Chaos

Chaos

I Corinthians 1:9 (ESV) God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Chaos! Utter chaos! The words scribbled in my journal this morning. The last few weeks have been a runaway train. Today our fourth child graduates from high school – breathe mama breathe! Time is flying by and the winds of change are clearly stirring up my heart and soul. With a mind fully of memories, thoughts and a to-do list that keeps on growing – I am seeking peace this morning. I need rest for my mind. Rest for my body. I am looking for the Peace of God and calling on the internal comforter – His Spirit inside of me.

The words that come next are from a place of deep reserve. The reservoir of hope filled each morning in this quiet time begins to spill forth from my mouth even though my head and heart may not agree right this second – God is faithful. The faithfulness of God is not surprised by circumstances or shaken in our disbelief. He is faithful always. Let that sink in for just a moment as I have this morning. Even though I have lost control – God is still sovereignly in absolute control of my life. My world is in His Hands because I have placed it there and refuse to take it back. It is in this passage I find new breath on a morning of absolute stress, worry and well…chaos.

Our little fur baby, Izzy, is asleep in the chair next to me. Our giant fur baby, Scout, resting at my feet. Both are completely passed out and intermittently snoring. They are resting after an early morning breakfast and frolic in the yard. They do not worry about their next meal. They are not concerned with the details of the day. The rain is of little to no concern to them in the shelter of the home provide. They trust me to take care of them. They follow me from room to room plopping down right where I am working, sitting or even sleeping if possible. I wonder today if that is the lesson in the busyness of life – a gentle loving reminder of the faithfulness of God that is for us and the rest found in Him. I must only trust Him. Believe Him. Take Him at His Word. Love Him. Desire Him. Seek Him. Serve Him. Follow Him…and all these other worries, concerns and details fall into place. Lord, let me find my way back into your Presence today.

Deuteronomy 7:9 (ESV) Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…

Do you know that God loves you with steadfast love today? It is not performance based but a covenant promise to you, His Beloved Child. God keeps His Covenant with us because He is faithful. My ability to keep my covenant with Him was irrevocably broken by sin. So His Faithfulness provided a sacrifice for my sin to pay the debt owed and rescue me from certain death – He has apprehended me with love not by force. His Love set me free to choose who I love and serve in this life. I choose You, God! I have decided to follow Jesus and accept the grace that I have been given. God only desires our love. Not just any love, but a committed love. A love that tries to be faithful and is remorseful in our failures. We have made a very structured idea of church and set mandates for the Body of Christ never detailed by God. He asks only that we love Him enough to seek Him, follow Him and trust Him.

Deuteronomy 32:4 (ESV) “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”

The firm foundation of our life, faith and confident hope is the unchangeable, all-powerful, fully authoritative, all-knowing, and ever present Rock who is the Lord. He is incapable of lying or changing His Mind without altering His Perfection. If something is perfect, it has no need to change. It is our imperfection that calls for change. God promises to be the Rock. Our shelter. Our refuge. The hiding place of the righteous who come boldly before Him. He is a Good God who is faithful and without iniquity. He offers divine disciple but thanks to grace there is no punishment involved. When faced with challenging seasons or long processes, it is the faithfulness of God that is our hope. We must look above the wind and waves to see that He is still right where He has always been and perfecting all that concerns us according to His Word. (Psalm 138:8)

Hebrews 3:3-6 (ESV) For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

God’s faithfulness was demonstrated in Jesus Christ. Though tempted by the enemy, Jesus overcame him by simple telling him what God said. The enemy fled. Christ lives in us. The resurrection power and life that overcomes is in you and me. Moses built a tabernacle for God’s Presence in the wilderness. God revealed His Glory to the people. Forty long years of wandering and there were few who would ever enter the promise of rest. King Solomon built a beautiful temple. God was pleased. He went on to waste his life indulging in sinful conquests. God had a better plan and a more glorious thought – He sent His Son to inhabit those who would be His People. We are His House. Christ lives in us. He gives us the desire and drive to be faithful to God so it is no surprise that the enemy comes to tempt us. He reminds us of our past. He sows regret, remorse and shame to choke out new life and hope. He tells us that God is mad at us. He says that He is punishing us. He tells us that the Lord has forgotten us. Or maybe just that we deserve the consequences of our choices. He is a liar. The Word says that God has other plans for “His House”. Christ is building a strong “Body”.

I Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

The greatest temptation commonly faced by believers each day is to abandon trust. To believe something other than the Word God has given us. To pursue lesser things hoping to achieve some other kind of glory. We have been given the Glory of God for our broken vessels. He resides in us and wants to shine through us. I don’t know what you are facing today – I only know the insufficiencies of my own heart. What I do know is that God is faithful! Some days, like today, I must remind myself that He is faithful. He is always faithful. His Faithfulness is unreserved when it comes to me. He is relentless in His Passionate Pursuit of me. I must learn to run to His Refuge and seek His Shelter when tempted not to trust Him. To seek His Peace that passes all understanding to pull in my rebellious thoughts. I must only call out His Name and He always rushes to my aid. He will leave the 99 just to carry me back. He is faithful today. He has already provided everything I need to overcome temptation and achieve my purpose today and every day. I must remind my heart, mind and soul – God is faithful every day even today!

Psalm 62:8 (ESV) Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah

Advertisements

In the Shadow

in the shadow

Psalm 91:1-2 (ESV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

To live in the shadow of can mean to live close to or in a position of being unnoticed because all the attention is given to someone else. It is human nature to live by comparison. The shadow of choice is the standard set for our life. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. It is important that the standard of our life is from the Word of God and not living in the shadow of other people. God made you with an individual plan and purpose that no one can fulfill but you. It is filled with blessings and benefits that are your inheritance set aside for your good pleasure. There is no competition with God. The Father has no favorites. Each one of His Children unique and complex in His Creation. Or have you someone found yourself living in the shadow of others? Maybe you live in the shadow of the impossible mountain that won’t seem to move? The Lord offers us a place in His Presence. A close proximity to Him. To dwell in the shelter of His Refuge and the Fortress marked “Peace”. He invites us to abide in the shadow of the Almighty! Yes, please.

“My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Oh and there is the secret. Trust. To eliminate all fear, doubt, and insecurity by moving from the obscurity of the crowd into the courts of the Almighty. The transition will defy all human logic as it is solely reliant on faith. We walk by faith and not by sight. Faith must have a new foundation. The foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ. We must compare our standard of living to Him to align our life with the Father. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. What is right for me may not be right for you. Our convictions may be different. The habits that are healthy and choices that are right are not the same for everyone – it is important to understand that while we all have fallen short of God’s Glory not every produces the same light. Each light is needed to drive out darkness of every kind. The brightness of our life is produced by living in the Shadow of the Light of the world.

Psalm 91:9-10 (ESV) Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

The story of Elijah is one of my favorites to study. In 1 Kings 18, he is killing all the false prophets but then in I Kings 19 – he is hiding from simple threat. I was listening to a snippet of a sermon from one of my favorite preachers yesterday. He was retelling the story from a different perspective. Elijah was in the midst of transition. He was being repositioned by the Lord in his ministry. He was a teacher, prophet and minister. He was becoming a mentor. Sure enough at the end of I Kings 19, Elisha arrives on the scene. I wonder if in the midst of transition or perhaps transformation the undoing is too much for our humanity. If in those times – we forget that we live in the shadow of the Almighty and reposition ourselves in the shadow of others. Shadow of fear. Shadow of doubt. Shadow of insecurity. Shadow of isolation. We forget that we live in the shadow of the Almighty God who never grows weak and weary. When we are tired of the process, He continues to work on us just the same. His Word does not return to Him void even when we give up on it. Two different mountaintop experiences – one man. Great faith and confidence on one. Fear and doubt on the other. Same God. Sometimes the Lord has to get us away by ourselves to reassure us. He wants to speak to us but must silence all the other voices so that we listen to the still small voice. No weapon formed against us will prosper in this place.

No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. Faith will always release God’s Favor in our life. It is no different than turning on the faucet and water running out. As long as you are connected to a source, the source is available to you. The source of water to my home is the county water line. The source of Living Water is Jesus Christ. When I align my life to Him and live in His Shadow, things begin to change. My closeness to the Lord allows me to experience such a life.

Psalm 91:14-16 (ESV) “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Because he holds fast to me in love… We are God’s Beloved. He bestows His Unfailing Love on us each and every day. He gives us new mercies every morning. His Grace is always enough to restore any breach. He gave His Only Son to die for our sins. This gift of God to us cannot be earned or deserved only returned. God doesn’t need us. He desires us. He wants us. He is desperate for us. The only thing that you and I can “do” for God is to love Him. To live in close proximity and intimacy with the Lord. To dwell in His Presence. Those who find the way into the shadow of the Almighty and choose to love Him forever will experience long and satisfied living as the Lord shows Him salvation at its finest. There are many who call on the Name of the Lord without the express desire to actually find Him or make their way to Him in this lifetime. It is like having money in the bank but living a bankrupt existence. The fulfillment of God given to us is found in His Love. There is nothing more to do than connect with His Love and never let go. Those who fall in love with God through His Son Jesus Christ will experience a holy inhabitation that consummates the relationship – it is the Holy Spirit. He becomes our teacher, mentor and guide through life so when things don’t make sense or storms rage or situations arise or the impossible comes – we have nothing to fear living in the shadow of the Almighty.

James 1:16-18 (ESV) Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Oh how He loves us! He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affection for me. And, oh, how He loves us… (How He Loves – John Mark McMillan) The capacity of God’s Love for us is not limited by inability to receive it. He just keeps pursuing us and inviting us to enter into His Presence. Every good thing in our life is a product of God’s wooing us. He sends good gifts to His Children even those who do not live in an intimate relationship with Him. The prodigal’s father had two sons. A good son who was faithful to the family and another wild rebellious child who took his inheritance and squandered it prematurely. The father didn’t forget his “lost” son. He didn’t give up on him. In fact, when the broken shell of a man returned, the father welcomed him and celebrated his return fully restoring his place in the family.

God feels the same about you and me. He keeps our place in His Presence. There is no competition. There is no comparison. There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. His radical and ridiculous love for us cannot be deterred or displaced it just keep pouring out in our life. Do not be deceived, my beloved. He invites you to come boldly before His Throne today and claim your place in His Presence. There is only one you. He made you to be a masterpiece. You are fearfully and wonderfully made because God did a marvelous work in your creation. (Psalm 139) Jesus Christ has given us boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him to approach God and live in His Presence. (Ephesians 3:11-12) The Lord invites you to live in His Shadow today.

Hebrews 4:15-16 (ESV) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Slow Down

Slow-Down

Psalm 62:5-8 (ESV) For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah

During the morning commute yesterday, I came upon a car going much slower than my vehicle was traveling. At first, I became agitated. Quite the contradiction from the praise music playing, it shook me from prayerful meditation to using every ounce of self-control not to honk the horn. The longer I followed the car the more worked up I became. Due to oversleeping and pure exhaustion, I was running late. Still fighting a cold and freezing in the unusually cold temperatures for the South, I just wanted them to get out of my way. How do we flip the script so quickly? Moments before, I was settled in for a long commute enjoying time with the Lord and then sudden inconvenience changes my attitude and demeanor. Guilty as charged. About that time, I passed a speed limit sign. The person in front of me was going the designated speed limit. I was frustrated because they were obeying the law while I was trying to speed past them. The Holy Spirit convicted me on the spot. There is a reason the law has mandated speed limits along with every other statute regarding the operation of a motor vehicle. I should know better as not too long ago I paid a hefty fine and attending four hours of traffic school for my bad choice. Yet, thinking about everything “I” had to do, where “I” needed to be, and “my” schedule – this person was actually keeping me from a possible bad choice.

There are many lessons that could be shared from my personal experience in that moment but this is what is relevant for me today. God is inviting me to rest. Slow down. When I woke up this morning, these words are on replay. Slow down. Trust me. Come to me. I will give you rest. I am your refuge. Disobedience is more a knee jerk reaction to impulse rather than the deepest longing of the human heart. Those who know Jesus and love Him want to do what is right yet our flesh is constantly challenging the idea of rest, trust, and refuge in the Lord because so much of it involves waiting.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah

Trusting the Lord produces rest in our heart and mind. Peace that passes all understanding is found in the Presence of God when He becomes our refuge. I am encouraged today by the psalmist’s thoughts – “pour out your heart before God.” What is your heart full of today? The contents are important as it is the context of our thoughts and motivates our actions. What is your primary motivation? Are you worried, stressed or anxious? Overloaded? Overwhelmed? Desperate? The Lord invites us to literally pour out our life before Him. He will help us. He will give us rest. However, we must be able to trust Him for relief.

Trusting the Lord means believing what the Word of God tells us about Him. Jesus is the Word who came down and was wrapped in flesh to demonstrate God’s Profound Love for us. Here are some truths about the Lord today. God will become our refuge when we believe…

Psalm 36:7 God’s love for me is steadfast.

Psalm 18:30 God’s Way is perfect.

Psalm 31:19 God is always good and His Goodness is for me.

Psalm 34:8 God desires me and I must desire Him.

Psalm 46:1 God is my “very present” help.

Psalm 61:3 God is more powerful than the enemy.

Psalm 91:1 I must choose to live or dwell in God’s Presence.

Psalm 142:1 God wants to release the supernatural in my natural life.

Psalm 144:1 God is always in control.

These are just some of the qualities true of God as demonstrated in His Word. The Word is our compass. It keeps us moving in the right direction. It lights the way. Those who believe God at His Word and choose to trust Him through obedience will find peace that passes understanding and rest in the midst of chaos.

Hebrews 4:11-12 (ESV) Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The state traffic laws are not mandated to inconvenience me. They are put into place because it is determined the safest speed of travel given the conditions of the roadway and surrounding area. I decide whether or not I will obey the law. If I do not travel at the posted speed, I am breaking the law. If I get caught, there will be a consequence. A penalty to pay. The Word of God is God’s Way and Will for our life. Though unbound by the law, it is still the best course of action for our life. It leads to provision, protection and every other promise that God was inscribed in it. If I desire that life, I must follow the instructions that have been given. The law does not hurt me – it is put into place to help me.

We must slow down and carefully consider the contents of our heart and mind each day. It will dictate whether or not I react to the circumstances and conditions of my life creating consequences or I will begin to prosper in the promises of God set forth for me by the Living God. God’s Refuge, His Rest, is the quiet place of faith, trust and careful consideration of the course of life. It is a personal decision to sync my heart each day and align my life with God’s Plan. When I get overwhelmed – it is generally because my pride has begun to takeover and I begin to believe that I must “do” something, “be” somewhere or nothing will get down. Self-importance and pride cannot survive in the refuge of God. Those with diversified trust cannot sustain a restful state. “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the Power of Christ may REST upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I Corinthians 15:57-58 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Be steadfast. Be immovable. Be abounding in the work of the Lord. Let your labor not be in vain. God did not call us to life of rushing. He did not anoint us to be “busy”. In fact, He has already promised to complete the work that He has begun in us. We have victory. We are overcomers in Christ. It is finished. Or is it? When our flesh fights for control – it seems to be full of good intentions but does not produce a life of godliness. Godliness is established in us by God alone. There is nothing I can do other than submit to the Holy Spirit’s work and continue to abide in Christ. God is doing exactly as He promised in His Word. We can trust Him. We can rely on Him. We can rest in Him every single day. It is a choice. Is it your choice? I must make it mine.

Hebrews 6:17-20 (ESV) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Several years ago, my husband and I enjoyed a lovely cruise through the Caribbean. On the last night of our trip, the water was very rough. The large ship was being tossed about and warnings were posted to be very careful. Coming back from dinner, it was difficult to walk down the hallway without bumping into the corridor walls. Once inside our cabin, I collapsed in the big comfy bed and was drifting off to sleep. I was jostled not by the swaying ship but my husband. He was getting very nauseous and woke me in disbelief that I could actually sleep through it. I think of that night when I read this verse. The Peace of God that allows us to rest in Him is trust. Trust is the chain that connects the anchor marked “hope” to the vessel. I am a vessel. I must carefully inspect the contents to determine my connection with faith and hope. To trust the Lord is to live at rest in His Refuge. There are areas of my life still under renovation. The Promise of God still stands as He is patient, loving and kind waiting for me to figure out my salvation and work it through my life. Consider this – forever is not the future but encompasses every detail of our life – past, present and future. It all works together in the redemption plan. There is no falling backward or rushing forward just becoming. Today – I will slow down. Today – I will choose rest. Today – Lord I ask you to be my refuge.

Psalm 62:1-2 (ESV) For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Returning to Rest


Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/84923

Psalm 116:5-7 (ESV) Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

The creeping crud got me. The virus I had hoped to escape has overtaken me. It’s only a cold nothing terminal but mighty inconvenient. Coughing and hacking through the night and now sleep deprived crawling into my quiet place, the verse for the day is – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Oh to find rest! Lord, I need some rest. However, as I begin to read more passages about rest it becomes clear that the Lord provides a place of rest for us. It is a consecrated and holy establishment of deep contentment born of absolute faith that allows us to sit and wait quietly as the wind and waves crash all around us, the storm rages within us or when bad news comes with each knock.

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

As a fresh dose of medicine begins to clear the fog in my head, I realize that rest is not a feeling but rather a place where one can live. Our soul has a refuge in which it can rest. Freedom allows us the opportunity to choose busyness or peace. All the rushing about adds not a moment to our life but wastes precious time better spent in the peace of God resting on His Promises and waiting for His Word. God is gracious. He is always right. God is merciful. He doesn’t make salvation or redemption complicated. In fact, it is so simple that many find it hard to accept. Since I can do nothing to earn His Love or deserve His Grace, God does not set us up for failure but simply says, “Come to me.” Where’s the catch? What’s the trick? How do I find rest for my weary soul? Is His Yoke really easy? Is His Burden really light?

It is in our absolute weakness that His Power is manifested in our life. The moment of revelation that despite good intentions and the best of my efforts, I can do absolutely nothing to earn the favor of God that restores a right relationship that I am able to fully embrace the Power of His Love.

Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 (ESV) What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

Rest is established in the heart. It is the desire for Christ that fulfills the emptiness left void even in earthly success or prosperity. The longing for something more than this life has to offer can only be fulfilled by the Creator of every living thing. So often, it is human nature to divide the cultures of Christianity and normal life. To truly find fulfillment and satisfaction is the integration of our natural life with the supernatural existence offered to us by God. To become one with the culture of Christ. To follow His Example and learn to live in His Presence. Any other way of life is led by vanity or pride. A key characteristic of those whose heart is at rest with Christ is that no matter what the situation or circumstance of life God will keep them in perfect peace including no more sleepless nights.

Isaiah 32:17-18 (ESV) And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

What a beautiful promise in Isaiah! God has promised His People will abide in peaceful, secure and quiet resting places all because of righteousness. Has your soul forgotten that through Christ you were made right with God? Have you assumed responsibility in your life rather than trusting God with every detail? When our faith and trust is in God through Jesus Christ – righteousness is established. As we learn to live a life of believing God – peace permeates us. His Rest becomes our refuge. It doesn’t mean everything changes but our heart changes. In that moment that the expectation of our life is fully invested in Christ that the desired return is received – love, joy, peace and completion. Are you stressed out? Worried? Weary? Anxious? Overwrought with responsibility? Weighed down by heavy burdens? Are you discouraged? Ready to quit?

“Return, O my soul, to your rest.” God created the heavens and the earth. He has a handwritten plan for each of us that includes a future and hope. He inscribed it before our birth and His Word will not return to Him void concerning us. His Son, Jesus, came to the earth and died for every sin that you and I would ever commit before our existence. It is finished. Righteousness provides a refuge marked “REST” for those who will enter in. Sometimes I must remind my soul to return to the place called rest. Each time I am met by the Presence of God and wrapped in the embrace of a loving Savior who takes my burdens and gives me perfect peace. Lord, let me find rest in You today! Perfect peace in the Love of my Savior! Keep my heart and mind fixed on You and my feet steadfast in the refuge called Rest!

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV) You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Beware of the Thief

Beware of the Thief

Matthew 6:19-21(ESV) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It is finally Christmas Eve. To some it is a time of elation while preparing to gather with family and friends to begin a two-day celebration. To others it is a lonely time that will drag on for what seems like forever. If you are the mom and dad, it is show time. Things get a little crazy with all the cooking and preparations to pull off the biggest night of the year for children. Who am I kidding? My adult daughter still expects a full stocking. The demands high and expectations even higher it is easy to become distracted and overwhelmed in the midst of it all. I would also like to warn you that there is a thief lurking in our midst.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) The thief wants to steal your joy. He wants to take your peace. Bent on destruction, he does not come through unsecured windows or unlocked doors. He invades our heart and makes his way to our mind. If our attitude can be accessed, it will change our actions. Allowing darkness to take the place of Light.

Matthew 24:43 (ESV)  But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

It is written that Jesus will come as a thief in the night. I believe it. However, it also warns us as believers that the thief who is our enemy is prowling around as well. He is seeking the one who he can easily devour. We are to remain alert. Stand guard. Be ready. We do not overcome the enemy by fighting back but standing on faith and confident hope as our platform of trust. It means raising our level of above humanity to heavenly. We must be prepared before the thief comes. Locking the door to our heart. Shutting the windows to our mind. Allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us and sustain us with the Fruit that affords us self-control. We have the Power of God in us to keep the thief from robbing us. Will we be ready when he comes?

I Peter 5:8-10 (ESV) Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 

In all our busyness, rushing here, running there, and attempts to perfect the final details of Christmas, I am reminded this morning that it is important to be watchful. Your adversary is prowling around seeking someone or something to devour today. Resistance is to reject the lie that is being offered instead of the truth. Firmness in our faith is total reliance of Jesus Christ to meet our needs and exceed our expectations. God’s Grace is for us. It’s in us. It is the generosity of God’s Heart given to us for us to in turn give to others. The Lord will restore you. He will confirm you. He will strengthen and establish you. Do not let the enemy rob you of special moments and blessings over temporary things. Release the idea of perfection and embrace the fullness of His Grace. Let it be your portion. It is enough.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 

Where is your treasure today? Is it in a safe place untouched by temporary problems or immediate pressure? Is it locked up where the enemy cannot touch it much less take it? You are the keeper of your heart. You determine who resides there. You decide how much control is relinquished in your natural life to Kingdom principles. When Christ set you free, you were free indeed. That means you control your life and destiny. Salvation and true repentance afford us the opportunity to exchange ordinary for extraordinary and natural for supernatural. The enemy pulls out his arsenal of lies the moment someone decides to give their all to Jesus. We must work diligently to let go of worthless things and grab tightly Kingdom Blessings. Love, joy and peace are the Fruit of God’s Spirit gifted to us for full satisfaction. We must continually work to maintain the Presence of God in our life so the enemy cannot try to come and take these from us. Are you full of love, peace and joy today? I hope that you are. Now before you get in the kitchen, go to the mall, start wrapping or have your first glass of eggnog, get into His Presence and make a Kingdom Deposit. What is in the Kingdom is inaccessible to the enemy.

Psalm 18:1-3 (ESV) I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

There is a thief diligently seeking to steal, kill, destroy and devour every good thing that the Lord has in store for His People. We must be alert. Sober-minded. Utilizing the Spirit’s Gift of self-control to overcome the enemy. He cannot take what is put securely in the Hand of God by faith. God is our refuge. He is our Strength. He is the Stronghold that keeps the enemy out. Have you called upon the Lord today? He wants to surround you and fill you with love, joy and peace this Christmas. We must only be available and willing to receive.

Romans 16:20 (ESV) The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

When Mountains Move

When Mountains Move

Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountain fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

“The mountains quake with their surging…” I wonder what our response might be to the moving of the mountain beneath us when the Lord starts to break apart the foundation of doubt that once was our security as pride kept us in complete control. The smallest step in faith will produce a profound rumble in the ground beneath our feet. Faith is not logical. It is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of the unseen which makes it intangible. In fact, sometimes the smallest movement of faith in our life produces an avalanche of circumstances as the enemy fights to keep us from attempting another. Fear is a fortress with an unlocked door. It binds us in the dreadful expectation of something that may not ever be a reality. Faith produces a refuge in the Presence of God that endures the moving of our mountain as the earth gives way to eternity.

It seems as though the more I desire to live by faith the more uncertain life becomes. God is an ever-present help in trouble because His Spirit lives in us. The reality of God’s Love shines from those who encounter it, engage it and somehow endure to the end. It is up to me to fan the flames of His Spirit and keep the light shining brightly even on the darkest days. I must feed my faith the Word of God to continually nourish and strengthen it. I must water it with the Word to keep it supple and growing. I must protect my seed of faith from the things that want to choke it and kill it such as fear, anxiety, stress, worry and cares. Life is hard. There is no question that everyone faces difficulties in life. The outcome is determined by our response to adversity. Do I run for cover or run to my refuge. God is with us. He is working for us. He will never let us down. He must be the place of comfort and rest when the mountain starts moving.

Psalm 46:4-7 (NIV) There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Faith displaces fear in our life but doesn’t stop the world from turning. The world is headed for destruction. There are wars and rumors of war just as the Lord predicted when He was with us. Just because you have faith doesn’t change the current conditions or natural consequences in the world, it changes us. It conditions our soul, mind and body to respond to God’s Word and His Faithfulness rather than reacting to the situations faced on any given day. I didn’t realize until today that the words, “God is within her, she will not fail” were actually words of encouragement tucked in the Bible. I needed some encouragement today. If God lives in you, you will not fail. It’s true. If we could only believe that His Word is true and relevant in our life – we just might wait to see what happens.

Haggai 2:6-9 (NIV)  “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Why shake things up? I believe that the shaking is to keep us from settling. Comfort and complacency produce a sense of control that is contradictory to allowing God’s Spirit to work in us and through us. God is determined to give us His Very Best. He doesn’t cut corners or compromise. We must press and push to stay in the Presence of God even in the midst of violent storms or shifting sands. In Luke 6:38, it talks about being “pressed down, shaken together and running over.” The giving of our life in full surrender to faith produces this kind of movement in our life. It is not a bad thing. It reveals the true wealth of our life. We have the opportunity to become refined and purified as gold.

Psalm 46:8-11 (NIV) Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Is the ground beneath you moving? Are the winds of change blowing like a hurricane through your life? Do you feel unstable? Could it be that your faith is producing some movement in the mountain of doubt you have been climbing? Faith moves mountains even in the smallest form. The changes and conditions that seem to be threatening you might be the very things moving you from complacency to confidence and producing the hope from the ashes of unmet expectation. You cannot expect to be transformed and not moved. It would be contradictory. Stagnancy is not a Kingdom condition as His Spirit flows through our life. Changing us and the outcomes of each trial. The Lord is moving us into a refuge of faith that produces confident hope that in the midst of shaking all around us – it produces a stillness just knowing that He is God. He is Good. His Love for us is unending and unconditional. He will stop at nothing to show you how much He desires you. If the mountain is moving today, do not let it move you. Keep the faith. Remain committed to confident hope. Hold on to Him with both hands. The Lord is for you. You will not fail!

Psalm 62:8 (NIV) Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Refuge on the Mountain

Refuge on the Mountain

Psalm 57:1-3 (NLT) Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by. I cry out to God Most High,
to God who will fulfill his purpose for me. He will send help from heaven to rescue me, disgracing those who hound me. Interlude My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.

David was fleeing Saul’s wrath hiding in a cave carved in the side of a mountain. He wrote these words to the Lord as his soul sought solace from fear, worry, doubt, and anxiety. David asked for God’s Mercy. Compassion and forgiveness in his moment of deep distress. He longed for God’s Protection to be hidden beneath the shadow of the Lord’s wings until danger was gone. David was asking for peace in this moment as his heart ran away with his head. Confidence in the Lord goes as deep as our trust. When we no longer are confidence, it becomes more difficult to respond to Him rather than reacting to our circumstances. But then something happens, David changes his tune. He says, I cry out to God Most High. David is nudging God back on the throne of his wavering heart. He declares that the Lord will fulfill His Purpose for me. Trust in the Lord that no longer leans on understanding is evidence of faith.

I Samuel 22:1-2 (NIV) David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

Psalm 57 was written during this time, David was hiding in a cave. I find it interesting that he was surrounded by many who “in distress, or in debt, or discontented.” Misery loves company. David was in “hiding” surrounded by four hundred men – how ironic. There are times in life, though not alone, one may be lost in the crowd. Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Fear is powerful. Fear of God is a respect that generates confidence in His Power and Authority in our life. Trust is evidence of such respect. Our ability to put the substance of our life in His Hands knowing with all confidence that He is worthy of it. However, fear in the negative form is a dangerous weapon wielded by the enemy to take out our faith and confidence in the Lord.

Fear is defined by some as “false evidence appearing real”. It is the lie of the enemy made of twisted truth and empty taunts that the heart decides to hold on to. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Like any weapon, truth must be used properly to be effective. We must know God’s Word to fortify our heart. God has not given us the spirit of fear and we must be diligent in not taking hold of it. The enemy uses isolation to keep us caught up in his lies and empty threats.

I Samuel 22:5 (NLT) But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

What was the turning point? The place in Psalm 55 when fear turns to trust…it was the obedience of David to leave the cave and go to Judah. Judah means “praise”. I wonder if sometimes we get so caught up in the lie of the enemy that our freedom found in truth becomes restricted. David was surrounded by men who were in distress, debt, and discouraged. God was moving David from their midst into a place of praise. Praise relays confidence in the Lord over our present and momentary troubles and trials in life. It is human nature to commiserate but it is willing obedience to let confidence in God’s Word change our conversation. Grumbling and complaining about the “mountain” before us does nothing to remove it. It only keeps it firmly in place. We are not cursing our situation but telling the world that God has somehow lost His Power, Authority and Sovereignty which is simply not true. Such words are allegiance to the Father of Lies rather than the Giver of Life.

I Kings 19:8-10 (NIV) “There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Elijah found himself also hiding in a cave. Jezebel had threatened to kill him since he killed all her false prophets and made sport of her gods before all the people. Now the people were praising God, but the man of God was hiding. The Lord asks him frankly, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Now before you cast judgment on the poor prophet, how many times do we do the exact same thing? Recount the trauma of our trail, the details of our trial, the height and weight of the giant, and the impossibility of our situation. We do it all the time as if God is not with us and Christ does not live in us. As though, He did not create us with a plan and purpose or go before us or hedge us in from behind with unfailing love and goodness. It is important to note that sometimes our heart betrays us even in our prayer life. Do you spend time talking about the size, shape and density of the mountain or the vastness of our God? Trust in the Lord considers the Greatness and Almightiness of God over the stature of the enemy.

Psalm 142:5-7 (NIV) I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

More words of David hiding in the cave in the side of the mountain, “I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Do not mistake the invisibility of God to be His Absence. The Lord is with you. His Goodness is for the land of the living. (Psalm 27:14) Do not dismiss Him simply because there is a mountain before you. The mountain has a place of refuge called His Presence. It will take a lifetime to overcome our doubts, eliminate fear, overcome anxiety, silence stress and cease to worry confidently trusting the Lord. It is possible to those who seek the Lord to be their refuge and strength. God will set you free with His Truth. You must praise Him on the mountain so seeds of faith will begin to break the foundation of doubt and give way to willing obedience that offers the fruit of the Spirit to others rather than bitter roots.

One final word as I close today, choose companions on the journey over the mountain carefully. The righteous will gather about me because of Your Goodness to me. When David fled to the cave, who came first? Those who were defeated, distressed, indebted and discontent. What did the lone prophet tell him? Go to Judah. Find your praise. Praise changes the situation by softening our heart to receive the Truth. Praise is the salve that heals a broken heart. It reminds our soul to trust the One who loved us first and who loves us most. Surround yourself in such times with righteous friends not miserable commiserates. We need those friends of Proverbs 27:17 – “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 12:26 says that the righteous choose their friends carefully.

Be encouraged today. God is with you. He is for you. His Love never left you. He is only a whisper away. For those who trust Him, the mountain will be moved. To those who are committed to loving God and seeking His Presence – they will find refuge and strength in peace even when all hell is breaking loose around them. Be a friend of God first. Choose your close companions carefully. Live in Judah it is the place called praise.

Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV) You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

 

Tight Spot

Tight spot

Psalm 18:1-2 (NIV) I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Ever find yourself in a tight spot, me too. It seems like sometimes our freedom in Christ is compromised – hedged in by conditions, limited by situations, and overwhelmed by problems – where are the wide open spaces that God promised His People in Psalm 18:19 or the spacious place. In Psalm 16:6 – it is called the pleasant place. Life is not always pleasant even after accepting Jesus Christ. He promises us victory in the outcome but not necessarily triumph in every moment. Life can be hard. It can bring the unexpected. Life is not fair. It can be brutal as a believer to live for Christ every day, to be the light, and remain salty nevertheless that is our call.

Who the Son sets free is free indeed? But with that comes the wisdom that though are things are now permissible – not all things are beneficial. We have a new set of standards for our choices in life. How will I respond to problems? What is my reaction to pressure? The Lord is my strength. He will help me. Right? Well, why do I feel weak and powerless? I am hemmed in and it seems as though the evidence of my life is contradictory to strength and power. These two qualities have changed since receiving Christ, now my strength must fail in order for His Power called Grace to prevail in my life. I am no longer confident in me, my abilities, my surroundings or even the people around me. The Lord is calling me to the rock so He can be my Rock. He is calling me into his fortress so He can become my Fortress. He is allowing me to wander into dangerous territory so that He can be my Deliverer. Otherwise, I would continue to settle for less and do things in my own power. Where is the glory in that?

Exodus 33:21-23 (NIV) Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Moses was uncertain of God’s Command to “lead these people” as I am sure many men and women in ministry struggle with from time to time. Leading people is tough. People are problematic, prideful and stubborn. Just managing my own brood is challenging enough, I cannot imagine trying to lead an entire congregation in the same vision and mission. Ugh! He goes before the Lord to discuss the matter. I wonder what would happen if we became conversational with God. If we entered His Presence to hash things out and discuss the issues that bring us concern. What if we just decided to have an intimate conversation with Him even on the good days when trouble is not pounding on our door and chaos calm for the moment? The Lord tells Moses – paraphrased – “No worries. I will go with you! I will do what you are asking. I am pleased with you and know you by name.” So Moses presses further – “Now show me your glory.” There is something about God’s Glory – His Manifest Presence that may not change our environment but changes our heart washing away doubt and fear and filling us with confident hope. Are you confident in the Lord today? Or do you feel restricted, limited or hindered by the circumstances surrounding your life? I wonder today if the Lord is pressing you into the “cleft of the rock and covering you with His Hand”? Could it be that He is about to show you His Glory?

I Kings 19:11-13 (NIV) The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah had just killed all the prophets of Baal arousing the anger of Jezebel. Now one would assume that the prophet would be basking in victory but instead he is hiding in a cave. Her threat had penetrated his human heart and now he was in a cave second guessing his destiny. He told the Lord, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty” in this statement we find that the man of God feels far from God as He addresses the Lord formally. He recounts his good works and then the pity party begins…”I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me.”

Fear and doubt are powerful motivators and sneaky attackers. They come in when we are tired, drained or running low in faith. They pounce on us like helpless prey and devour the little bit of confidence remaining after tests and trials have taken their toll. I never really understood this until our son went into remission. For almost a year, I was broken, empty and on the verge of depression. The victory was great. God is good. His Word did not fail us. Our son is alive and well. However, I am still human and given over to emotionalism from time to time. I couldn’t see the Light of His Glory in that moment as my humanness overtook me. I had exhausted my faith and needed renewal. God passed by me in His Goodness and swept His Glory over me. I was instantly refreshed and renewed. It is not uncommon for us to give in to human weakness. In fact, it is absolutely necessary for His Grace to empower our life.

Song of Solomon 2:14-16 (NIV) My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. My beloved is mine and I am his…

The tight spots, limitations, hindrances and times of being stuck between a rock and hard place have meaning and purpose. They are an invitation. An opportunity to press into the Presence of God and spend time with Him. He is the One who tells us who we really are, what we are called to do, and how to do it yet we get caught up in busyness, the opinions of others and the rat race chasing some elusive American Dream forgetting that He is the God is Good in the land of the living. We see God futuristically and seek Him so when He desires intimacy and communion with us now – today. He pursues us with unfailing love and goodness. Will we stop long enough to experience His Love today and encounter His Glory?

From the very beginning, it has been God’s Greatest Desire to walk with us, talk with us, and live life with us. He desires us. He loves us. The Lord chases after us with His Love, Mercy, Grace and Goodness every day, all day from beginning to end. Could it be that the challenges you are facing is merely the Lord carefully constructing a cleft to catch you in? A place where He can lavish His Love on you, make a way for you, shower His Goodness on you or even just let you know that He is right there with you. See the Power of God does not limit our life but removes every limitation. We are free indeed.

Psalm 36:5-9 (NIV) Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Are you in a tight spot today? Do you feel limited? Is your confidence waning and faith running low? I wonder your limitation is really an invitation? Could it be that your Beloved is wooing you to come closer and move deeper in His Presence? He makes all things new. He makes way where there is no way. He gives life and love to those who dare to trust Him. The Lord is good. He is always good. He will never let you down but until you trust Him that will remain an opinion of others rather than your personal experience. God allows us to run into dead ends in order to show us a better way. He waits for us to run out of energy and excuses to illuminate the Plan and Purpose found only in His Presence. When His Glory passes by, you will take notice and be changed. He loves you. He is faithful. He is your righteousness and justice all wrapped in one. His love for you is without condition but you must be convinced enough to receive it today. Those who take refuge in the cleft of His Love will live in the shadow of his wings – safe and secure in all situations. They live in abundance beginning with confident hope. They drink from a river so deep that drought cannot reach it. It is a river of delights including joy and peace even in the tough times and tight spots. He is a fountain of life and light in the dark. He is Jesus. He is all you ever need.

Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV) Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Hidden Snare

Hidden Snare

Proverbs 29:25 (NIV) Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

Fear is a snare. It is a trap that keeps us from the safety and security of peace. It swallows up copious amounts of time with stress, worry and anxiety rather than love, peace and joy. Fear of anything other than the Lord does not produce a single thing of worth in our life but robs us of precious minutes. “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) I wonder if the psalmist in Psalm 25 was talking about fear when he wrote, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” (Psalm 25:14-15)

The enemy wants to convince you today that God doesn’t love his people unconditionally. He tries to convict us with lies and half-truths using the Word of God in a twisted and tainted fashion. Religion concocts remedies to keep pride alive and the façade of control while people are ravaged by such antidotes. Fear of man…or anything else for that matter will prove to be a snare for God’s People. Faith is the only thing that can overcome fear. It comes at the price of seeing to believe. It is a radical form of trust in a Living God who is not perceived by our senses but known by our heart.

Job 1:6-11 (NIV) One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Job 2:3-4 (NIV) Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 

The “even-ifs” of life are those moments when despite trial, trouble or tragedy, hope remains steadfastly anchored in God alone. Job experienced times like this. He lost everything of value and worth including his children in a single day. The next day, after proving his love and devotion to the Lord – his body afflicted. The Lord allowed it. We know in the end God restored Job and gave him a double portion blessing but oh what a price he paid in the fire of refinement. Maybe you remember three Hebrew men – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

“But even if he does not, we want you to know…we will not serve other gods.” Our confidence in God must grow to larger than our fear of other things. Even if He (the Lord) does not, we will not serve another. Such confident trust that even in death, our complete and absolute trust is in the Lord. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we must make it through today.

Some points of interest in Job’s Account is that Satan went before the Lord in the heavenlies. God is fully aware of the enemy and his earthly activities. Secondly, the enemy asked for permission to tempt the man of God. Why in the world would the Lord allow such a thing? My faith in the Lord must be genuine. When the hedge of protection is secure and everything is going good, it isn’t that hard to be faithful to the Lord. However, when all hell breaks loose in our life, what happens next is true revelation. Even if, God doesn’t deliver me what will I do about it?

Romans 8:14-16 (NIV) For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 

You are a child of the Living God. You have every reason to live a fearless life. However, total faith in the absence of fear does not exempt you from fiery trials. In fact, it turns up the furnace seven times hotter. True repentance should produce real faith. Faith that withstands trial, trouble or even tragedy is real and genuine. It is said to be more valuable than gold. The Spirit of God gives us liberty from fear, worry, stress and anxiety but it is up to the individual the role taken in life. The sons and daughters of God are not in bondage. There is no enslavement for Christ but rather servanthood as His Beloved. Who the Son sets free is free indeed – first and foremost from fear that hinders our faith. But can we say, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

Romans 8 goes on to say…

Romans 8:28 (NIV)  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

Are you wondering today – how can any good come from this? Why would God allow such a thing to happen to me? Where is He when I need Him most? Fear whispers such terrible lies but the Truth God is with us. His Word will not return to Him void which includes this one. He will never let the righteous fall. I could go on and on with the Truth that refutes the lie of the enemy challenging the Sovereignty and Constancy of God.

Romans 8:37-39 (NIV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Perfect love drives out fear. (I John 4:18) The more we seek to know the Lord and His Word, the less likely it is that we will fall for the lies, traps and snares of the enemy. The Light of His Love illuminates our way so that we can overstep and bypass them. The Promise is that we are more than conquerors so even if we must fight the good fight of faith there is nothing to fear. We win. We will be victorious simply because Christ overcame the world. He is our Beloved who gives us victory after victory. There is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God. What can make us depart from it today? Usually fear is focused in that area, the thing that we just cannot seem to trust God with. Is it your family? Your finances? Your future? Whatever it is should be evident to you. It is the place where fear constantly challenges your faith. Where you feel the least hope and struggle with confidence in God. It is the place where the enemy lays his most intricate traps and seeks the Lord’s permission to challenge you on a regular basis.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV) For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

His Grace is enough! It is always sufficient. Grace gives us access to God’s Power. You have the power to overcome the enemy including every lie he tries to feed you today. Do not feed your fears. Let God’s Word feed your faith today. His Love is unconditional. You can never blow it with God in a way that cannot be overcome by His Grace. His Power is always available to us. His Love for us complete without our contribution. Finally, self-discipline is the key to overcoming fear each day. We have God’s Spirit alive and well on the inside of us. It is up to us if He will be in control of our mind, will and emotions today. Will I allow God’s Spirit to stir my faith and build strong confidence in Christ or will I let fear take over? I choose faith today. How about you? Lord, reveal all my fears to me today so that I may strive to apply faith to them. Every snare, trap and lie the enemy has laid before me so by faith I can leap over them into Your Waiting Arms. Let me live fearlessly in love with You!

You unravel me with a melody…You surround me with a song… Of deliverance from my enemies…’Til all my fears are gone. I’m no longer a slave to fear…I am a Child of God!

Soul Wellness

Soul Wellness

Psalm 131 (NKJV) Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.

Psalm 131 describes the heart of one who fully and completely trusts the Lord. The words are not eloquent painting a picture of divine intervention and a perfect life. It is more a surrender and submission of the psalmist’s heart, mind and soul to the Sovereignty of God. It is simple truth about simple trust. My heart is not haughty or my eyes lofty. Pride crucified. Completely convicted of its own inadequacy and inability to be effective on its own. The first step to trusting the Lord is humility. Grace is accepted in our absolute weakness. It is the moment the Power of the Living God is manifested in us…not necessarily around us. The expectation that Jesus came to change our situation and save the earth is false. He came for one thing. He died for a single cause. It was for me. It was for you. His Desire for us so great that He set aside His Throne to come and live a humble life as our example and to be crucified as a sacrifice for us. My heart is humbled at such a thought. The idea that a perfect and sinless man would lay down his life for me is overwhelming in the first place, but to add that it is the deity of God who took my place is incomprehensible even to those who believe.

As I write these words today, there is a hurricane headed in our direction. The sky is growing darker and the wind beginning to pick up. It is midmorning and the neighborhood is eerily quiet as the community waits, watches and wonders what will happen next. Fully prepared with food and supplies, the unpredictability of nature and the weather is still unnerving. Standing outside it is clear even the birds, squirrels and animals that live in the trees around our house have gone into hiding. Vivid images being broadcast from the center of the hurricane make it clear things are destined to change. In the stillness, I am reminded – the will of God is stillness for our soul no matter what the situation. I do not understand the nature and condition of the world in which I live. I am not entirely sure why bad things happen to good people or why the innocent die young. The more I think I know the less I seem to understand many things. However, I have come to know a few simple things – God is good. He loves me. He is for me. Christ lives in me. His Spirit helps me. In the Lord, I will trust.

Psalm 46:1-3 (NKJV) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

Yesterday, the wind began to pick up just a little bit. A tree fell in our yard. There was only a gentle breeze. How could it cause such damage? On closer inspection, I found that the tree was completely rooted on the inside. Though it looked fine from the exterior, the interior was fragmented and crumbling easily picked apart with my bare hands. It wasn’t the wind that knocked over the tree and caused it to fall but rather the tree was dying on the inside already. When the breeze came along it could not stand anymore. An object lesson for me, I believe. Maybe it Is not the problems in life that cause us to stumble or fall crying out to the Lord, but rather out inward condition of distrust and disbelief that push us over when things start moving and shaking around us. Rather than trusting our Good Father, Loving God, Savior, Redeemer, Protector and Friend, our inward condition causing outward consequences. I want to trust the Lord. I want to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. I must be unshakable and immovable in my faith which is evidenced by trust.

What if the situations and circumstances that come with life are not the cause of our fall, fail or future? What if it is just the conduit that causes us to see our current condition? The tree was on the verge of falling already. It was deteriorating rapidly on the inside. The first brisk breeze that came along knocked it over. Could it be that it is not the things that happen to us that are the problem but rather reveal the contents of our heart? Psalm 131 says, “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul…” The security of our heart, mind and soul are manifested by trust. To trust the Lord making Him our refuge and strength. This means letting go of the three “C’s” (comfort, control and convenience) to fully embrace Christ in all things.

Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) Be still, and know that I am God…

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” God is our refuge. He is our strength. He is a very present help in trouble. The humble heart knows this and puts trust in the character and divine nature of our loving, faithful Father and Friend. We must trust the Lord. Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability and surety of the Lord with full confidence. It is the confident expectation or hope given to us as an indication of faith in our life. Hope is futuristic. It is intact whether our natural circumstances or condition indicate its relevancy. God is God with or without our belief. Our belief does not fuel His Power but aligns us within it. Miracles are made up of impossibilities. It is such times that God becomes our hope and security. Without impossible situations there would be no signs, wonders or miracles. It is the shaking of our heart, mind and soul that reveal the contents of our heart and soundness of our trust. It is when we can be still in just knowing that He is God when simple trust becomes evident.

Psalm 62:1-2 (NKJV) Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the city and surrounding area. Our lives may change dramatically in the next 24 hours depending on the intensity of the hurricane when it reaches our area. More than 20 people have died in its wake. We have prepared to the best of our ability for the storm. Our home is well-constructed and completely insured. There is a generator with a fresh supply of gasoline and plenty of food and water if needed. Now we wait… If tomorrow tragedy strikes what will be my response? Will I be able to say, “It is well with my soul”? Where we wait is the tell-tale sign of the outcome in moments such as these.

Triumph over tragedy is found in the Lord and in God alone. It is the peace that passes understanding that allows us to draw our next breath when it is all we have left. His Love is the place where shattered pieces of broken hearts find healing. The Refuge called Presence is the hiding place for God’s People. His Grace is our strength yet only evident in our complete and utter weakness that causes us to humble our heart before Him.

Today as I wait for the storm to pass, I am challenged to examine my heart and listen for the inner voice of my soul. Will I wait silently before the Lord knowing that He alone is my salvation? Will I be moved? Will I stay put in my faith and simple trust believing that no matter what tomorrow holds that He holds me firmly in place? We put so much emphasis on what we can see, feel, hold and touch in this life that sometimes it is the moving and shaking of those things that cause us to inspect the contents of our heart and soul. My deep desire is that when morning comes – the voice that I hear will say, “It is well with my soul!”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well, with my soul”.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.