21 David goes as far as to say, “Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?  And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?  One night I was out with friends at a pizza place.  The friends were not believers and the husband took great delight in telling his stories of their drunkenness and rebellion.  I had heard the stories many times, complete with the supporting cast.  In walked one of his old buddies and they began to recite the stories again.  I was laughing at the funny parts, until God spoke this verse straight into my mind.  

I froze, knowing that I was not hating those who shake their fist at Him.  To be honest, that was the last time I saw those friends.  I knew I needed to part ways with them because they were not desiring to change their lives, but were continuing this life of rebellion.  Do you shut the TV off when you know the show is promoting sin, or leaving a group of friends that have gone too far?  

But delights in the law of the Lord, and on His law meditates day and night.  This is the positive solution to changing our hearts and minds to be like Jesus.  We must have a daily habit of not just reading quickly through a chapter of the Bible, but studying, memorizing and meditating on it.  And then putting it into action.  The result?  We will be blessed.  That is a promise.  

*Image from La Casa youth

 


Finding God in the Middle of the ‘Why’

Job

I know that You can do all things, and no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  Job 42:2

This is Job’s declaration at the end of not just a very bad day, but a bad stretch of years.  Job was God’s showcase to Satan that Job didn’t just serve God because of his riches and bountifully blessed life.  God wanted to prove to Satan that Job served and worshiped Him because of His character.  In a short stretch of time Job  his kids and his cattle all died.  Then he was afflicted with boils, and lots of them.

In the midst of this time of affliction, Job’s friends and wife accused Job of having some hidden sin to cause this.  God didn’t make sense to Job, but Job hung in there.  But he wanted answers to the questions of “why.”  God never told Job, but in the closing chapters of the book we see that God gave Job a view of God’s majesty in creation.

This verse was a part of Job’s response, saying in effect: “You are so big and I am so small.  Who am I to question such a magnificent and all-knowing God?”  There are times when God is silent in our lives and we may ask the same questions found in the book of Job.  Job never gave up on God or on searching for answers.  But in the middle of that quest, he didn’t get answers–He got God.

At a “Women of Faith” conference, Thelma Wells told of her daughter who was in her 30’s and single.  Her daughter told Thelma of her questioning of God and her distress over still being single.  She asked her mother to pray for her.  Thelma told her, “I’ll pray for you, but not for you to get married.  I will pray that you would fall madly in love with Jesus.”

Her daughter went away offended, thinking she already was in love with Jesus.  But her mother’s words spurred her on to spending large chunks of time with God over a period of months.  About a year later she came back to her mother and told her how God had totally changed her through that process and said, “Now I am madly in love with Jesus and it has changed me.”  She did get married not long after that.

Are you madly in love with Jesus?  Are you searching for the answer to something that has interrupted your life?  How can you find God in the middle of this quest, so that you can say with Job, “You’re God and I’m not.  Have Your way with me.  I trust You.”

*Photo from commons.wikimedia.org

 


God sees and He knows

God knows, God seesFor the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.  2 Chronicles 16:9

The New International Version (NIV) translates the end of the verse to say God gives strong support to those who are fully committed to Him.  The New American Standard (NASB) translates it as ‘He strongly supports those whose heart is completely His.”  Now you may be able to get a better picture of what this verse is telling us.  God’s eyes  range all over the earth to see and to give aid to us, His children.

Hebrews 4:13 reads, “There is no creature hidden from the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.”  You put 2 Chronicles 16:9 on one side of the see saw, and Hebrews 4:13 on the other and you have the good and bad side of God seeing everything.  In 2 Chronicles it rings like a promise and in Hebrews more like a warning.  

Let me take the promise side first.  Sometimes you may be struggling with something that no one knows about, or that you can’t put words to.  You might think you’re all alone.  But take heart, you’re not.  God sees and He knows.  Jeremy Camp has a song about this, entitled “He Knows.”  Here are some of the lyrics:

All the bitter weary ways; Endless striving day by day; You barely have the strength to pray; In the valley low; And how hard your fight has been; How deep the pain within; Wounds that no one else has seen; Hurts too much to show

He knows He knows; Every hurt and every sting; He has walked the suffering; Let your burdens come undone; Lift your eyes up to the one; Who knows He knows, He knows

That’s good news.  God sees that your heart is fully committed to Him and when you are crying out to Him for help and support.  And He sends help.  It may come in the form of another person, or simply the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to handle the burden.

The flip side of that is that God sees us when we think no one else does when we are trying to get away with something.  And we have to give an account of it before God.  Hmm.  What will that look like?  Will God review our lives like game film?  Will it just be with us, or will everyone see?  Either way, let it be a motivation to live carefully, not recklessly.

Remember that Bette Midler song that said, “God is watching us from a distance.”?  He watches us with a telescope, a periscope and a microscope.  He knows us inside and out.  And He strongly supports those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.God knows, God sees.jpg


Going Rogue

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Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.  1 Samuel 15:22-23

Samuel spoke these rebuking words to King Saul.  Saul had not done as God had commanded him to do.  He was supposed to completely wipe out the Amalekites.  Instead Saul saved back the king and the best of the sheep, oxen and lambs–all that was good.  He said he was going to sacrifice them to God.  This wasn’t the first time that Saul had gone rogue.  Samuel delivered heavy words from God: God regretted that He made Saul king and He was going to replace him.

Samuel asked Saul in 1 Samuel 15:19, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?”  This is rebellion and it obviously did not play well with God.  God didn’t want Saul’s sacrifice, He wanted obedience.  Saul rationalized what he did in 15:24, saying he did “because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”

Partial obedience and delayed obedience is rebellion to God no matter how we justify it to ourselves and others.  When God tells us to do something, He expects us to obey completely.  To God, when we disobey it is worse than us turning to witchcraft (the sin of divination) and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols.  This is because rebellion opens doors to Satan just like divination or witchcraft does.  Both sins cut us off from God.  It is better to fear God than to fear people and do things to mollify them.

A spirit of rebellion must be renounced in any way, shape or form.  If you short cut what you know God is telling you to do and stubbornly continue in patterns of sin, watch out. You will be disciplined by God because He loves you and has a claim on your life.  He will not let you continue down this path.

Samuel also told Saul, “presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”  The word for presumption in Hebrew means “seething pride.”  That means we think we know better than God.  We just act without checking in with God to find out what He thinks about a situation.  And then when we find out it was wrong, presumption would be shrugging it off as a little deal, like King Saul did.

David prayed in Psalm 19:13, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.”  God, show me where I am being partially obedient, slow to obey, and how I am shrugging off sin as no big deal.  May I always check with You first and not think “I’ve got this.”  Forgive my rebellious heart and change it to be soft, open and ready to listen and to act.

*Image from Symple Arts

 


Rush away, Holy Spirit

Rushing

Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.  1 Samuel 10: 6

This was promised to King Saul, when Samuel anointed him as king of Israel.  1 Samuel 10:9 goes on to record that when Saul turned his back to leave Samuel, “God gave him another heart.”  I love how the ESV talks about the work of the Holy Spirit as rushing upon the people that God was working in.  In Judges 13:25 it tells that “the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in Samson in Mahaneh-dan.”  Then in Judges 14:6 we see, “Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him (Samson) and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.”

The Holy Spirit lives inside of believers.  We are told in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit.  This is the same Holy Spirit that rushed on Saul and Samson and the same Holy Spirit that is described in Acts 2:2 as coming from heaven like a mighty rushing wind.  Can you picture the Spirit stirring in you and rushing upon you?

I have prayed for people often that the Holy Spirit would begin to stir in them, giving them an awakening of God in their lives.  I picture them beginning to think thoughts that are alien to their way of thinking and then wondering, “where did that come from?”  I picture them wanting to read the Bible where they never did before.  I also pray for them to have a desire to be about spiritual things and not just fleshly desires.  And then the rushing of the Spirit.  I pray that those who are gripped by a messed up past would be gripped by something other than their dysfunction–the power of the Spirit to overcome the former driving passions to a holy one.

When the Holy Spirit rushes on us, He changes us in the snap of a finger.  It’s a change maybe we had been trying to accomplish on our own for years.  Rush away Holy Spirit.  Shorten the time gap of change.  

I pray that the Holy Spirit would rush on me, turning me into a different person.  When we place our faith in the work of Jesus, calling on God to save us and to make us His child, that’s what happens.  God replaces our sinful, dirty and depraved hearts with His heart of righteousness.  We now have the ability to walk away from a fight, the power to say no to sin and the desire to serve God and others instead of being devoured with selfish ambitions.

It is a process that takes place when we are saved and it keeps taking place as we feed on the words of the Bible, invite the renewing work of the Holy Spirit into our lives, and take steps of obedience as God leads us into this new life.  Rush away Holy Spirit.

 


But God

ButGod1920.pngBut God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Those are two of my favorite words.  When things are piled up against us for success, for our circumstances, for whatever life brings us and it seems there is no hope–But God.  Joseph said it in Genesis 50:20: “You meant it for evil BUT GOD meant it for good.”  Joseph could have said: “You wrecked my life, you took it on a course where I was a slave and a prisoner.  I had to be separated from my family and live like an orphan for twenty years.  I was a victim.”

My own narrative for Joseph: “But because of God, I’m okay.  I’m not going to have you put to death.  God has been a strong influence in my life, giving me the power to obey and the hope to not give up.  God has also spoken to me that it was His doing, His hand on my life.  It didn’t make sense until now.  He used me to save you all and that’s a big deal.  Things began to get better when I got promoted in Egypt and I started to think that was the reason all of this happened.  But now I see an even bigger picture and it’s about your lives and all of our relatives to come that God sent me here ahead of you.  It’s okay.  I forgive you.”

Let me take you to some other “But God’s” to see if you can grab a hold its significance in our lives.  Ephesians 2:3-4,  “We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, who is rich in mercy, saved us because of His great love for us.”  And Romans 5:8, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  We were sinners and objects of God’s wrath, deserving of death and Hell.  But God stepped in and rescued us because of His great love for us.

You can write down the troubling things of your life, maybe your personal history of abuse, trauma and rebellion.  After each circumstance that continues to haunt you, write down “But God” and then write (or say in your mind) what it is that God has done to use those bumps and bruises for your betterment and for His kingdom.  

The script is different for each of us, but we all have “But God’s” if we’ve truly met Him and given Him our lives to take and to make new.  Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Paul could forget his rebellious and prideful past because God showed Paul His purpose for His kingdom and how he was using his past to write a new future.

Paul had to surrender anger, bitterness, shame and rebellion to God’s ways and to be melted by God’s love, We must do the same.  Surrender your past to God and allow Him to work out His providential plan and  redemptive ways in your life.

What are some things that may haunt you that you need to put down and add, “But God” to?  How has God changed those things to make them produce something good?

 


God’s Providence

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  Genesis 50:20

Joseph is the one who uttered these words to his brothers.  If you haven’t read the story of Joseph, it is a must read!  It is told in Genesis chapters 37-50.  The general plot is this: Joseph was one of twelve sons of Jacob.  Jacob’s tree is the family line that Jesus comes through.  Joseph’s brothers didn’t like him and sold him to slave traders from Egypt. Despite the bad set of circumstances, Joseph had dreams from God that kept him trusting that there was somehow a plan.

He ended up being put in prison unjustly.  While there Joseph interpreted some very important dreams.  When he interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams about times of plenty followed by times of famine, Joseph was placed as second in command of all Egypt.

When famine struck, his brothers came to Egypt asking for food.  The same guys that wanted to kill Joseph and seemingly wrecked his life were asking for a favor.  Once Joseph revealed who he was, they were no doubt thinking they were in for pay back once their father Jacob died.  In Genesis 50:20 Jacob is dead and they think trouble is ahead.

Then Joseph speaks these profound words of forgiveness and trust in God’s providence: you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.  He used it to save your lives, and our whole family’s lives.  Joseph must have had words from God to lead him to this conclusion and not be bent on revenge.

providenceThere are so many ways this truth of God’s providence applies to our lives.  God does have a plan that He is working out for each of us.  We don’t have to resort to a victim mentality or give up on God when things don’t make sense.  Hold on.  God is good and He loves those He calls and adopts as His children.  That’s us.  That’s you.  Take hope in that today.  Trust God, obey Him and regardless, follow His footsteps in the dark.

 


To sin: “You’re not the boss of me!”

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The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.  Genesis 4:6-7

“For sin will have no dominion over you.”  Romans 6:14

The glorious message in the Christian life is that sin no longer is your master.  Because of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, we can live free from enslaving habits and sins.  We can live in victory and freedom. Let freedom ring!

Most Christians would readily agree that sin is crouching at our doors.  If we give that sin a place in our life, sin will take over and be our boss.  Addictions and chronic sin patterns are like that.  But what many miss is the freedom and victory that Jesus offers.  Our new master is Jesus and He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us to say “no” to sin and “yes” to the life that He wants to give all of us.

Some of the things that we must build into our daily diets to conquer sin are:

  •      Stay away from tempting sins.  If you want to quit eating chocolate, don’t stand in the candy aisle!
  •      Confess and obey immediately. The longer you hang on to a sin, the harder it is to break.
  •      Walk in the Spirit, consciously committing each day to God.  Ask God to empower you with His Spirit, being careful to listen to His promptings.  It is through the Holy Spirit’s power and energy that we are able to live out the Christian life.
  •      Take the time to read and study the Bible.  This is not a magic formula, but it is like eating.  You wouldn’t go a day without eating because it would make you weak.  So don’t go a day without getting your spiritual food.
  •      Flood your life with the opposite good of what you’re trying to flee.  Instead of just focusing on not doing something unproductive or sinful, start filling that time with doing something good, productive and nondestructive.
  •      Find a trusted friend to be honest and vulnerable with to keep each other accountable to the things that are in your lives that need to go.

Victory over sin is possible through Jesus.  Sin does not have to be our boss.  That is today’s good news!

*Image from kyroisity@wordpress.com