The Blessing of Protection – Psalm 147:13-14

God Blesses Through Protection As Well As Provision

13 He strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your people within you.
14 He grants peace to your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.

Sovereign Safety

God delights in sovereignly protecting His people.  He is greatly concerned with and involved in securing the national borders of Israel, and considers national borders to be of vital importance to a nation.  It is God who watches over the city (and, by inference, the nations):

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

God is very involved in the raising up of leaders and nations (for His sovereign purposes):

5 “Look at the nations and watch-
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.”

Bountiful Blessing

God is the author of all provision and blessing.  He provides for our physical blessings as well as our spiritual blessings.  God provides us with great blessings, as well as plentiful blessings:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

God desires to bless us in abundance with everything that we could every need or desire.  He greatly desires that we desire Him; for when we desire Him, He will provide Himself in even greater measure:

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Protected in Peace

The traditional greeting in Hebrew is “shalom“.  This is a blessing upon either an individual or a group of people.  It is a blessing of peace to another.  God greatly desires to protect us in peace:

When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way,
he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

Here is another translation:

When a man’s ways please the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

God desires is that we live in peace with everyone.  When we are being obedient to Him, and pleasing Him with our ways, even our foulest, most despicable, war-like, offensive, murderous, odious, and otherwise ill-willed enemies will be forced to be at peace with us.  How great a blessing is that!

Finest Food

God provides richly for his children, and greatly desires to provide the finest goods for them.  This is not a “name it and claim it” blessing, but rather an indication that when God’s favor is upon us, we will have the opportunity to partake of the finest goods that the land has to offer.

The United States of America, in previous years, had been greatly blessed by God.  The standard of living of the people in her borders was far and above that of just about every other nation on Earth.  The finest goods and services were both produced and consumed in her by her citizens.  God’s blessing upon her was abundantly apparent, and she was the envy of the nations.  People willingly forsook their countries of birth for the mere chance at the opportunity to come to her shores and partake in the opportunity and blessing afforded in righteousness before God.

But as her people turned their hearts away from God, banishing Him from her schools, government, businesses, laws, and every other nook and cranny within her, God, being the gentleman that He is, politely nodded His head in acknowledgement of her people’s collective decision, and has withdrawn both Himself and His blessing from her people.  And as her people indulge themselves in wickedness and self-centeredness, they are reaping what they have sown.  For although her people still have a significantly higher standard of living than most of the world, her people are now, in comparison, poor and living in wretchedness as a result of their wickedness.

Providential Protection

God greatly desires to protect and provide for those who would seek Him out in righteousness.  This is not a bribe to people, but rather the way that He seeks to display His mercy and glory.  Not everyone who seeks the Lord will become well-off financially.  Rather, they will reap a reward of abundance in righteousness.  And God, who is sovereign, will secure their future with Him in salvation purchased through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, as it washes those who have sought Him clean of their stain of sin.  Being reconciled to God, they can now live in freedom from sin and in peace with God and man.  Regardless of whether monetary and/or Earthly riches are provided in this life, God has abundantly provided riches in spiritual blessings for all eternity to those who would kiss the Son.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I partaking of the abundant blessing that God offers in His Son?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your protection and blessing.  Thank You for watching over my household, my city, and my nation.  Thank You for your abundant provision through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.  I know, Father that you know of my needs, and I confess them to you now.  Help me that I may seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness that all of these may be added unto me.  Help me to treasure my inheritance, and to look forward to the future when my present circumstances appear bleak.  Reveal to me Your glory, power, presence and peace so that I may have the strength to endure the trials that I face.  Forgive my nation for its many sins.  I confess them to you now, for we have forsaken You, My Lord and My God.  Help change the hearts of those who have indulged in the pleasures of this world so that they would seek the beauty and peace that only You can provide in relationship with You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Blessings of Obedience – Psalm 128

Obedience To God Results In Blessings By God

1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord.

5 May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
6 May you live to see your children’s children-
peace be on Israel.

Revel in Reverence

Obedience is a word that is treated like the plague.  Very few people want to be obedient.  To be obedient means that there may be (most likely will be) great sacrifice, pain, and personal loss in a person’s life.  Jesus likened obedience to love:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Obedience to the word of God brings about the circumstances necessary to transform the lives of men and women into the character and capacity of Jesus:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In obedience we find freedom.  And in freedom, we find joy and peace.  God greatly desires that we be free from the bondage of sin so that we can have the freedom to follow Him:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The difference between obedience and legalism is that obedience leads to freedom, and  legalism leads to bondage.

Bountiful Blessings

Obedience has its own rewards, apart from the joy of knowing that God is pleased with how you are living your life.  Obedience brings and abundance of blessings.  God is faithful and rewards those who seek after Him in obedience.  There are many blessings to be found in obedience.  The Psalmist lists several.

Wonderful Wife

The man who is obedient to God will have a wife that is fruitful.  Children are a blessing and a reward from God.  Additionally, the wife of an obedient man is most likely following in his footsteps, and is obedient to God and to him as well.  Everything that she does will pour forth out of her joy in Jesus and her husband.  She will be able to trust in her husband, and show him the respect that he desires and deserves, because she will already be showing God the respect that He deserves through obedience.  Her hands will be busy, and she will be fruitful in all that she does.

Chosen Children

When a man is obedient to God, his children will most likely follow suit.  Children model their parents, whether they want to or not.  They learn by watching our example.  And when it is real to them, they will embrace it as they taste and see that the Lord is good.  They will grow in grace and righteousness before God, and will be a blessing to their parents.

Powerful Prosperity

In obedience, those who follow God will be prospered.  God looks to the future and the spiritual rather than the present and the physical.  And while He desires that we prosper here on Earth, He has an even stronger desire that we prosper in Him.  Obedience produces the character that God desires in His children in the same way that parents desire that their children obey them.

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.

After all, in obedience, we are afforded great, abundant, and valuable wealth:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ

Long Life

Obedience to God gives us wisdom, and God grants long life to those who seek Him in obedience.  They will live a full life, and be afforded the opportunity to see their grandchildren grow.  Their heritage will be available to be a blessing to them, and they will rejoice that God has given them the opportunity to witness it and to participate in their upbringing.  This is not an iron-clad contractual promise, but rather a generalization that bears out in our experience as we live long and prosper on the Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking obedience to God, or His blessings?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have greatly blessed me in that You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ to me, and have given me the faith to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Thank You for all that You are, and all that You do.  Give me a heart of obedience so that I will be like Your servant David, who heart was continually turning or turned towards You.  Help me to overcome my sin so that I would be able to be even more obedient to Your word and Your will.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart that I might yield all that I am and all that I have to You in worship.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Children and God – Psalm 127:3-5

Children Are A Reward From God, Not A Punishment Nor A Curse

3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.

Helpful Heritage

God gives us children as a heritage.  While culture preaches from its bully pulpit that children are a curse and must be eliminated as masses of cells before they destroy the lives of the women who bear them, God sees them in an entirely different way.  “Back in the day”, when people still relied upon God for their very sustenance through working the land, it was a blessing to have ten to twenty children in the family.  The family farm would provide all of the food and resources needed to sustain the family, and as the children came of age, they could work the farm and contribute to the family.  This taught them selflessness, love, hard work, and the ability to work in conjunction with others towards a common goal.

Righteous parenting will not eliminate the bad apples of the group.  After all, God did give us all free will, and even the most loving and caring parents will encounter a child who refuses to embrace their love and the truth of God.  These children abandon rational thought in the pursuit of selfish pleasure and “freedom” from what they perceive as the “punitive restrictions” God requires of those who seek righteousness.  The good news is, none of them are immune from the answers given by God in response to the prayers of their righteous parents.  Yet most of the children in that era grew up to be great people, and sought the welfare of their families, their communities, their countries, and most importantly, their God.

If abortion is to be embraced, and God is to be abandoned, then we have doomed our race to extinction.  For if abortion is higher and mightier than God, in a generation or two or three, there would be no more humans.  And while some might consider the human race to be a curse upon this Earth, they are only half right – it is the curse of sin that Adam brought upon us that infects and affects each and every one of us.  And it is for this reason that Jesus Christ came down to Earth as a man, to be an example for us, and to die for our sins upon the cross at Calvary so that we could be redeemed from the bondage of sin and free to choose to serve God rather than Satan.

Real Reward

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Emphasis added)

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (Emphasis added)

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Emphasis added)

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Emphasis added)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Emphasis added)

Culture teaches us that children are a burden, and that they are an obstacle to our path to:

  • Our enlightenment,
  • Our enjoyment of life
  • Our success
  • Our freedom
  • Our lives
  • Our careers
  • Our happiness

Because we have become a people who are self-centered, narcissistic, self-focused, self-absorbed, and self-conscious, we believe culture and abandon that which God has said in His holy word.  Children are a reward, not a curse.  Every child has a purpose that God has specifically given to them:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. –  James 2:14-17,26

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has planned in advance, before the foundation of the universe, the works that He has assigned to each and every one of them.  When we view children as burdens rather than rewards, that attitude will infect their souls.  So we should not be surprised when little Johnny turns out later in life to be a drug addict pimping women in dark street corners when he grows up, hearing throughout his childhood how he kept his parents from achieving their goals.

Children are God’s reward to parents.  They are to be a blessing, cherished in every way, raised in the Lord according to their own individual gifts, talents, and tendencies that God has placed in their lives.  We do them and ourselves a disservice when we try to make our children carbon copies of ourselves.  When we yield to God and allow Him to direct the way that our children are to be molded and shaped, God will be given the greater glory and honor, the child will be MUCH happier, and the life and ministry of that child will increase and blossom as they embrace God through the love that their parents showed them.  Children model us.  Let us be the right model for them.

Wonderful Weapons

God does not look at children merely as rewards and a heritage; in the battle of sin and righteousness, they are to be powerful weapons – highly skilled warriors.  The Psalmist Solomon, who was the wisest man (apart from Jesus Christ) to ever walk the Earth, uses the imagery of archery to convey this point.  An archer is responsible for aiming the arrow, providing the right angle for it, and releasing it at just the right time with just the right force to accomplish whatever goal the archer has been given.

In the same way, children are like arrows.  We train them up in the way they should go, preparing them to be used by God for His purposes, and when they are ready, we release them into the world to accomplish the goals God has already planned for them to do.  As a parent, you are to be the archer, listening intently to your Commander-In-Chief for instructions on how and when to arm yourself with your weapons, pointing them in the direction they should go, and releasing them with just the right force at just the right time to be effective.  That is both a great responsibility and a great honor.

Capable Candidate

And when we raise our children correctly, they will be formidable opponents against the evil of this world.  Even when they are falsely accused and brought before the courts by those who would seek to destroy them, they will more than adequately refute their adversaries in the courtroom battle, for it is not we who fight, but the Lord who fights for us:

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

“no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord. (Emphasis added)

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I cherish children the same way that the Lord God Almighty does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your heritage, blessing, and challenge of children.  Give me the right mindset as I interact with them, whether they are my own, or someone else’s, for they are Yours and Yours alone.  Just as you make us managers over your creation, You have chosen us to manage children in the same way, loving them as You love them, training them as You train us, and remembering that they are Yours and not ours.  Give us the wisdom, discernment, and ability to raise them up in the way they should go, not the way we desire them to go.  And help them to be mighty weapons, straight and true arrows in the quivers of their parents, ready to be aimed and deployed when and where You see fit.  And may they be mightily effective in every battle that they engage, for You, Lord God, go before them and fight for them with zeal and with their guardian angels.  Strengthen them, and keep them from evil.  Let them be light and salt to this wicked generation.  Give them a focus upon Jesus that we cannot even comprehend, and may their children be doubly effective for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Peace of Israel – Psalm 122:6-9

Those Who Bless Israel Will Be Blessed And Those Who Curse Israel Will Be Cursed

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
8 For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.

Pray for Peace

There is a blessing and a curse in Genesis concerning Israel.  Those who bless her will be blessed, and those who curse will be cursed.  The Israelites are The Lord God Almighty’s chosen people.  He has seen them through wars, famines, earthquakes and every imaginable disaster and tragedy, including the Holocaust.  Everyone who has welcomed her and sought (and still seeks) her prosperity has been blessed by God.  And everyone who has (and still currently) seeks her destruction is being cursed by God.

Israel is the apple in God’s eye.  She is the jewel that He desires to use to show the world His goodness and grace.  Out of her came Jesus Christ, His appointed Savior.  God seeks her peace, and after almost two thousand years of being scattered to the four winds, God kept His promise and restored her to the land that He had given to her millennia before.  The fulfillment of this prophecy greatly angers the enemies of God, who greatly desire the destruction of her people.

Because of the hatred of her enemies, and because God is good and gracious, all who love God should love her and her people, and pray day and night that she be kept safe, and that her people would find peace.  If any harbor anger at her, this is unresolved unforgiveness in their hearts, and they need to take this before the Lord to have it dealt with.

Safe and Secure

Even now, Israel and her people are under a constant barrage and attack by the descendants of Ishmael.  Sarai, Abraham’s wife, was impatient with God, and offered Hagar to Abraham to start a nation.  And Abraham had a son through Hagar.  Here is the Bible’s description of him:

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”

Because of his nature, and the nature of his descendants, we should be praying for the safety and peace of Israel.  As long as the descendants of Ishmael are alive, they will forever torment, harass, harangue, bombard, murder, and try to destroy the descendants of Ishmael’s half-brother through Issac, and his descendants through Jacob, now Israel.

Make no mistake about it.  Ask any truly evil person the best way to hurt someone, and they will all tell you, without fail, that the best way to hurt someone is to hurt the ones that they love.  God’s love for his chosen people is immense.  It is only proper that the enemies of God, who cannot touch Him in His dwelling place, would make every effort, with every breath on their lips that they grudgingly receive from Him, plot to cause harm, destruction, pain, and misery to God’s children.

Indirect Impact

Besides seeking the welfare of God’s nation of Israel and her people for the sake of loving God, there is an indirect impact when this occurs.  God has PROMISED to bless those who bless her, and curse those who curse her.  This should make everyone pause and reconsider their position on Israel (either to strengthen their opinion for her, or to change their opinion from being against her).

Just about everyone seeks the blessing of God.  Although many worship anything and everything BUT the One True God, YHWH, they seek the blessing nonetheless.  Apart from Satanists, Anarchists, and Death Cults, just about everyone else is seeking blessing from the one or thing who/that they worship.

We seek the blessing of Israel because God loves them.  But it personally benefits us when we do so.  Although this may seem self-serving, for anyone who desires to be blessed by God who is in leadership of nations, they might want to seriously consider the impact that blessing Israel (in terms of friendship, financial aid, as well as military aid) might bring to their nation as opposed to ambivalence or antipathy.

Woe of Worship

The Psalmist says that the reason they are seeking the prosperity of Israel is for the house of the Lord.  For almost two millennia, since the Romans tore down the Temple of God in Jerusalem, the Israelites have not had a temple where they could worship.  In 688 C.E., the Fundamentalist Adherents to Islam (FAI) built the Dome of the Rock on the former temple Court of the Gentiles, and have greatly afflicted the Israelites ever since.

The good news is that the presence of God moved from the temple to the people when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, King of king and Lord of lords was obedient to God, was crucified, buried, and resurrected three days later.  He paved the way for the Holy Spirit to come and indwell all who would believe God, and who God then credited to them as righteousness.

God will soon reveal His Son as Messiah to the entire Israelite nation once He has gathered all who would return home again.  And when that happens, they will forget about the Solomon and Herod temples, because they will then realize that THEY are the temples (naos*) of God!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I actively seeking the welfare of Israel?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have sovereignly chosen the Israelites as Your people.  Thank You for grafting me in to the True Vine, Jesus Christ, who feeds the native branches of Israel as well as the wild branches of the Gentiles.  Father, I pray that You would bless, protect, and prosper Your chosen people in Israel.  Grant the descendants of Jacob peace on every side.  Draw them back to the land that You gave to them millennia ago as their inheritance, and provide for their welfare mightily.  Sovereignly push her enemies back far away from her, and as David would say, “break their teeth” – destroy their strength that gives them the ability to harm her.  Father, whom You love, may I love just as much.  Help me to do anything and everything that I and my family can to seek and ensure the peace and prosperity of Israel.  And in this pursuit, bless and protect me from my enemies and her enemies, as they will surely turn their vitriol and abject hatred in my direction as well.  This I ask in the precious name of my one and only Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


*Notes:  The Greek word naos used here is not just the temple, but a specific part of the temple – it is the Holy of Holies.  This was where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and was the area of the temple where the presence of God dwelt.  In pre-resurrection times, only the High Priest of Israel could enter once a year to offer the sacrifice for the sins of the nation.  When Jesus died, the veil was torn, and symbolically ended the separation 0f man from God in worship and repentance of sins.

The Holy Spirit now indwells ALL believers, and because the container where the presence of God resides is the temple, our bodies are now the temple housing His Spirit.  When God reveals Jesus Christ as the Messiah to the Jews, they will no longer need to offer the ritual sacrifices for sin because they will accept that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was the fulfillment of the temple sacrifice, His perfect, sinless blood as the final and permanent sacrifice for all of their sin, past, present, and future.

Walking with God – Isaiah 50:10-11

Do Not Walk In Your Own Light

10 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
11 But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.

Reverential Respect

God asks us a question, and reminds us of how we should respond to Him. He qualifies that the advice He is about to give is for those who, first and foremost, fear Him. In this context, the fear of the Lord is a reverential respect of the Lord God Almighty. This is not the fear of absolute destruction, but rather a reasoned trust in someone who is far more knowledgeable, powerful, and faithful than ourselves. God not only uses this type of fear as a qualifier, but also lists another qualifier – those who obey the word of His servant.

Obedience to Orders

Obedience is a key aspect to the fear of the Lord. Obedience indicates belief in both our intellect and our heart. It would be disingenuous to say that we believe something then not act on it. While there may be times when circumstances prevent us from doing certain things (it would be hard to buy something you need on sale if you have no money, or go somewhere if you are in a coma…), we act upon what we believe. Obedience is an outward sign of acknowledgement of the authority of another. God calls us to obedience to Him. Disobedience is sin. In this manner, He is calling those who believe in His name – His character. And to all who believe God, it is credited to them as righteousness.

Ambling in Absence

In an interesting twist, Isaiah talks about walking in darkness. While we are told that the word of God is a light for our feet and a lamp for our path, this is a situation where the word of God is not shedding sufficient light to show you how to proceed. Here is an example:

  • You have a choice between two job positions, and both seem as though they will honor God, yet each one has a drawback. Which should you choose?

There will be times when God’s word does not shed enough light on your situation to make it clear how you should respond. When that occurs, you are walking in darkness. God may even withhold his peace from you in this time of darkness. That is a scary place to be.

Complete Conviction

And when you face this time of abject darkness, God tells us to trust in His name – His character – and rely upon Him. God desires that we have complete and total trust in who He is, especially when circumstances are against us. He may even do something that seems cruel and punishing – God may do the opposite. And when He does that, when there is no promise that He will help, and then the opposite happens in answer to every prayer, that can be devastating. You may begin to ask, “Does God even care?” It is in darkness that our faith is made stronger. In every case where we are walking in darkness, it is always better to wait upon God than to take matters into our own hands.

False Fire

God warns us about making our own fire and walking about in it. We can come to conclusions apart from God that are devastatingly wrong. Additionally, we will be out-of-step with God’s timing. EVERYTHING is about timing. If you doubt this, watch what happens when someone puts milk in a pot on medium heat, and walks away. If they don’t pay attention to it, they will receive a brand new kitchen! – the old one will burn down, and likely take the rest of the structure with it.

When we walk outside of the light of God – His timing and direction – we will not only miss the blessings that He has in store for us, but we may very well receive something that has terrible consequences. When we walk in our own light, we are, in effect, telling God with our actions that we don’t trust Him, and we can do it all by ourselves:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Tumultuous Torment

God then promises what our reward will be for disobeying Him, turning our back upon Him, distrusting Him, and “doing things our own way.” We will receive torment from His hand. That is a powerful statement. Rather than receive His blessing, we will receive torment. Think carefully about that. God takes this very seriously. He is a holy God, upright and just in everything that He does. He does not take insolence and outright disobedience lying down. God may give you exactly what you ask for. And it will be torment, delivered from His just and holy hand.

Just as a very young child asking for an orangutan as a pet should be told “No!”, we need to trust in the wisdom of Him who is all-wise, all-knowing, and completely faithful. For if we don’t, and we decide to reject the Lord after He has graciously been faithful in all things, we will certainly deserve what we get. Don’t allow your circumstances to control your emotions and permit them to inform your intellect. Instead, trust in the Lord, and allow your intellect to direct your will, and force your emotions to be in obedience with God’s holy word – no matter how painful, devastating, and crushing your circumstances may be. For God will provide everything you need in the time that you need it to get through everything in life – “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: How do I respond when I am walking in darkness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the light that we need to seek and follow. He is the only way to You. Help me to trust in You and Your perfect character as my circumstances grow dim, and seek to destroy me. Help me to find comfort and encouragement in the lives of Job and Joseph, whose circumstances just kept getting grimmer every day, but who never stopped trusting in Your perfect character. Give my heart hope and peace in the midst of my trials, and help me to secure the emotional damage that the enemy inflicts ever painful, agonizing second that I am called to endure my trials. Guard my heart against all bitterness, and help me to grow in love. Help me to respond to my tormentors the same way that Jesus responded to His. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Priests of God – Malachi 2:1-9

A Warning To Priests To Be Holy Before The Lord

1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.

3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Coming Curse

The prophet Malachi gave a warning to the Levitical priests.  Because of their unrighteousness, God would turn their blessings into curses.  This would be the sign that God used to show the people that He would not tolerate their immoral behavior.  It is a terrible thing when the people who are responsible for administering the law do so in such a way that God’s name is disgraced.  With great privilege comes great responsibility, and God assured the people that He wouldn’t turn a blind eye to what was going on.

Regal Reverence

God expected His priests – the people who administered the law and provided instruction to the people – to be holy before Him, righteous and blameless (not sinless, for everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God).  God would reassure the people that He took his covenant with Levi seriously, and that He would not allow the corrupt priests to dishonor His holy name nor their position.

Tell the Truth

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”  Jesus was the embodiment of the word of the living God.  He was truth personified.  Everything that He said was truth, and their was no deceit on His lips.  The priests were to act as the spokespersons for God, and they needed to tell the truth to the people.  When the priests were deceitful, and warped the word of God towards their own ends, they were in effect marring the image of God.

God does not take this lightly.  Jesus has had the harshest words of criticism for those who have been entrusted with guiding the people who follow Satan as their father:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

What a terrible thing it was then when the priests of God, the descendants of Levi, turned from God and turned towards Satan, and allowed falsehood to come to their lips.  This should be a wake-up call to all who are called by God to be priests, even of the order of Melchizedek, to speak only the truth.  God is truth, and there is no falsehood in Him.  The priests of Melchizedek must also walk a life where truth is their native tongue, that they may honor God in their speech and actions

Honorable and Holy

The covenant that God had with Levi and his progeny was a covenant of reverence towards God.  The Levitical priests were to be honorable and holy before God.  They were required to keep themselves from unclean things, and to wash and prepare in special ways before they would offer the sacrifices of the people to God.

Although everyone is held to the same standard for what they do, the priests were held more accountable before God because of their position and influence that God had provided to them.  God expected much more from them, for they understood the law and what God required.  Their knowledge and position demanded a higher standard of adherence to God’s requirements to be holy before Him.

Partiality in Precept

And one of the worst things that the priests did was to subvert the justice of God.  They showed partiality in the law.  It is very similar to allowing the Former Secretary of State of the United States of America to disseminate classified information through unlawful means to be exonerated from the penalties associated with that crime, while people of lesser stature were jailed and fined for far less serious crimes of a similar nature.

When partiality of the law is encountered, the faith of the people in justice dwindles, and the holiness of God is tarnished.  The people may attribute false characteristics to God, because the very people God has chosen to display his righteousness and justice have, in treason to God, perverted justice and dishonored His name.  And their blessing will be turned into curses.  God may be so greatly offended that He would divinely intervene in the election of officials of a nation to show His displeasure and place people who would fear Him and restore faith of the people in His good name, even through people who have sinned greatly against Him.  For God is able to forgive and use people who are willing to serve Him and yield to Him.

And to those who hate and despise the God of the Bible, and refuse to acknowledge His name and character by profaning His name through their actions and speech?  God will turn their blessings into curses, and bring ruination upon their families for generations.  Learn, therefore, you leaders of the world, that God will not tolerate your injustice and hatred forever.  God is being gracious, and giving all of you the opportunity to come to Him.  You are cordially invited by Almighty God to participate in His gracious offer to repent of your sins, and to be cleansed by the precious shed blood of the Son of God.  Avail yourselves of this opportunity while you still have it.  Do not delay, lest you find yourselves one day in that dire situation where you no longer have the opportunity to voluntarily do so, and face the white throne judgement of God, rather than the grace and mercy that God extents to you now.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I properly reflecting the holiness of God in word and in deed?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You call out to us day and night, and woo us to You with your kindness, compassion, grace and mercy.  Help me to turn from all of my wicked ways so that I would instead embrace Your holiness and righteousness.  Grant me the ability to desire with my whole heart to honor and glorify Your name.  And help me to submit myself to Your Holy Spirit, that in the same way that Christ yielded Himself to You, that I would yield myself to You as well.  Forgive me of my sin, and be Lord of my life, for You are perfect, and everything that You do is right.  You know what must need to be done, and I pray that You would give my every thought, word, and deed in Your righteousness, for You and You alone deserve all of the glory and honor that comes from what You do through me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Precious and Holy Name, Amen.

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National Sovereignty and God – Nehemiah 2:2-6

God Approves Of Walls Built To Establish The Sovereignty Of Nations

2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

A Terrifying Truth

At that time in history, no one dared enter the king’s presence with a sad face.  Everyone was required to smile.  To do otherwise could possibly result in a person’s immediate and very public execution.  God had placed Nehemiah in his position in the king’s service to further His purposes.  He has done this with many others, including Joseph, Daniel, and Esther, to name a few.  Even though Nehemiah tried, he could not hide his distress from the king.

Facing Fear

Over three hundred and sixty times in the Bible, God’s people are told, with differing words and the same message, “fear not”.  Nehemiah had just heard from Hanani, one of his brothers, that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and the gates were burned by fire.  Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the king.  He had immediate access to the highest human authority in the land.  God was placing a very heavy burden upon Nehemiah’s heart.  It so distressed him that he had sat down and wept, then mourned, fasted, and prayed to God for days.

So when the king noticed Nehemiah’s glum appearance and brought it to his attention, Nehemiah faced his fear and told the king of the burden that he felt upon his shoulders and his heart.  It should be noted that just prior to telling the king everything that was on his heart, the Bible records that Nehemiah prayed.  This is a great pattern for all of us to follow.  When we have fear in our hearts, our first (not last!) resort should be to consult and petition the highest authority possible – The Lord God Almighty.  We should do this even (and especially) when faced with the possibility of certain death, for this is the correct path to follow.

A Royal Request

Nehemiah, burdened by God with crushed heart concerning the situation that his people found themselves in concerning the land which God had sovereignly gave to them after the Exodus from Egypt, prayed to God and asked the king for a personal leave of absence to go to Jerusalem, his homeland, to rebuild the wall.

Not only did he request the time from the king, the Bible shows us that he was even more bold.  He had asked for the king to give him letters of passage across all of his lands so that no one would stop him or impede his progress – he needed safe passage.  He also asked the king to provide him, from the royal park, the necessary timber to both rebuild the gates of the city as well as the house that he would need to build once he arrived to stay in.  Now that takes courage!

Granted by God

Nehemiah notes that the gracious hand of his God was upon him.  And he was absolutely correct. Not only did king Artaxerxes provide him with the time off, lumber, and letters of safe passage, God sovereignly placed it upon the king’s heart to provide Nehemiah with a royal escort – something Nehemiah had not asked for.  This would absolutely guarantee that everyone would believe and comply with all of the requests that Nehemiah would make of them on behalf of the king through his written orders.

When we are burdened by God to do something, God will absolutely ensure that we have everything that we need to do what He has sovereignly assigned for us to do.  And sometimes when we forget to ask for something that is critical to our mission, God will provide what is necessary to ensure that His will is accomplished.

And in this case, God sovereignly approved of a wall that established as sovereign the city of Jerusalem.  God approves of national borders, and the right of nations to determine who is permitted to enter their sovereign soil.  If God believed that everyone should have the right to enter any place on Earth anytime they wanted to, He would have stopped Nehemiah in his quest to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  Those who believe God and His Son, and whose faith is credited as righteousness, should take careful note of God’s view on the sovereignty of nations and His approval of walls to regulate the flow of people into their lands.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with certain danger, what is the first thing that I do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, there is nothing that surprises You.  You are the one who sets up kings and rulers in authority.  All authority in Heaven and on Earth is Yours and Yours alone to delegate to whomever You choose.  Grant my heart wisdom and discernment as I read Your word so that I would know and understand Your position on national sovereignty.  Help me to reconcile any thoughts, attitudes, or opinions that differ from Your thoughts, attitudes, and opinions.  Help me to align my heart to Yours, and to accept, regardless of how I feel, that Your ways are above my ways, and Your thoughts are above my thoughts.  Father, I do not have the proper perspective of seeing the end from the beginning, nor knowing the disposition of every bit of matter in the universe at any point in time.  Help me to accept what I don’t understand, and give me peace in my heart when You do not desire to provide me with answers so that my heart may be at peace when my emotions are trying to overrule Your divinely inspired word.  Thank You Father for all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Obedience to God – Psalm 81:11-16

Victory Comes Through Obedience

11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Learning to Listen

Listening to God is not one of the stronger qualities of mankind.  For millennia, we have ignored the commands of God and have gone our own ways.  For us, obedience seems to be a fleeting concept, just out of the reach of men, beckoning to us yet remaining elusive with the draw of every other manner of pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  The flesh, the world, and the devil intentionally sabotage every effort at obedience through their incessant cries for attention.  Their efforts are like delicious chocolate dangled in front of the faces of children with obedience like plates of broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kale in warm butter and garlic just outside their reach.  As children, we know what we like, and we grab what we can, not realizing the error of our ways until it is too late.

God beckons to us to listen to Him and obey Him.  Obedience and faithfulness of our hearts have been two of His primary tasks since Adam and Eve.  They were given only one command, yet even then they could not even be obedient in that.  Given the option to partake in the forbidden fruit, we often give in to our desires in a moment of weakness, unable to resist the sumptuous and easy bait lying in front of us.  But God desires that we ignore the bait, and desire Him more.

Choices have Consequences

And when we continually fail to develop self-restraint and self-control, we spiral out of control and allow our desires to control us, rather than the opposite.  Cain, in a fit of rage when his offering was rejected by God, lashed out at the only one he could – he murdered his brother Able, who provided the accepted offering.  And so murder was born into the world of men.  As we mature, we learn more and more that there are consequences with our actions.  We may ignore them, or emotionlessly calculate the risks versus the rewards of them.  And when we do so repeatedly, without seeking God, He gives us over to our stubborn hearts.

How terrible is it to be ruled by our every desire.  When people are ruled by their emotions, they make horrible decisions.  They injure and kill their neighbors.  They burn down their neighborhoods.  They steal and rob from others.  The strong quickly overpower the weak and lord their power over their victims.  And as they continually allow themselves to be fueled by their emotions, there is no end to the depth of their depravity.

Veritable Victory

God gives us hope in the form of a promise.  When we are obedience, we will experience victory.  We will have victory over our sin.  We will have victory over our enemies.  And our enemies – also the enemies of God – will experience the punishment in the form of judgment by God for what they have done.  We cannot expect God to punish our enemies while we are participating in the exact same behavior that they are.  God does not show favoritism among men.  Victory can only come through obedience and submission to God.

Do you want your enemies to be brought to justice?  Do you want an end to your torment?  Do you want to have victory regardless of our your circumstances?  Be obedient to God who gives victory not only over our enemies by also over our own sin nature.  It is only then that we can live in a way that truly glorifies God and brings Him honor.  No matter the end result of our circumstances, obedience and submission to God are the only way to ensure our victory over our own nature.

Lest we forget, Jesus Christ was completely obedient to God and fully submitted to His Spirit, yet even He had to suffer on the cross for us.  But his victory was OVER death, and his reward was to sit at the right hand of God, given the world as His footstool, to reign in everlasting glory.

Rich Reward

God also promises to reward us for obedience and submission to Him.  When we, AS A PEOPLE, submit ourselves to God in obedience, He brings peace and prosperity to our nation:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

No longer will we suffer under economic duress.  No longer will we be pursued by our enemies.  God will bring peace and prosperity:

When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

And as mentioned in this Psalm, He will also do the following:

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing my stubborn heart to overpower my desire to be obedient to God in submission to His Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me in Your word the importance of obedience and submission, and the nature of my heart.  You have given me a heart of flesh for a heart of stone when I believed You and your word.  Help me to keep my heart from hardening in this time of great trial and tribulation.  Soften it so that it would be more receptive to Your gentle nudging.  Give me the desire, patience, and ability to carefully listen to Your voice.  And when I hear You through Your word and Your still small voice, give me a heart like Abraham so that on that very day I would be completely obedient to Your will and desire.  Strengthen me and keep my heart from going cold due to the increase of lawlessness in the world.  Protect me from my enemies and from myself, for each day it becomes harder and harder to do what is right.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Perspective of God – Genesis 9:1-3

Overpopulation Is A Myth

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

Divine Decree

To set the stage, Noah and his family has just survived the planetary flood that God used to destroy the rest of the human race.  This is what scientists refer to as an E.L.E., an Extinction Level Event.  Nearly all life has perished.  And once Noah was on dry ground, God gave him some interesting instructions.

The first instruction was to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth.  Culture has this concern that we have somehow overpopulated the Earth.  It believes that the resources on this planet will not sustain life as it is, and that we need to somehow reduce the number of people on the planet to get to a “sustainable” number.  But God gave Noah a holy, divine decree – to fill the Earth with people.

Notice that God did not say,”You know, you need to be careful when you procreate, because you might become so numerous that you will strip every resource from the planet.”  Also notice that God did not say, “And when you become so numerous that you think there are too many of you, begin to back off of my decree to be fruitful and increase, for you will surely cause your own destruction through resource depletion, because I won’t provide for you anymore.”

God does desire us to manage the Earth – His creation – and all that is on it and in it.   We have a responsibility as stewards of God’s creation to effectively use what has been provided to us.  But God has not abandoned us, nor will He forsake us.  It is only those who do not believe that there is a God that have come to the conclusion that we are overpopulated.

It is greed, punishing governmental control, and other self-serving factors that limit human beings in their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.  The restraint of creativity and production by powerful people who seek to control others, and serve money rather than God, is one of the greatest limiting factors in economic and resource suppression.

If everyone on Earth were submitted to Almighty God, do you think for even a second that He would refuse to bless their efforts at honoring Him through all that they did?  Did he refuse to provide manna to the Israelites in the desert for forty years?  Did he refuse to provide Elijah food when he was sequestered during the drought that he proclaimed?  It is folly to believe that God would abandon us as we seek Him and submit to Him.  Did Jesus starve to death during His ministry?  It is our own evil intentions and conclusions about the state of reality that prevent us, as a people, from enjoying the grace, mercy, and abundant prosperity of Almighty God.  And yet He still gives all of us rain and sunshine.

Change in Cooperation

From this passage, and from what we know about the original intent of the relationship between Adam and the animals of the Earth,  this was the first God-authorized decree in allowing the creatures to be food for man.  Prior to this, righteous men ate the fruit of plants and grains.  Adam was a vegetarian.  Noah, until after the flood, was a vegetarian as well.

But God then provided the animals and gave them to man as food.  This changed the dynamic of the relationship between man and animals.  We can infer that up to this time, man and animals were able to peacefully coexist.  But with this change, the animals no longer would be at ease with man.  After all, man had just become their predator.

Fleeing Food

And as any prey knows, when the predator is around, you flee.  This made it difficult for man, chasing down and domesticating animals who would then be in servitude to man.  Prior to the flood, was there cooperation between man and animal?  The Bible doesn’t say.  But we see in Genesis that the serpent talked to Eve.  God opened the mouth of Balaam’s donkey to talk to him.  And no one thought this was strange…

Why did no one think this was strange?  Was it because the animals could indeed communicate with man, and peacefully coexisted with man, as was established by God?  We can only speculate; but soon we will have the opportunity to ask the One who created all things that very question.  In the meantime, let us fulfill the command that God Himself gave to us to be fruitful and increase in number, to fill the Earth, and to take care of it.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are my conclusions based on God’s word or the words of men?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for providing me life this day.  Thank You for Your word, and the redemption of sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You for showing me Your will through Your word.  Help me to always look to Your word when people declare anything to be true about the past, the present, or the future, for You and You alone know all these things.  Help me to not be led astray by the foolishness of man, but be strengthened in Your truth, power and presence.  Guide and guard my heart, Oh God, that I would be kept from the deception of sin.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Promise of God – Psalm 100

God’s Love Endures Forever

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Wonderful Worship

One of the best opportunities that God has given us is to worship Him.  Human beings were made to worship.  We will always worship something or someone, whether it is God, ourselves, someone else, or something else.  There is a deep cry within the human heart to worship, and we will worship whether we realize it or not.

God has made us, and we can worship Him in song and praise.  It is only natural that we seek to give Him praise since He is the author of all good things.  Before Adam sinned, God declared that all He had made was good.  We should be grateful for that in song and praise.

Additionally, since God has redeemed us as His people, we can rejoice that we have fellowship with the one who created us.  Jesus has won back what Adam has lost, and in that, we can as children go before His throne with our petitions and praise.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to praise the One who has released us from prison and will gather us home with Him.  We can even reach out to God as Paul and Silas did after being stripped of their clothing and being severely beaten with rods and flogged.  Let nothing interfere with your praise of Almighty God.

God is Good

Regardless of the circumstances going on in the world, God is good.  Many times we question that when terrible circumstances such as loss, injustice, pain, and suffering occur.  However painful these are, they are merely the cost and effects of sin.  Yet still, God is good.  He is unable to be anything else but good.  His character endures forever, for God does not change like we do.  And when devastating circumstances appear in our lives, we can be assured that God has not changed, but merely is allowing us to develop perseverance.  And may it have its effect, that we would be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Lasting Love

God’s love never fails, for God is love.  When we feel abandoned or afraid, we can remember that God is love.  When great and wonderful things are happening in our lives, let us remember that God is love.  For this is immutable – God loved so much He gave his only Son, and that since we have believed upon Him, we have eternal life.  We have been given this promise, and can rejoice in the one who made it for He is faithful.

Forever Faithful

In a world that is giving itself over to moral relativism and secular humanism, we can rejoice that God is faithful.  Every promise He has ever made God will fulfill.  We live such short lives that many times we don’t see the fruit of the promises that God has made.  But even in that, we can look back and see that God is faithfully keeping His promises, just as He promised, at the appointed time that He promised (when provided).  His faithfulness should bolster our faith in Him and give us reason to trust Him through all of the difficulties in life.  Let us remember God’s faithfulness as we go out into the world today and see so many people show their faithlessness in broken promises and outright evil.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is my heart full of praise and worship for God when I am enduring crushing trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I praise and worship You for You are worthy of it and so much more.  May my heart cry out to You for You are good regardless of my circumstances.  In all things, may You be glorified and Your holy name praised.  Help me to praise You when I am downtrodden and it feels like You have forsaken me, for You have promised to never do that.  Help me to patiently wait for You and Your deliverance from my circumstances, for You are always faithful.  Strengthen me in my weakness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Blessings Of God – Psalm 25:12-15

The Fear Of The Lord Is The Beginning Of Wisdom

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Complete Counsel

The fear of the Lord will lead one to wisdom.  When we become wise, we follow the counsel of God, for we recognize that God’s counsel is superior to all of the counsel of man.  David said that God’s word was a lamp for his feet and a light to his path.  God instructs those who fear Him in the way that they should go.  Sometimes, that means waiting.  Elijah, after declaring that it would not rain, was sent away by God to a remote location to wait.  We too may need to wait for God’s timing.  In all of this, God provides us with His counsel through His word and His Spirit.  We can be assured that the counsel of God will lead us on the straight and narrow path.

Prosperous Proceedings

David indicates in this Psalm that those who fear the Lord will prosper, and that their descendants will inherit the land.  God not only prospers us spiritually, but also financially and with our relationships.  Children are a heritage from the Lord, and are a blessing from Him.  Regardless of our financial situation, God prospers us in many ways.  Those who are monetarily poor are often rich in faith. Regardless of how the Lord prospers us, He DOES prosper us, and we need to remember His many blessings

Wonderful Wisdom

We can be assured that God greatly desires us to follow Him.  And when we believe Jesus, He makes us His children.  God confides in His children, since we are His friends, rather than just tell the servants what to do.  He greatly desires us to be a part of His life, and part of that is His sovereign plan.  He reveals wonderful things in His word to us so that we can participate in His character.

Fully Free

God desires that we be free from the bondage of sin so that we can follow Him.  When we are free from bondage, we can operate in His light to glorify His name.  When the Son frees us, we are made free indeed!  This is an incredible blessing of God – that we would be free from the clutches of Satan and the bondage of sin.  We should never forget the sacrifice it took to free us.  May we remember God’s blessings and rejoice in them!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I remembering the blessings of God in all my circumstances?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You bless us each and every day.  You pour out your grace and mercy upon us.  Help me, Father, to remember Your great generosity as I walk through my struggles today.  Lead me, guide me, and help me to walk beside You as the enemy seeks to destroy me.  Provide for my every need, and help me to count Your many blessings so that I would be encouraged when life seems bleak.  Blessed be Your Name Forever!  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Blessing of God – Psalm 5:11-12

The Lord Is A Shield About The Righteous

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Royal Refuge

God desires us to seek refuge in Him.  We are to go to God for all of our wants and desires.  It is God who is able to provide us with refuge from all things.  We can seek refuge from God in three ways:

Singing Songs

David was one of the most prolific song writers that we know of in the Bible.  Many of the Psalms were written by him.  David provided us with an example of joyful singing before God in praise and worship.  The Lord enjoys it when we worship Him in song.

Even for those who have not been blessed by God with a voice to sing, we are given a command to make a joyful noise to the Lord.  The Hebrew word eriou is a command and is literally translated “[raise a] shout you!”  Let your heart give praise to God in a shout for all He has done!

Bathed in Blessing

God blesses the righteous, and with the blood of Christ we are declared righteous before Him.  Oh, the many blessings of God!  We are blessed in that we are blessed!  If you ever want to see a short list of some of the most important blessings of God, read Ephesians chapters 1-3.

Sovereign Shield

God is a shield about us and the lifter of our heads.  He desires to gather us like chicks under His wings.  He is our refugeGod is our shieldNo one can snatch us out of His hand.  God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Even when we are in the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us.  He shields us from the second death.

There is nothing that God cannot sovereignly shield his people.  Yet we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.  God may use you as a witness to the unbelieving.  If this is the case, do not fear the tribulation that God has appointed you to bear.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I praising God as I seek refuge in Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious and beautiful beyond description.  You shield us from so much more than we can possibly imagine.  Thank You for your vast and encompassing protection.  Help me, Father, to not forget all that You do in my life.  May my life be a blessing to You.  May Your praise be on my heart and my lips even as I suffer in this life, knowing that You will remove all pain and all tears in Your time.  Help me to endure and to faithful until You call me home.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your Perfect and Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity in Christ – Psalm 133

There is great blessing in unity

1 How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together
in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.

Unified Undertaking

God expects the church to be united.  There is a recollection by the author of this psalm of a time when he remembers the unity of God’s people.  He ponders it, and declares it to be good and pleasing.  We too should ponder this and declare the same.  When God’s people are in unity, they are able to fulfill His plans and purposes to the fullest extent possible.  And when they are in unity, any anger, disillusionment, sorry, or angst is swallowed up in love, focus, and purpose.  God’s people are submitting themselves to Him and to each other.

Precious Provision

Oil of anointing was a very precious and costly concoction to make:

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, 23 “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels[about 12 1/2 pounds or about 5.8 kilograms.  Source: NIV Bible] of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels[about 6 1/4 pounds or about 2.9 kilograms.  Source: NIV Bible] of fragrant calamus, 24 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel***—and a hin [probably about 1 gallon or about 3.8 liters.  Source: NIV Bible] of olive oil. 25 Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.”

This was a very costly liquid to prepare, and was to be prepared by a professional perfumer.  This was not something that everyone had or could even afford.  The priests would have this costly liquid for anointing or for whatever special purposes God instructed them to use it.  It was highly fragrant, and would have been recognized as a time of joy, for the event would have been very special for this precious liquid to have been used.  This oil was used to consecrate the priests as well as to consecrate things to make them holy.  Once consecrated, they were deemed dedicated to the Lord.

Gentle Grazing

The picture here is of the gentleness of the dew as it settles on the ground.  This is a beautiful picture of serenity.  The Holy Spirit descended and settled upon Jesus just after He had been baptized by John the Baptist.  Jesus refers to the Spirit as living water.  This may be the author’s view of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God among God’s people when they are together and unified in thought:

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Beatific Blessing

The blessing of God is foreseen by the Psalmist, and he may be recounting the joy of it.  He sees even that the blessing extends to everlasting life.  This is not to be discounted, since our chief need in life is to be awakened from spiritual death into spiritual life.  This only comes by God, and only through His Son, Jesus Christ:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we unified in thought and purpose with the body of Christ for the will and purpose of God’s plan?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You give good gifts to Your children.  As I ponder Your Word, remember me and reveal new and wondrous things in it.  Help me to see these things from Your perspective, that I would have the right frame of thought for viewing them.  Help me to get into the same state of worship and understanding as this Psalmist that I too would rejoice in the unity of Your people.  Help me to better understand how important and significant that is to You.  Help me to greatly desire unity in the body of Christ, and to do all that I can, within the power and scope that I am permitted, to encourage it and to model it.  I pray, Lord God, that as I model unity as You desire it, that others would see and desire to do so as well.  May unity in the body spread throughout my community, and then throughout the region, and then throughout the country.  May my country then be known for the great unity of the body of Christ.  May it be a blessing to You and to us, and may You work great and mighty things in us and through us as we submit ourselves to You and each other.  This I humbly pray in the precious name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

***The sanctuary shekel was 20 gerahs to the shekel.  A gerah was about 1/50th of an ounce.  Source: http://biblehub.com/weights-and-measures/

Blessing of God – Psalm 24:3-6

We Need a Generation That Seeks After God

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Washed White

In order to stand before God, we need to have clean hands and a pure heart.  Only God can give those to us, and only because His One and Only Son delivered to Him who sits on the throne in Heaven His perfect, sinless blood as the atonement for our sin.  And when the blood of Jesus is applied to us, we are washed white as snow.

We have been greatly blessed that Jesus died for us.  Prior to Jesus being born in the flesh, all who were faithful to God waited with ‘bated breath in anticipation for the time when they would be see the fulfillment of their faith and be able to reap the benefit of it.  We have it now, and rejoice in it – hallelujah!

Tactical Trust

It is important to have trust, but even more important where we put that trust.  Many people trust in different things:

  • Money
  • Spouse
  • Government
  • Themselves
  • Familial Ancestry
  • Occupation
  • False gods
  • Lucky charms
  • The creation itself (or things found in it)
  • and the list goes on and on…

We have been blessed to be able to know God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is Him that we place our trust.  Trust in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ is like building a house on sand next to the ocean.  When the waves come, it will erode the sand and wash the house away.  But Christ is the Rock of our Salvation, and any who build on Him builds upon a firm foundation that stands strong like a fortress when the day of trial comes.  Trusting in anyone or anything except God alone is idolatry.

Benevolent Blessing

When we are blessed by God, we receive His full blessing:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

God seeks to bless us, and desires for us to have His full blessing.  Just as good fathers seek the welfare of their children, God our Father seeks so much more our benefit, and blesses us.   He also provides for our requests:

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Victorious Vindication

It is only through Jesus Christ that we are vindicated before God.  No work, however mighty, will make us any more acceptable to God.  Because of our sin nature, everything that we touch and do is stained with the wretched reek of sin. It is the blood of Christ that makes us acceptable to God; nothing more, and nothing less.  And when we accept Christ’s victory as our own by accepting Christ into our heart through acknowledgement of our sin and asking God to forgive us by allowing Christ to have complete reign in our lives, we are vindicated in the eyes of God.

It is only when God, through His Holy Spirit, empowers us and guides us to do His work for His purposes that the stain of sin is removed, for it is God Himself who works through us and in us to complete the work.  Then it pleasing to God, because God Himself authored it and brought it to completion.  Since God has done this, all glory belongs to God.  Who then can claim credit for what God has done through us as their own?

Seek the Savior

When we seek the face of our Savior, we humble ourselves before Him.  We must come with clean hands and a pure heart.  So when we seek, we seek with repentance, throwing ourselves on the mercy of a tender-hearted God who is full of grace and whose mercies renew every morning.  And when we seek Him, we will find Him.  God rejoices in and blesses those who seek Him as He desires to be sought.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I seeking God’s face as He desires me to seek Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, let my heart rejoice in my salvation!  May I seek Your face with confidence, knowing that the blood of Christ has washed me clean.  Father, forgive me all of my sins.  Reveal to me anything that may impede me from approaching You, for I greatly desire to be in Your presence.  Father, please forgive our wicked generation of their sins.  I confess the sins of this nation to You, for I sin with them, and am in need of Your forgiveness.  Turn the hearts of our people to You.  Help us to greatly desire to come to You for help.  Remember – act divinely upon the behalf of – all who are in offices of leadership over us.  For when we have Godly leader, the people will follow.  And when we have evil leaders, people will follow as well.  Help us to have Godly men and women over us that we may rejoice in the direction that they lead us.  Help me to seek Your face every day, and sit at the feet of Jesus through prayer and Your Word.  Tune my heart to Yours, that my desires would be for what You desire.  And bless me now, Father, with all that I need to accomplish Your Gods as I completely submit to Your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Leadership with God – Psalm 2:10-12

An Open Letter to All Who Are Called to Leadership by God

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Wise Warning

God sets the tone for these passages with a warning to all leaders.  God specifically mentions kings, then more generally mentions rulers.  All authority comes from God.  There is no authority that exists that is not expressly instituted by God, for God is Sovereign over all creation.  Anyone who is wise will take heed of and allow their heart to ponder His warning to them.

Solemn Service

The Lord God Almighty asserts His Sovereignty and commands those who have been placed in leadership over others to serve Him with (reverential) fear.  God has stated that He is ruler over all.  Just as those who are in leadership over men expect them to heed what they decree, so also does the Lord God Almighty.  Every ruler should celebrate that they are just a link in the chain of leadership over us, rather than the head, for who can rule alone wisely that is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent?

As leaders consider their role and position in the chain of leadership, they should do so with trembling.  We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  In the same way, leaders should carefully consider their actions as they are accountable to the One and Only God who is in authority over them and requires them to be obedient to Him.

Royal Recognition

Leaders are to “kiss the son”.  Matthew Henry points out that we should kiss the son not in way that betrays Him like Judas, but rather with a kiss of adoration and religious worship.  All are to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.  Every knee show bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord.  We can choose to bow the knee now in praise, adoration, and obedience, or we can bend it later in front of the white throne seat of judgement.  The choice is ours.

Angered Answer

Those that choose it ignore their place in leadership and go on to be a “Lone Ranger” will suffer the consequences of their actions.  Just as we expect our children to obey us, God expects us to obey Him.  And when we are disobedient, especially with regards to the usurpation of power and authority by leaders from that which God grants to them over His people, there are grave consequences.

Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall.  Leaders that refuse to accept God’s authority and leading in their lives face eventual destruction.  This will manifest itself in their removal from office by the hand of God through people, circumstances, disability, or even death.  Their destruction is foretold by the one who placed them in leadership to being with.  They rebel against God at their own peril.

Those who rebel will be held accountable by God.  We should pay attention to the past, for God has warned us of what He does to the disobedient:

15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

In times past, it was kings like Nebuchadnezzar that were used as tools of God’s wrath.  Now, it is the fundamentalist adherents to Islam that God is using as tools to implement His wrath.

Beatific Blessing

Finally, God pronounces a blessing upon all who take refuge in Him.  When leaders take refuge in God, they will be protected and blessed by the One is able to save and protect them.  Some trust in weapons, and some trust in armies, but wise leaders trust in the Name of the Lord God Almighty.  When leaders of a nation yield themselves to the God of Creation, and celebrate His sovereign authority, they are protected and blessed:

Let us read about the confession of a leader that was humbled by God and then blessed:

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question.  Are we taking God’s warning to leaders to heart, given that all of God’s people are called to be priests of a royal priesthood, and are therefore leaders?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You provide us with the opportunity to be leaders in every aspect of life.  We lead not only our families, but are often called to greater responsibility in our jobs and in government.  Watch over us and help us to fulfill all that You have planned for us in the roles that You have placed us.  Father, keep me humble that I may not rebel against You.  Help me to have a heart that greatly desires and seeks to know You and Your will for every aspect of my life.  Empower me and strengthen me as I seek to honor You and bring glory to Your name.  May all praise, honor, glory, strength, power and dominion be Yours forever and ever, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Malachi 3:10-11

When We Are Obedient to God, He Blesses Us in Every Way

10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty.

Talking Tithes

What is a tithe?

  • The tithe was one tenth of the of the increase of the crops of the land, as well as the firstborn male among the cattle.  It was only given by the landowners.  It was a portion of the increase that God gave to them.  The farmers planted the seed, and cared for the land, but God gave the increase.
  • Since the cattle grazed off of the land, and God gave the increase (birth of new cattle), the firstborn male was to be tithed as well.
  • The tithe was not required of the day laborer.  He was properly remunerated for his labor – equal pay for equal work.  There was no increase in his pay by God.
  • The value of day’s wages in Jesus’ time was a denarius.

Who received the tithe?

What was the purpose of the tithe?

  • God provided the tithe so that the priests could eat since they didn’t inherit land to farm.  Priests could buy (rent) land if it was for sale.  But under God’s law, the land should have been returned to the proper owners (those whose family inherited it) during the year of Jubilee.  Since the Israelites did not honor or obey the Jubilee decree, the sale was more or less final, rather than a rental.
  • God also wanted the tithe to be used to feed the widows, the orphans, and the strangers among them.
  • God provided the tithe to the priests so that they could focus on their priestly duties.
  • God wanted to install in His people that God is first in everything.  That is why He wanted the first-fruits of the labor of the land:
    • It was to show absolute trust in God that he would continue to provide for the people.
    • It was the best that the plants had to offer.  God ALWAYS wants our best.  He rightly deserves it!
  • Even the priests were to tithe.  They didn’t earn it in wages – God gave them this increase, so they needed to tithe as well.

Does God need a tithe?

  • No.  God says that everything is His, and He doesn’t need anything from us (Psalm 50:10-12).

Other Offerings

What is an offering?

  • An offering is a free-will gift to God to show honor to God in something.  There were several types of offerings:
    • Burnt offerings
    • Drink offerings
    • Fellowship offerings
    • Food offerings
    • Grain offerings
    • Sin offerings
    • Wave offering
  • Offerings are prompted by God in your heart.
  • Offerings are used to help us to depend upon God for everything.
  • Offerings help pay for ministries.
  • Jesus Christ was the final, complete, and absolute offering for our sin.

Should we tithe, give offerings, or both?

  • God wants us to keep Him FIRST in our lives.  During the time when the laws were given to Moses, there wasn’t a building that needed to be maintained.  They had the tent of meeting, and that didn’t require very much maintenance.  The first temple was built by David’s son, Solomon.  Upkeep of the temple was provided through offerings.
  • Unless you are a crop farmer and/or own livestock, TITHING is inappropriate.  If you DO give a tithe, see to it that whoever receives it uses it for the appropriate purposes:
    • Feeding of the Pastor(s)
    • Feeding of the Widows
    • Feeding of the Orphans
    • Feeding of the strangers among you (Homeless?)
  • Give OFFERINGS for the following:
    • If you like meeting in a church building as opposed to an open field, person’s home, or other gathering venue, give offerings for them.
    • Give offerings to support church-directed ministries, anything OTHER than support of the widows, orphans, and the strangers among you.
    • A worker is worthy of his wages. Since the Pastor(s) has/have given his/their full-time to ministering to the people, provide offerings to support his/their efforts.
    • ANYTHING God lays upon your heart to give.  God will pour out His blessing upon you.  This is not always a financial blessing, but every blessing from God is precious!

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I showing that God is first in my life with the Time, Talent, and TREASURE that He has provided in the offerings that I give?

A short Prayer of Preparation

Father in Heaven, I give thanks You for You are so generous towards me.  Father, help me to trust You more in every aspect of my life.  Help me to go over my finances, and see if there is anything that you want to change.  Provide guidance for everything that I spend Your money on and help me to find ways to increase my offerings to You.  Father, out of Your goodness and mercy, You continue to provide for my every need.  Help me to realign my goals and directives so that they align with Yours.  And please, Lord God, use the offerings that I have given back to You to Your glory.  May many lives be brought into the kingdom of God because of them.  May they honor and glorify Your Most Holy Name.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Perspective of God – Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This is a form of Hebraic poetry.  It takes the form:

    B   –   B
  /               \
A                   A

Ellis Scolfield writes, “Hebrew poetry is parallel in nature. A Hebrew poet would say something one way and then repeat the same idea later on in different words. These repeats could be a sentence, a paragraph, or even several chapters long. So how can we identify repetitive prophecies when we see them? By recognizing the Hebrew poetic style in which it was written.  [Textual scholars call this type of repetition the bifidic form.]12  (Brackets added for quote reference clarification)

Isaiah reveals to us something that we should already know – God’s thoughts and ways are beyond ours.  We are so bound by time, that we generally don’t have an eternal perspective.  But there are other instances where this is apparent.  Isaiah shows us something unusual in Isaiah 57:1-2:

1 The righteous perish,
    and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
    and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
    to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
    enter into peace;
    they find rest as they lie in death.

We generally think that it is a great tragedy when someone is taken home to be with the Lord, especially if they are young.  But communicating with us through Isaiah the prophet, God says this is a blessing; that the righteous and devout are taken away to be spared from evil.  Oh, how we long for the influence of evil to finally end!  The pain and suffering it causes; its ripple effects sweeping people into chaos like a tsunami rushing inland.  It leaves destruction and loss everywhere it touches.  Rather than having to resist that force, and pick up the broken pieces, they are taken away, where they are with the Lord now and for eternity.

Our perspective is focused on the loss of their companionship, wisdom, fellowship, giftedness, relationship, and other factors in which we are immediately affected.  From God’s perspective, it is for their benefit that they are now with God, and no longer subject to the trials and temptations that afflict us until the glorious second coming of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  In this, we can see our selfishness at our perceived loss rather than their great gain.  And in our grief, sorrow, and mourning, we can all too soon forget that God’s sovereignty and perfect plan are in action, and that we will, in the lens of Eternity, see them again soon enough.

If you are mourning and grieving, your pain is real;  Let God comfort you through it.  And when you emerge on the other side, rejoice!  For He has done a wonderful thing and has blessed your loved one with the privilege of being in His presence and in final rest and peace from the evils of this world, soon to be reunited with you in glory!

 A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my heart grieves the temporary loss of my friend and loved one.  Help me to work through the pain of loss.  Although I know that I will see them again when Your Beloved Son comes triumphantly in the sky, or possibly even sooner should You bless me with the opportunity to be in Your Presence before that great and terrible day, I am still in shock.  I am numb as I try to process this.  Please comfort me in my pain.  Uphold me, and restore normalcy to my daily routine.  Surround me with Your love as a mother hen gathers her chicks close to her under her wings.  Oh God, how it hurts!  Remember me this day, Lord, and give me the ability to just breathe.  This I ask and pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

[This post is dedicated to T. G., who recently lost his wife]

1 Packer-Tenny-White, The Bible Almanac, 1980, p349.

2 Ellis Scolfield, Bifids and Chiasms, [Unknown], p1.

Blessing of God – Ephesians 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

You are rich.  Rich beyond your wildest dreams.  God, in His wonderful grace, has blessed the disciples of Jesus with every spiritual blessing.  Not just one, or several; but every one.  We are princes and princesses, guaranteed to share in the inheritance:

who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

No matter what our financial position is here on Earth, we have a heavenly position of access to the royal treasury.  Jesus tells us:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The verb translated as “lay up” in the Greek is thEsairozete, which is an imperative command (not a suggestion), and means “be ye hoarding!”  You have unlimited resources from which to draw upon the moment you say “YES!” to Jesus!  Because of this, even in abject Earthly poverty, you can smile; you have such vast wealth stored for you that you cannot even imagine.  So much so that Paul asked God to show you how much because you probably wouldn’t believe it!

As human beings with sin natures, it is inherent within us to gripe and complain about our situation.  Even when people receive Earthly wealth, it just never seems to be enough;  we always seem to need just a little more.  Paul himself said he needed to learn how to be content.  Isn’t it ironic that we have all this wealth, but cannot seem to see it or access it?  It is because we are blinded by our own selfish desires.

So lets ask the question:  Given all of these things, are we truly content?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your mercies renew every morning, and I am thankful, for I am in need your your mercy and grace every moment of every day.  Father, show me where in my heart that I am not content.  Help me to bring these areas of the life You have loaned to me in stewardship into the light, where they can be recognized and addressed.  Remove any bitterness in me from past experiences that I may move forward.  Help me to recognize the extent of the treasure that You have for me in Your wonderful and glorious inheritance that you freely give to me.  Help me to always come to You first and ask in faith for the things that are needed, for You greatly desire to give Your children good gifts.  Wash me clean; sanctify me, and purge me of all unrighteousness.  Help me to worship You with clean hands and a pure heart, that my every thought, word, and deed would be pleasing to you, an act of worship, and bring glory to Your name.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Praying to God – Luke 18:1-8

1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

We live in an instantaneous culture.  Within milliseconds, we can get answers to just about everything on google.com.  We have instant oatmeal, instant rewards in video games, instant hot food with microwave ovens, instant news, instant communications with just about anyone in the world, and we expect results instantly.

Jesus shows us that we should be persistent in prayer to the Father.  Using this parable as an illustration, He also reveals to us that when He comes, people may very well not be persistent in prayer by saying, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  That should sober us up and give us pause.

This isn’t the only place Jesus exhorts us to be persistent in prayer.  In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says that those who ask will receive.   In the Greek, the verb “ask” is aiteite. There are two interesting qualities about this.  First, it is an imperative command.  We are expected to do this – it is not merely a suggestion.  Secondly, the verb tense is not a passive, one-time thing that we do.  A better translation would be, “Ask, and keep on asking”.  This is true of the other two imperative commands in that sentence – “Seek, and keep on seeking; Knock, and keep on knocking.”

George Müller, a Christian evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, prayed for five friends of his to be saved.  It took over 50 years for that to come to pass, and George prayed faithfully for all of them.  The last was saved just after George died.  Persistence in prayer pays off powerfully!

We can pray for anything that we want.  God knows what’s best for us and may not give us something that would impede us, even when it would bless someone else.  But even in that, James tells us something interesting:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Our prayers should be aligned with the will of God.  We shouldn’t pray selfishly or for worldly things (to merely gratify the flesh).  When we become a friend of the world, we are an enemy of God.

Daniel, after having a vision, fasted and prayed for three weeks for an answer.  What the messenger said to him when he arrived should give us pause:

A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.

There is a spiritual battle going on, and answers to our prayers may be delayed by them!  We are to be faithful and continue to pray, in full faith that God will answer our prayers.

When we pray, we should have our eyes focused on God and His priorities, not on our own selfish desires.  After all, God is not some cosmic vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops the blessing of your choice.  He desires relationship with us.  He wants us to desire Him for who He is, not what He can provide to us.  The latter type of relationship is a vendor-customer relationship, where we have no loyalty to the vendor, we just want the best product at the best price.  He wants friendship and trust, for He loves us unconditionally, sacrificially, and volitionally [this last one is an act of the will].

So, let’s ask the question:  In my prayer life, am I asking God for the things that are needed to further His purposes, and am I diligently seeking Him for these things even when there may be great delay in the arrival?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of great gifts to us.  You shower us with Your love, affection, mercy and grace, when we justly deserve death and separation from You.  Grant Your servants success this day in all that we do, that whatever we do would honor and glorify Your name.  Give us strength when delay is occurring, and help us to be faithful, even until Your Son comes in the clouds in glory.  Let us not grow weary, but be encouraged by Your people of old who show us how to respond to delay.  This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Blessing of God – Galatians 3:14

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Everyone wants a blessing.  We seek it in approval from those we respect and love.  Who doesn’t want their parent’s blessing when they are going to be married?

A blessing in the Old Testament was more than just a physical inheritance; it was often a prophetic pronouncement over the life and future progeny of the children.  Isaac, when giving his blessing to Jacob (who was tricked into believing it was Esau), pronounced a prophetic future blessing for Jacob’s family.  When Jacob pronounced the blessing for his sons, he too pronounced a prophetic blessing on them.

We have been grafted in to the vine of Christ.  And in it, we receive the blessing given to Abraham.  This is not replacement theology – we are the wild vine grafted in, being sustained by the same root as the native plant.  And with it comes the blessing.  You have riches in Christ (read Ephesians 1-3).

But all of this is because of the relationship we have with the source.  A branch pulled from a live tree, left alone, will die if it doesn’t have another source of nourishment.  It is the relationship of the branch to the root that provides it.  We often come for the blessings, and stand on the blessings, and sing of the blessings, and praise the blessings.  But, as it was once said, God is not a cosmic vending machine where you put a prayer in and out pops the blessing you selected.

So let’s ask ourselves a question: do we desire the relationship with the giver – desire Him – more than we do the blessings?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have blessed us so much, for You have taken us out of darkness and brought us into the light.  You provide for our every need, and many of our wants.  Father, help us to look to You today, to gaze upon the beautiful face of Christ, to remember who our blessings came from, and to desire to be at the feet of Jesus more than all of the blessings you pour out upon us.  Prepare our hearts for the journey You have planned for us today.  This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.