National Security and God – 2 Kings 6:13-23

When The Lord God Almighty Guards Your Country, No Harm Shall Befall It

13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.

20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”

22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

Formidable Foes

When faced with an army of your enemy, many would be intimidated.  The prophet Elisha’s servant certainly was when he woke up one morning and saw the entire city surrounded with chariots of the nation that had declared war on Israel.  He was intimidated to the point where he began to experience great fear.

Fear Factor

When we are faced with what appears to be overwhelming odds, we also have a tendency to experience fear ourselves.  The Bible tells us over three hundred and sixty-five times – enough for one every day of the year – that we should not fear.   We have been told by God that there is nothing to fear, for He is sovereign.  Yet our physical eyes may try to deceive us, and Satan, the enemy of our souls, would try to instill fear and panic within us.

When we experience fear, we begin to act irrationally.  We see imaged threats that aren’t even real.  And we conflate the importance of the threats that are right in front of us.  In this case, the servant of Elisha the prophet saw no way out, and only saw himself and his master as being able to stand against this massive gathering of enemy troops.

Concealed Charioteers

But God protects His people.  Most of God’s people do not have the ability to peer into the spiritual realm.  If they did, they would see just how protected they are from the enemy.  Elisha, the prophet of God, prayed to God that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see what he could see, and God honored that prayer and did so.  When He opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, he saw the most amazing sight – the hills were filled with chariots of fire being pulled by horses.  Immediately, this calmed down his heart, because his faith had become sight.

Supernaturally Subdued

…These aren’t the droids you are looking for…Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi

In what would seem to the world to be a stunning turn of events, Elisha the prophet prays and asks God to strike the enemy blind.  The Sovereign Lord God Almighty immediately answers his prayers, and the enemy is struck blind.  Although this in and of itself is amazing, but what happens next is even more amazing.

Remember that the enemy arrived at night.  They were camped out around the city.  They could clearly see the city, and the road that they came in on – the sun was out.  Scripture says that it was early in the morning (this began around 6:00 AM, as the fourth watch of the night was from 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM).  They were now struck blind.  That certainly would have unnerved them.  But it was what happened next that was most amazing and interesting.  Elisha tells the men that they are on the wrong road, and this is the wrong city.  He would lead them to the man that they were looking for.  They didn’t bat an eye!  Scripture doesn’t record that they even told Elisha why they were there!  Elisha appears to just walk up to them and tell them they are in the wrong place, and he’ll lead them to man.

In Elisha’s defense, he didn’t lie.  Elisha wanted to reveal himself to them in Samaria, so they technically were in the wrong city.  And Elisha did lead them to the right man – himself!  And, being blind (a rather incapacitating handicap at this point), they blindly followed Elisha to Samaria (no pun intended).

Manifest Mercy

Arriving in Samaria, in the land of the king of Israel, Elisha the prophet of God prayed that God would open the eyes of the men that were blinded.  Now, the group of chariots that were arriving would have been both seen and heard from at a great distance from the city of Samaria.  The king of Israel would surely have placed watchmen in distant areas to warn of any pending invasion by the king of Aram, as they were at war.  When news of the prophet of God leading an army of the king’s enemies towards Samaria, the king of Israel would have surely called all men to arms, and had them line up around the army as it approached.

Upon seeing the vast army in front of him, the king of Israel asked the prophet of God for permission to destroy it.  Elisha forbade the king from doing so, pointing out that it was improper for the king to kill those whom he had captured in war.  Elisha instead commands the king to feed them and provide them with drinks.  The prophet of God showed the love of God towards his enemies, and the king did more than what was required.  A great feast was thrown by the king for the army, and then they were sent back to Aram.

Providential Protection

When the king of Aram had heard what had happened, he realized that the land of the king of Israel was sovereignly protected by The Lord God Almighty.  And when the Lord God Almighty guards your nations’ borders, no enemy that comes against us will be able to  have any success in overtaking the land.

We would be well-advised by this historical record to seek the providential protection of the Lord God Almighty rather than trying to protect the land in our own strength with only our own intelligence, plans, weapons, and strategies:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am in trouble, where do I turn first?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You have said that You would never leave me nor forsake me.  Give me comfort in that promise when my enemies surround me and threaten me with death and torture.  Give me strength that day to know what to say, and to speak boldly about You in the day of threat.  Grant me peace in my spirit, and help me to remember the protection that You provide.  For all that is required to wipe out an entire city is just one angel given authority to do so.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Dangers of Deception – Proverbs 26:18-19

Satan Is The Father Of All Liars And Deceivers

18 Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!”

Just Joking

Have you ever been angered at what someone did, and their response was, “I was only joking!”  The good news is that this isn’t a new phenomenon – this has been going on for millennia!  The phrase “I was only joking!” is born out of the inspiration of the one who instigated the situation in the first place.  It is born out of desperation to justify the actions in the mind of the person responsible, as well as an attempt to pacify the anger in the intended recipient of the actions.  It is little consolation for the pain, heartache, and anger that result from the damaging situation that has just occurred.

Dangerous Deception

No one likes to be deceived.  There is an inherent desire in each human being to know the truth, and be told the truth.  Even when society and culture places snares all around us with the false promise of “happiness”, the moment that people take the bait and compromise themselves, the very people who placed the snares are the very first to point the finger and impugn their victim’s character, applying labels to destroy their reputations.  The motivations for doing this are many, too many to discuss here.  Some of the more obvious and insidious motivations are that people are looking for salacious headlines, they are trying to destroy a political opponent, or possibly even are out for revenge in vengeance.

Deception is very dangerous.  When discovered, it breaks the bonds of trust that we share with each other.  It makes it harder to develop trust with others in the future.  It sets up a stage where the economic potential of people can be adversely affected.  Deception undermines the unwritten rules of societal interaction.  And the very act of deception is born from a self-serving desire to manipulate the circumstances of others in order to gain a more favorable advantage in those circumstances.

While there are some people who actually receive great pleasure from the ability to deceive and rejoice in the consequences that others find themselves when they believe the lie, most people in their core feel shame once they have deceived another.  The writer of this Proverb likens the person deceiving as a maniac who randomly shoots flaming arrows of death.  That is a powerful word picture!  Only a maniac would shoot arrows, let alone flaming arrows of death, randomly into a crowd.  Deception affects more than just the person or persons who are the intended target; it affects the lives of everyone around them, and potentially, the lives of people who the targets will interact with in the future.  Deception does not only change the circumstances of the victims, but also of the perpetrator.

Satanic Source

Do not be deceived: it is Satan who is the father of all who lie and deceive:

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.

Deception is the application of the art of historical revisionism, i.e., lying.  There are many forms of deception:

  • The exclusion of facts necessary to make a good judgment concerning a situation and that falsely and adversely affect the true nature of the situation
  • The alteration of existing facts to fit a particular narrative so that it favors a particular person, entity, or cause
  • The fabrication of information that does not have any basis in fact whatsoever
  • The promotion of an alternative “truth” to salve our own conscience – the art justifying our actions

There are many more ways to deceive.  The Bible says that we are so evil, we invent new ways to sin.  And when the scholarly and lawyer-like ones among us look at a list, sometimes our very first inclination is to look for loopholes in the wording to see if there is a way we can get away with it and still adhere to the letter of law while murdering the spirit of the law.  And in even that, the Bible proves true when it states:

10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Eventual End

The eventual end of deception is that we obscure the truth, and in doing so, reap the rewards of what we have sown.  Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.  He is the embodiment of truth, and in truth, there is no deception.  Truth sheds light on all that is evil, wrong, wicked, and deceptive.  The continued practice of deception will eventually cause us to have a seared conscience – a state where we are no longer able to recognize that some action we are taking is evil.  Those who lie and deceive do not have the truth in them, and they will eventually face judgment before the white throne seat of God.

But thanks be to God in Jesus Christ!  For He has overcome, and in His very public death, burial, and resurrection, through a perfect life, died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to the Father.  If you are caught in deception or deceptive practices, turn to God, confess your sin, and seek the help of The Lord God Almighty who does not desire that anyone perish, for Jesus has been sent to pay our penalty for sin.  Turn to the One who can save you, forgive you, redeem you, and change you through His great and mighty Spirit.

While there is breath, there is hope.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I engaging in deceit in any of my dealings with others, or even myself?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and no sin will be permitted in Your presence.  Even now, we cannot look upon Your face, for we would surely perish if we did.  Thank You for Your love, grace, and mercy that You pour out into my life each and every day.  I know that I don’t deserve it, but I am grateful for it.  Show me, Father, where there is deception in my life.  Forgive me for my sin, and help me to do what is right in Your eyes.  Restore my conscience to a sensitive level, that I would know immediately when I am in danger of sinning against You.  Give me joy instead of sorrow, and help me to live in truth rather than the bondage of lies.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Called to Suffering – Acts 9:16

Can God Trust You With Suffering?

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Carefully Called

We can rejoice that God does not do things at random:

Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

God, omniscient, knows all things, and has a plan that is coming to fruition.  He carefully selects people for what He wants them to do.  He said the following of King David:

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'”

Many people were called by God for different purposes.  Some were to lead God’s people as judges, prophets, or kings.  Others were called to be intercessors, such as Esther.  Still others were called to discipline the Israelites through conquering them and enslaving them.  In every case, it was God who called them for His specific purpose, in His specific timing, for His greater glory.

Providential Purpose

God has purpose in everything that He does.  God does not waste any opportunity.  What appears to us to be random sequences of events are actually the carefully placed trellis that leads those who climb up it to where God wants and needs them to be.  We are but a mist, here today, and gone tomorrow.  We do not have the luxury of divine perspective with regards to long periods of time, because the average life span of a human being is seventy years, eighty if God is gracious.  We are unable to see the intertwining connectivity of timing and events, and to see the tendrils of connectedness between seemingly unrelated events and how and where they will intersect with one another in a tsunami of repercussions.

In all things, God has specific purposes for what He has called us.  Each of us are to play a part in it.  Paul likens this to being parts in a body, each one with unique features but that are part of a greater whole, contributing to or inhibiting the growth and health of the whole.  In everything, there is purpose.  God places purpose in His creation to reveal to us that He is full of purpose, and that we are to play a part in the purposes of God.

Heavenly Hardship

One of the most difficult, yet needed, purposes for God’s plan is people who have been chosen to be examples.  Some have been chosen by God to be examples of what is good.  Others have been chosen to be examples of what is not good.

For example, Able, the son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should do because he made the right offering before God.  Conversely, Cain, another son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should not do because of his offering before God, and his subsequent actions in regards to his offering’s rejection by God.

We need to keep in mind that the student is not above the teacher.  And Jesus Christ, the very best example that the Lord God Almighty could have sent to us experienced divine hardship on a scale that none of us can even comprehend.  He suffered and experienced great hardship throughout His life, but always with the attitude that God the Father had purpose in His hardship, and that in being yielded to the Holy Spirit, His life would glorify God.

One of the most difficult hardships to be given by God is the hardship of suffering.

Severe Suffering

No one likes to suffer (unless they are mentally deranged).  Suffering produces pain in our lives, and makes our lives so difficult that we can barely function.  At times, suffering can be so severe that we are incapacitated by it, and truly cannot even function.  Ask a person who is recovering from ninety percent of their skin being burned off in a fire if they are able to function.  The answer is obvious – until they are healed, they cannot.

God called His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to ultimate suffering for us.  As payment for our sins, not only was the burden of our sins – every sin that every human being ever committed past, present, and future – laid upon his shoulders as He hung on the cross at Calvary, God withdrew His presence from Him, and He experienced complete and total separation from the presence, provision, and protection of God in complete and total isolation with that burden placed upon Him in ultimate pain and agony.  Let it never be said that our salvation is free; it is freely given to us, but the cost was unimaginable.

Sometimes people are called to severe emotional suffering.  They have survived rape, torture, abuse, war, and other unspeakable circumstances.  The scars of these events will affect them for ages to come.  But they have been called as witnesses to the power, grace and glory of God as He leads them out of the bondage that such devastation has caused.

Sometimes people are called to severe physical affliction.  Most people have experienced some type of physical affliction, whether it is sickness or a broken bone.  But God has called some to suffer, not for days, months, or even years, but DECADES of life with pain that would cause the average person to curl up into a fetal position in the corner and bemoan their life (take a look at the life of Job for better clarification on this).  Ask people who have trigeminal neuralgia what it is like to live where, possibly every few seconds, or every second, it feels like someone is striking your face with the full swing of a baseball bat.  This particular affliction is also called “the suicide disease” because people would rather take their own life than live with the consequences of it.

In some cases, such as Lyme’s disease, it can not only be a painful, life-sucking, energy-draining, body-wasting disease, it can cause great misery.  Pain can be medicated away, even with morphine drips.  But misery is in an entirely different category.  Being in a state of extreme misery for any extended period of time will have a person begging God to take their life.  And when the pain and the misery go on day after day, year after year, DECADE AFTER DECADE, and the person is a disciple of Jesus Christ, whom it appears God has forsaken in their disease and time of need, what are they to do?

Total Trust

God has called these particular people to suffering as example to others.  Suffering (and the hardship that comes with it) produces character, and character produces hope.  Hope, in the sense that the Bible uses the word, is not wishful thinking, but rather a reasoned and sound expectation that some future event will occur.  In this, disciples of Christ have hope that God will work all things to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  The purpose is to trust that Almighty God is sovereign, that He has a plan, that He has not forsaken those who suffer hardship, and be an example to others that in their pain and hardship, God is real and is able to get them through their trials as well.

When these great saints of God are called to severe suffering, and show complete and total trust through it, it is a powerful message to those who do not believe in God that there must be something that is helping those who are suffering to believe.  It is evident to most people who, in light of this type of suffering, there is no circumstance in the world that can force a person to believe that their suffering has purpose and is worth enduring apart from the sovereign grace and power of Almighty God.

Total trust in God yields great fruit, both in the life of the one suffering, and in the example provided to those who need an example to continue on in their own difficulties.  God loves it when we trust Him through these difficulties.  David spoke of this in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The trust goes two ways.  We are to trust God, because He and He alone is completely trustworthy.  But God also trusts us.  To those whom He has placed the terrible burden of suffering, He trusts them to properly display that trust right back at Him.  The more hardship God brings into your life – and that which is NOT caused by your own sin, actions, or as consequences of your life choices – the more that he is trusting you for something great.

There is a story that goes something like this:

A man was at a lumberyard watching the lumberjacks move mighty trees from the forest down the river to where they would be sawn for wood.  At a junction in the river, there was a lumberjack who, every now and then, would direct one of the large trees floating in the water down a smaller path of the river.  There appeared to be no difference in the appearance of the trees, so this seemed odd to the man.  The man then asked the lumberjack directing these trees down the river what he was doing.

The lumberjack told the man the trees he was directing down the smaller path were from the very top of the mountain.  They received the most abuse from the weather, and they were constantly buffeted by the wind, rain, and snow.  These mighty trees looked like the others, but because of the abuse they took, along with the fact that they had not broken in the process, were of exceptional quality.  The wood had a much finer grain, and when used by carpenters, made the very finest furniture and brought the highest price on the market.  They were destined to be used by the most skilled artisans in the land for the most sought after projects, and were to be displayed in the most coveted of places because of the beauty that grew in them due to the hardship of the weather.

And just as the trees in this story brought praise to the artisans that used them with their great skill, so will the hardship in our lives be used by God to bring Him the maximum amount of glory, and be useful for displaying His craftsmanship and character.

Glorifying God

The end result of everything that God has done in the past, is doing now, and will do in the future, is to bring glory to Himself.  He and He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength.  He alone is The Great I AM, providing for our every need, displaying His love and infinite power to all who would take notice.

When a person is willing to be used by God for this purpose, God will use them mightily in ministry and to display His glory.  There is no greater honor than to be used by God in this way, as Jesus Christ demonstrated to us on the cross at Calvary.  But are we willing to go through the difficulty and hardship that is required to bring about the changes necessary to properly display what God has planned in His heart for us to show the world?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to allow God to bring hardship and suffering in my life to fulfill His plans and purposes for me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is perfect, and Your will and character are perfect as well.  You have shown throughout Your word that You can be trusted with everything, for You are perfect in every way.  Father, help me to endure suffering and hardship as discipline.  Help me to gain Your perspective on my circumstances so that I may be willing to be used by You for the calling that You have placed upon my life.  Help me to be faithful to You throughout the process so that during the trials, and when I come out on the other side, You will be shown rightly to all who watch.  Guard my heart against bitterness through the process, and fill me with Your peace and power that all things You have planned would come to pass.  This I ask in the precious name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

 

Relics and God – 1 Kings 13:21

The True Power Is In God And Not The Item

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

Powerful Position

Elisha was endowed with a double-portion of the spirit of God at his request.  He recognized the importance of God’s role in the life of Elijah, and as his protégé, desired to be even more effective in ministry than his mentor.  When Elisha saw Elijah taken away by the chariots of God, the sign that Elijah had given to him that his request would be granted, the miracles that began to occur in his life were evidence of the granting of his request by God.  Two other important people who had items of theirs (in these cases cloth they owned or worn) that were directly implicated in the act of a healing miracle were Paul (napkins and aprons were taken to the sick and their illnesses cured and demons fled) and Jesus Christ (a woman with a bleeding disorder touched His robe and she was made well).

Miracles Manifested

In each case, God confirmed their calling with power and might.  Elisha performed great and mighty miracles to men.  This was to glorify God, and to help strengthen the faith of others.  Paul was divinely protected through many shipwrecks, survived what would have been a fatal snake bite, and many acts of miracles.   Jesus Christ fed thousands from a simple lunch of fish and bread, raised the dead, calmed the seas, healed the sick, cast out demons, and many other mighty displays of glorious power as manifested by God for His glory.  The power of God was upon each of these people mightily.

Residual Radiance

In the case of Jesus Christ and Paul, it was the person’s faith that healed.  The true power of God being manifested is through faith and not the object.  God is the giver of all power and might, and He is the one who enables miracles to occur.  In the case of Jesus Christ, He would often say, “Your faith has made you well.”  In the case of Paul, the faith that they had in God, working miracles through him, would make them well when his napkins and aprons were provided to the sick.

In the case of Elisha, we see something a little different.  The Israelites who threw the dead body on the bones of Elisha in his grave were not looking for a miracle.  They were out to bury a body.  But God sovereignly resurrected the dead man when he came into contact with the bones of Elisha as a testament to the calling of Elisha and the mighty power of God.  God sovereignly restored the man’s life to bear witness to His grace, power, and glory.

Some have taken these references to show that God somehow imbued the articles and bones of the past saints of God with special powers, and now call them relics.  But the real reason is that God is manifesting His power and glory for the deepening of our faith.  The items that people touch are not necessarily somehow anointed with the power of God, but rather God uses them to display His glory and grace so that our faith would grow in Him.

Gideon was mightily used by God, and when asked by the people to rule over them, told them that neither he nor his sons would rule over them, but that the Lord would rule over them.  Gideon later made an ephod out of some of the gold plunder of their conquered enemies, and it became a snare to them:

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson-because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

When we worship created things, rather than the Creator, it becomes a snare to us.  We must understand that all power and authority in is God and God alone.  When we look at items that God has used by others and look to the item for help, rather than God, we will be ensnared ourselves.  Give thanks and praise to the one who cures all illness and reconciles the lost to Himself, for He and He alone is worthy of the glory and praise, and it is God and God alone who is responsible for curing our disease:

He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

Other Opinion

Another opinion in this is that when you take the scriptures that show that Moses’ face would glow from his presence in the glory of God, that the items worn, used, or physically part of the person were somehow infused with the glory of God.  In Act:19:11-12, it might be taken from the translation to indicate it was the power of God manifested in the miracles themselves that imbued the items with God’s power:

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

This would indicate that it was the belief that when God was working miracles, His power was still in the items.

Yet scripture must be taken as a whole.  And in every case, miracles could not happen without faith, and that in Almighty God.  When Jesus returned to His hometown, He could do very few miracles because of their lack of faith.  In every case, it is faith that enables God to work.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where do I go first when I am in need of healing?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the one who heals all of our diseases, gives us life and breath in our lungs.  Help us to look to You for all things.  Increase my faith, that I may always keep my eyes upon You.  And when miracles surround one of your disciples, help those watching to have faith in You and not in them or what they wear.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

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.

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

Trust in God – Matthew 1:18-25

Sometimes Trusting God Will Place You In Very Awkward Situations

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Social Scandal

In the birth of our Lord Savior, we have (yet another) scandal.  The seed of Abraham preferred that their line be “pure” – that all of their family be of the line of Israel.  Jesus’ line has some interesting bumps in the road:

  • Rahab, a prostitute in the walled city of Jericho who helped the spies of Joshua, was the wife of Salmon.  Together, they had a famous son – Boaz
  • Ruth, the Moabitess, was the wife of Boaz.  They bore a son, Obed, who also bore a son, Jesse.  And his son was none other than King David – a man after God’s own heart.

In just two generation of the family tree of David, who was anointed by Samuel at God’s request to be the second king of Israel, we see intrigue and scandal.  Talk about your “skeletons in the closet”!   But these were Godly women who feared God, and to them it was credited as righteousness.  God is able to use anyone for His purposes as He sees fit.

And now for the latest scandal.  Even just a half a century ago, it would have been major scandal for a young woman to be found pregnant out-of-wedlock.  The shame of it drove many women to flee their homes and stay hidden until they could have the baby, often giving it up for adoption before returning to their family.

But in this case, God had appointed this very awkward event in prophecy.  And Mary did not hide, but rather endured the social maelstrom that ensued.  Gabriel had announced that she had been chosen, and she was fully submitted to the will of God.  Sometimes that means great personal sacrifice and loss.  In this case, public opinion must have been fiercely harsh towards Mary.  Yet she endured it all in wonder, for God had ordained it, and she believed God.

Honorable Husband

Now, place yourself in Joseph’s place.  Traditionally, after getting engaged, the husband-to-be would go off and build the home where the newlyweds would live in anticipation of the blessed union.  Imagine at that time coming home, and finding your wife-to-be pregnant.  What to do!  Joseph had options at his disposal.  He could have her stoned for this “alleged” misconduct.  By being pledged as Joseph’s wife, Mary was effectively classified as married for the purposes of adultery.  Joseph could very publicly end the marriage.  But Joseph, being a man of God, in his heart determined that rather than cause Mary any more difficulty, chose to divorce her quietly (end the engagement).

Imagine if you were in the military and sent off to a foreign land, ready to be married, and come home to find your wife-to-be pregnant.  How would you react?  Imagine how you would feel.  Imagine the character and self-restraint that it took for Joseph to even consider handling this quietly.  This took great courage and character.

Angelic Announcement

But God…  Those two words are the source of great amazement.  Just as it seemed that all would be ruined, God sent an angel down to counsel and command Joseph.  Notice how the angel greets him:

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

In this, the angel invokes the royal line of David as the line of the Messiah.  Imagine his relief in finding out that what Mary has told him is true – this is of the Holy Spirit of God.  Imagine the relief in finding out that Mary has been faithful to him.  Imagine the dread of the social storm that is upon them.  Imagine his apprehension, being chosen by God to be the surrogate father to his Savior.  And imagine his joy and wonder, knowing that the time has come for God’s promise to be fulfilled, now in his very lifetime.  And imagine this happening all at once.

Faithful Father

And even in the midst of this, Joseph proved himself to be a man of God.  The angel commanded him to take Mary as his wife, for he was charged with naming his first son Jesus.  And as was the law, the firstborn son was to be dedicated to God.  How fitting that Jesus, the firstborn son of Joseph and Mary, the Son of God, be dedicated to the Father.  And Joseph, being the man of God that he was, fully embraced the responsibility that was placed upon his shoulders.  He passed the test with flying colors.

Now let’s take a look at a few of the events that transpired to make this blessed event come off at the appointed time and in the appointed way.  Imagine if Rahab had not protected the spies of Joshua.  Imagine if Ruth had gone back to Moab rather than stay with Naomi and later listen to the odd commands of Naomi (who now claimed the name Mara, which means bitter), as she carefully planned the circumstances of courtship between Ruth and Boaz.  Imagine if David had refused to be anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel.  Imagine if Mary had said “this is too much for me to bear” to Gabriel instead of announcing herself as God’s servant.  Imagine if Joseph had succumbed to social pressure and left Mary as a stay-at-home, unwed mother.  In each and every case, these people were tested by their circumstances, and their character triumphed as they chose to honor God.   Regardless of the scandals in our lives, and the circumstances that we find ourselves in, we too must exhibit great character.  Who knows what interesting things will come about as we submit ourselves to the will of God!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  How far am I be willing to go to endure great loss and scandal to be obedient to my Lord and Savior?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, with our lips we praise You, and with our lives we worship You.  Remember me that in every decision that I make, that You are always at the forefront.  May every word I speak, thought that I have and embrace, and action that I take reflect Your character, Your love, and Your sacrifice.  Help me when I feel pressure from anyone or any circumstance to deviate from Your express will.  Strengthen me, especially in my moments of weakness, that I would continue to honor and glorify your name, regardless of the pain, loss, or difficulty that I encounter.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Sign from God – Isaiah 7:10-16

God Himself Gave The Sign – The Virgin Bore A Child

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

Select the Sign

In one of the most stunning passages of scripture, the Lord God Almighty asks king Ahab to choose a sign.  Anything the king desires will be done – nothing is off-limits.  What a wonderful opportunity!  Then, the most evil of all kings, confronted by the Lord God Almighty, quotes scripture at God:

Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.

If the Lord asks you to do something, you do it.  Isaiah confirms that this response tries the patience of God.  Ahaz just doesn’t get it.  But God, in a wonderful turn of events, provides the most impossible of signs – the virgin shall be with child.

The Perfect Prophecy

Simple biology would dictate, especially given the scientific methods at that time, that it would be impossible for the virgin to give birth to a child.  But this gave God the opportunity to do something wonderful – to prophesy about His Son, Jesus Christ, who was to be named Immanuel (which means “God with us”).  Not only is He born because the Holy Spirit came upon His mother, He would be without sin.  God provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and laid the groundwork for His miracle with the simple request that the evil king Ahab give Him a sign.

Although others in scripture have asked for signs (Gideon being among the most famous, but let us also not forget the request of Abraham’s servant when seeking a bride for Issac…), we are to trust in the Lord God Almighty.  He will certainly do all that He says He will do, because His character is such that He cannot lie.  And God will certainly fulfill any promise that He makes.

Notice the difference in the way that people respond to God when told news, in particular, Mary’s response to Gabriel versus Zechariah.  Mary responds:

How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

and

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.

Zechariah responds quite differently:

How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Mary believes, and asks how it will be.  Zechariah questions whether it can be done at all.  Mary was rewarded, and Zechariah was struck mute.  These are fitting responses to each person’s response.  We can be assured that God will keep every promise that He makes.  He has said so, and even the angel Gabriel confirms it:

 For no word from God will ever fail.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we looking for signs from God that He will do what He says He will do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your word that we may know that You have perfect character.  You have given us the heavens for signs, and continue to help us by using Your word to give us guidance.  Help me today to rely completely upon You, with complete abandon, for You have promised to provide anything I need to accomplish the purposes that You have assigned for me to do.  Remember me this day, Father, that I would have the courage to trust in You when all circumstances point elsewhere.  Give me the fortitude of character to believe, especially when the outcome of events does not match what I have preconceived in my mind.  Help me to trust when there is no visible reason to do so.  And may You be glorified by the faith that You are growing in me with this trust.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Restoration by God – Psalm 71:19-21

It Is God Who Brings Down And God Who Restores

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

Regaling Righteousness

David has the foresight to recognize and desire to see that the righteousness of God is to be made known to all.  Earlier in this Psalm, David writes:

13 May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long-
though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

As God’s children, we should greatly desire that the glory and righteousness of God be magnified among men.  Not only should we be displaying the righteousness of God in our everyday lives, but we must also speak the truth about His righteousness to others.  Faith comes through hearing the word of God.

It has always been known by the enemies of God that faith comes through hearing.  That is one of the reasons why there is such a great effort placed on muzzling the voice of truth in society.  They know that if people hear the truth, and believe the truth, the truth will set them free.  Only by silencing the truth and then speaking lies are the enemies of God able to continue to exert their control over people.

There is an old nursery rhyme that exemplifies this truth:

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

This is a bald-faced lie told to children to help them cope with the emotional trauma of the power of the spoken word.  Words DO hurt.  And words CAN help.  When we pretend that what we say has no effect upon others, we deceive ourselves and lay the groundwork for all manner of mischief.  After all, if spoken lies have no power, then lying must be OK, because it doesn’t hurt anyone.  But Jesus addressed this very poignantly:

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.

When we lie, we murder the truth.

Terrible Trouble

God is sovereign.  We know this in our minds, but question it in our hearts when terrible things happen to people – murder, rape, theft, disease, and all other manner of difficulty and trials.  The understanding that God is sovereign and is responsible for allowing difficulty into our lives is characterized well in the life of Job.  Job recognizes the sovereignty of God, and tells his wife after his afflictions:

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job’s relatives, after Job had gone through his trials, acknowledged the responsibility and sovereignty of God in their actions and words to Job:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

We would do well to remember that God has not forgotten us in our trials, but rather has sovereignly allowed them into our lives to bring about change in us and glory to Him.  And after those trials are over, God restores us.  We must also remember that God does not do evil, but may allow evil to come into our lives through our circumstances for His purposes and our sanctification.

Rescued in Resurrection

Not everyone is restored in this life after trials.  Job and many listed in the annals of the righteous in Hebrews were restored while they lived on the Earth.  Jesus was not restored on the Earth.  He passed into glory to fulfill what God has intended for our benefit and His glory.  Many who endure great trials will not be redeemed until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We can take heart and have peace, knowing that our pain and suffering will not last forever.  God will rescue us from all our troubles, even if it is not on this side of life.

David recognizes this and records it for us to give us the opportunity to soberly consider these things.  And just because God does not redeem a person during their life certainly does not mean that He will not redeem them going forward.  We must always have our eyes fixed upon the cross of Christ and the future glory that awaits as we will patiently wait for God to act.

Pleased in Peace

David consoles himself knowing that God will restore and increase his honor at a later time.  He knows that God will comfort him at a future time, in God’s time, for God’s purposes, to bring about the maximum glory to God.  We can rest as well in the knowledge that God will comfort us in our afflictions, for He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Using our intellect, we must direct our will to force our emotions into line with the truth.  Otherwise, we will be led by our emotions, and that can have disastrous consequences.  Everything has its proper place and purpose.  Let us reassure ourselves in the character, power and sovereignty of God when all seems bleak.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What comes out of our mouth when we face trials of various kinds?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your glory is over the Earth.  You are to be magnified and glorified.  My lips should be singing praises to You, and revealing Your great and mighty deeds to those who will listen.  Give me the courage to stand strong when people seek to silence the truth.  Help me to remember Your goodness and mercy and grace as You allow me to suffer through my trials.  Help me to overcome, and to speak of Your deliverance to your people so that they would be encouraged.  Help me to speak to strangers and those who do not know You that they may know that the Living God loves them and desires to be in relationship with them.  Prepare the hearts of the people, Lord God, and direct me to them that You would be magnified and glorified.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Victory with God – Psalm 60:9-12

God And God Alone Is The One Who Brings Victory

9 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
11 Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
12 With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.

Divine Direction

David asks a very interesting question:  Who will be able to lead David and his men to their objective and goal, and bring them to the fortified city to do battle?  David knows the answer to this question, for it is God and God alone who gives true direction and victory over the enemy.  David’s use of rhetorical questions should comfort us and give us instruction, for we too should ask ourselves questions that help us to remember our training in times of difficulty.

When faced with any type of difficulty, we should always seek God first in prayer.  For it is God and God alone who can answer those prayers, provide the information needed to overcome our difficulties, and provide the strength and resources to be victorious.

Reinforcements Rejected

David acknowledges that God had been withholding his protection and provision because of the sin of the people.  This is very serious, and cannot be overstated enough.  We need to remember that when just ONE member of the body is in pain, the whole body is in pain.  Each and every one of us must do our part to ensure that we are not hindering the progress of the rest of the body.

God has withheld his blessing from His people before just because ONE person was sinning.  Imagine that – the entire nation of Israel was denied victory in battle because ONE person was sinning!  It is important that we remember that sin affects not only us, but those around us as well.  Let us search our hearts daily to see if there is any wrongdoing within us, and ask the Lord God Almighty for His help in overcoming it and to repent of it.  None of us should ever want to be the stumbling block for the rest of the body…

Plea for Progress

David pleads with God for help in overcoming his adversaries.  We need to always go to God with our concerns and needs.  Even though God already knows them, and is preparing the answer to the prayers we have not yet even prayed, we must do our part in this by being obedient to God and submitting ourselves through prayer in humility.  God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  Let us follow the example of David and humble ourselves before God, asking Him for the victory.  Let us trust in God and God alone for all victory.  And He will lift up our heads.

Recognizing Refuse

David also acknowledges that the help of man is worthless.  When faced with any issue, God greatly desires that we come to Him first, for He is all-knowing and all-powerful.  He desires to bless us with His grace and mercy, and teach us more about His character through our dependence upon Him through our trials and difficulties.  God desires that we deepen our relationship with Him during these times.

When we seek out men for help before God (and God may very well send us to others for advice, strategy, and resources, but only once we have sought Him out earnestly in prayer), we are in effect saying that God cannot help us, so we have chosen to men to help us.  This is greatly disrespectful towards God, given His clear instruction throughout scripture showing us that He desires to be the first consulted.  David recognizes that the help of man without the express prior approval and selection from God is utterly worthless.  One angel of God could wipe out every army on Earth.  Why would we seek out men and their strength when God can bring to bear LEGIONS of angels to assist us in our needs?

Heavenly Help

David now confirms what he already knows – that victory belongs to God and God alone.  It is only with the help of God that we will be truly victorious.  God has brought to bear great and mighty assistance to those in need, and will do so again.  It is God and God alone who can do this.  We cannot remind ourselves enough of this, for the truth shall set us free, and drawing close to God is always beneficial.  It is then that He gives us His peace and opens His storehouses of provision and protection to His people:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I face difficulties, who or what do I go to first for help?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show me again and again in Your word that You desire that each of us come to You first for all of our needs.  Forgive me Father when I go to others first who are wise.  You have all of the answers, and are sovereign over all creation.  It is You who provide victory and assign wise counselors.  Help me to stop listening to the world, the flesh, and the devil, who want to keep me from You and Your help and rely on myself and others.  Give me the desire to always seek You first in all things.  You have provided wise counsel and leaders to guide us, but it is You who are first in everything.  Blessed be Your name forever and ever, Amen.

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

Trust in God – Psalm 56:3-7

The Wicked Twist Our Words And Malign Our Motives

3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise-
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

Fear is Folly

David recognizes that his heart fears certain outcomes.  Like a man trapped in a burning building with no place to go, the anticipation of the pain of his flesh being consumed by fire is not pleasant.  David recognizes that to fear man is folly.  After all, what can mere mortals do to him?

Train to Trust

Instead, David had trained his heart to trust in God.  God and God alone is the one who can save us, deliver us, provide for us, protect us, and vindicate us.  David lets us know that the first place that his heart went during his times of fear was to trust in the Lord God Almighty.  David made it a practice in his mind to direct his will to trust in God when his emotions were overwhelming him with fear.

When we place our trust in God rather than in men, riches, idols, or even ourselves, we can rest in the peace that God gives to us that defies understanding.  God greatly desires that we come to Him first with our problems and our difficulties.  He knows about all of them, but desires a greater dependence from us upon Him as well as a strengthening our relationship with Him.  It is in times of great distress and need that we see exactly who or what we trust in.  David chose to make God his first option, and he was rewarded for it with the praise of God:

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Warping Words

One of the tactics of the enemy is to twist the words of their opponents to misrepresent their position or their intent.  This enables them to attack the person by turning attention on their enemies.  This tactic is also used by those who practice the art of sleight of hand (magicians).  They intentionally misdirect your attention to where they want you to look so that you will not see what they are doing.  It provides them with cover to do all sorts of mischief.

For instance, let us say that two people disagree on something.  Person A believes that they are correct in believing that the sky is falling.  Person B says that the sky is not falling, that the droplets of water coming down are rain.  If person A wants to misdirect others concerning person B, they could characterize the words of the person B as disparaging them with regards to some aspect of their physical nature rather than with a philosophical or factual/observational disagreement.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that person A has greatly increased melanin in their skin, and person B does not.  Person A could then say it is because of their skin color and racial prejudice that person B disagrees with them.  This deflects from the true reason that the disagreement has taken place, and positions person A as a victim of racism and person B in the position of racist.  This type of posturing and twisting of words evokes an emotional response from both person B and anyone who hears the argument.  The mere re-characterization of the argument as one of race rather than fact/observation deflects the requirement for person A to defend their position and assassinates the character of person B.  In this scenario, it is a total win for person A:

  • Public trust in what person B is saying is now destroyed through the accusation or racism
  • Person B’s position is seen as the position of a racist, and since it is characterized as such, may be rejected on this basis rather than on any factual or scientific basis
  • Person A no longer has to defend their position in fact or science, and receives sympathy from the public, regardless of the validity of their position
  • Person A’s standing in the public as a victim of a hate crime bolsters the emotional support of the public for anything else person A has to say
  • Person B is unlikely to challenge person A’s positions any longer, knowing the societal cost that they will have to endure should person A falsely accuse them again.

Terrible Tactics

David lists some of the other tactics that his enemies have used against him:

  • Their every scheme is for David’s ruination
    • Their lives have become consumed with ways to discredit and ruin David.  This is the act of vengeful people.
  • They conspire against him
    • They use their collective resources to act in a way to entrap or otherwise cause David to fail.  A favorite tactic of the enemies of God, they look to the past to dredge up anything that their enemy may have done that can be used to embarrass him, disparage his character, or cause public opinion to be soured against him.
  • They lurk about
    • Imagine having someone follow you every second of your day, recording what you say and do, looking for anything they can use to take out of context to give you a bad name.  Welcome to David’s life.
  • They watch his very steps
    • If David breaks the law unknowingly, they will be there to witness it, accuse him of it, and see that justice is swift (usually with paid witnesses).

Judge with Justice

David consoles himself in the character and nature of God.  He remembers that God is a holy, righteous, and just judge.  David calls upon God to remember the wickedness of his enemies, and to judge the nations.  David’s enemies have failed to grasp the love of God as displayed in His mercy and grace towards them, seeking only the destruction of God’s chosen servant, David.  Rather than take matters into his own hands, David rightly gives his life into the hands of the living God – He who is righteous and will deliver him from all evil.  For those who have been justified by God, who can bring an accusation against him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with enemies, who or what do you turn to first?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who have redeemed me from the miry muck.  You have cleansed me of my sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Since You have removed my sin from me as far as the East is from the West, no one can lay a charge against me.  Give me shelter and sanctuary when my enemies seek to destroy me.  Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.  Protect me from those who seek my ruination, who conspire against me to assassinate my character.  For I am found in Christ Jesus, and it is His character and His name that I take, and it is His name that they smear and disparage.  Give me strength to endure, and may Your love be displayed in my thoughts, words, and deeds, as my enemies surround me to do me harm.  Blessed be Your name, Lord God.  Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Joshua 14:6-12

Give A Good Report

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Complete Conviction

Caleb was one of only two military-age males that survived the forty-year trek through the desert.  He and Joshua were the only ones to bring back a good report of the land from the twelve spies that were sent forty-five years ago by Moses.  It was the reports of the other ten, and the fear of the hearts of the people, that caused them to wander for forty years in the desert.  Caleb had complete conviction in his heart that God would help them to overcome the inhabitants of the land that God was giving them.

Reputable Report

Caleb gave the report that with the help of God, that the people of Israel could drive out the inhabitants of the land across the Jordan.  Caleb remembered that God had parted the Red Sea and that Pharaoh and his army of chariots were completely destroyed by God when the waters collapsed upon them.  Caleb remembered that God had delivered them from the tenth plague that took the life of the firstborn male of man and cattle during the Passover.  Caleb remembered every time that God had helped His people through the most difficult situations.  It is only remembering what God has done that we can look forward and say that God will do something.

Still Strong

Caleb then declares that, after eighty-five years, he is still strong and able-bodied, and requests that Joshua give him the hill country of the Anakites.  Caleb knows that regardless of his physical age, God is able to provide for him and his family.  Caleb knew that God is not able to go back on His word.  And God had said that the land that his feet tread upon would be his.  Caleb was merely claiming what God had already provided.  It should be noted that he took the most difficult of terrains available, in part because no one else wanted them, and in part because they were the best and most defensible.  Finally, he requested them because God had already given them to him – his feet had tread upon that land.  The other ten had already died.  Caleb had the pick of the land, and he chose the most difficult part of the land.  With great risk can come great reward.  And since God is for you, who can be against you?

Fight the good Fight

In all of this, Caleb was ready to go out and to take what God had promised him.  Caleb was fighting the good fight, not depending upon his strength or ability, but rather upon the strength and ability that God is able to provide.  He was merely going out to get what God had already given him.  Caleb had the eternal perspective that God had, and that gave him the confidence to go and take the most difficult and fortified regions of the land because it was God would be fighting for him and with him.  When we have been given a word from God, we should approach it in the same fashion.  Have a firm conviction in your heart that God will do what He says He will do, and then go and do what God has told you to do, regardless of what your circumstances appear to be.  For if God has said it, it is already done and written in stone.  For no one can change what God has already said will be done.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I claiming through obedience what God has already promised me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious to Your servant.  Give me the strength and courage to do all that You have commanded me to do, and to leave the results up to You.  Help me to be faithful and obedient in all that You have revealed to me, and let not my heart faint when giants oppose me.  Rather, help me to be like David and Caleb, that I would remember that You are fighting for me, and have already gone out before me, and let me rush at my enemies that they would know I am not afraid, and that You are the all-powerful Lord God Almighty.  Amen.

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

The Timing of God – Mark 6:46-52

God Arrives in the Fourth Watch of the Night

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

Training Through Trials

Everyone goes through trials.  Some trials seem longer and more difficult than others.  The worst ones are where you feel like you are fighting for your very life.  Your circumstances are pulling at the very fabric of your soul, and your strength has been depleted by non-stop battering.  You feel like just after a fresh gulp of air the waves come crashing over your head, and you get water for what you thought was your next breath.

The disciples were fighting for their very lives.  Life on the Sea of Galilee could be very dangerous.  Storms would often appear out of nowhere, and for a small fishing boat, capsizing in the water at night with high waves was a terrifying thought.  But we need not be terrified by our trials, for God is sovereign and has everything under control.

James has this to say about our trials:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trial of Trust

When fighting for your life in a trial isn’t enough, it seems that God adds insult to injury by letting us struggle through it for a very L O N G time.  We cry out to God, but often He doesn’t seem to answer immediately.  We wait and wait (and wait some more), and no help comes.  This is the trial of trust.

God has this way of showing up in the fourth watch of the night.  The night back in the time of Jesus was set up in four – three hours segments:

  • First Watch: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Second Watch: 10:00 – 12:00 pm
  • Third Watch: 1:00 – 3:00 am
  • Fourth Watch: 4:00 – 6:00 am

The fourth watch was the longest watch of all.  Most of the night had already passed, and through exhaustion and anticipation of daylight, it made the fourth watch go very slow.  Jesus had seen in the night that the disciples were struggling, but waited until just before dawn to go out to them.  This allows our faith to be tested, to see if we really believe that God is going to intervene and help us with our needs.  This is the secondary trial of trust – patience.

Strategic Support

Jesus has a tendency to wait until the very last minute to come and help us with our problems.  He is trying to show us where we are in our understanding of His sovereignty, character, and love for us.  By denying us immediate relief, we must decide whether we can trust God to act as our situation becomes more bleak second by second.

As you feel like you are trying to stop tumbling down a mountainside, you can see the cliff in front of you that drops thousands of feet.  Unable to stop, you fight for your life.  It is just before you go over the cliff, or sometimes after you start falling, that God will intervene.  He does not do this to cause us emotional harm, but to give us the opportunity to trust Him more.  If you have prayed that God would help you to trust him more, expect these types of trials to enter into your life.  This is about on the same level as praying for patience.

Regardless, it is the timing of the response that careful attention should be paid.  God has a plan much larger than our myopic short-term vision.  Each and every moment is moving towards an unstoppable event – the second coming of Christ, and the end to sin.  We need to remember as we are in the storm that God’s timetable isn’t always ours.  That is why “trust and obey” is our only way…

Stopping Storms

When God does calm the storm, we are often just as amazed as the disciples were when Jesus stepped into the boat and everything calmed down.  Jesus demonstrates that He is sovereign over all.  Sometimes, the storm doesn’t stop until we pass away into glory, but nonetheless, the storm stops.  We can be assured that whatever our problems are, God is working through His plan to bring glory to His name.  For there is no purpose of God that can be thwarted, and God works everything to good for those who love Him.

Regardless of the emotional, financial, and/or physical damage that the storm has wrought, we can confidently rest in the knowledge that when God does come, He will help us to pick up the pieces.  And we will have the scars to remember His help, and never forget what we went through to get there.  It is also important that we don’t allow our hearts to be hardened by our training through trials.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we trusting in God’s goodness, mercy, and grace as we are fighting for our lives in our trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace, and your mercies never cease, but renew every morning.  Grant me patience as I trust in You to deliver me through my trials.  Help me to overcome through perseverance, so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  Give me the strength to endure the trials I am facing, and guard my heart against the attacks of the enemy as they taunt me and tell lies about You.  Father, help me to remember Your word, that Your promises will never be far from my heart or my lips.  For You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  You have promised to work all things to good for those who love You.  You have promised that none can snatch me out of Your hand.  I will stand on Your promises, oh God, so that Your name may be glorified and magnified, regardless of the outcome of the trials.  This I ask in the precious Name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Can God Trust You? – Daniel 6:4

Can God Trust You to be Faithful?

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Capable Character

God seeks to inculcate within us great character – HIS character. Our trials are designed to challenge us to rise to the occasion, and to cast aside our way of doing things in favor of doing things God’s way.  The Holy Spirit not only guides us in the way we should go, but provides the very means to do it, whether it is strength, endurance, wisdom, words, or anything else that is needed for God to accomplish His goals through us.

God greatly desires and has planned to do just that – to use His people to showcase Himself, rather than just appear as a great tower or smoke or pillar of fire as He once did for Israel.  We are to be used as His hands and feet and mouths so that His work in our lives can be displayed, rather than just signs and wonders to behold and possibly be ignored.  He seeks to have a relationship with His creation, and particularly with us humans.  This is shown in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, as well as the way that God has worked through people all throughout the Bible.

God doesn’t have a “Plan B”.  Christians are it.  If we fail to do what we are supposed to do, then God’s plans won’t be completed the way He desires them to be completed.  Even now, God must reveal Himself through dreams and visions to people who live in the Middle East under Sharia law, as the evil there is so bad that even mentioning Christ will get you beheaded.  It’s hard to get the message out when the messengers are murdered before the message is completely delivered!  Speaking of messengers, Proverbs 25:13 tells us something about the ones with good character:

Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time
is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
he refreshes the spirit of his master.

Trustworthy Through Trials

God is seeking men and women who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus.  God needs people who are able to trust in Him to deliver them through the most difficult of trials.  Jesus experienced great hardship at the hands of men and His trials.  God appoints those who are trustworthy through trials to different positions depending on their ability and need.

God calls people to different many different responsibilities.  He who knows all things determines what and where His people should be called.  He selects them as He sees fit.

Administration Acumen

Many are selected to be leaders.  People should not seek a position of leadership without the calling of God.  The burden of leadership is great, and requires a specific personality and mentality to do it right.  Look at how many people are in leadership today that are causing so much grief to the ones that they have been placed over.  We should soberly look at this and give great consideration before accepting any position of leadership.  Remember – leaders will be judged more strictly than others because of the responsibility of their role.

Monetary Mindfulness

Some are selected to be the overseers of great wealth.  Although many (if not most) of us would say, “Sure – I’ll take that!”, it is most probable that they would fail miserably at the task.  The Bible says that if we can be trusted with little, we can be trusted with much.  Many Christians are living paycheck to paycheck.  It’s not that they don’t have enough money to live frugally and save, it is just that the call of culture and desire of our hearts is to spend the money provided to us by God on ourselves.  Many people are not fiscally prudent, nor even know how to be.  Self-control in this department sometimes seems absent, and the wisdom to know what to do with money, as well as what not to do with money, seems to be missing from many Christians’ lives.

It takes someone who have been trained by a knowledgeable mentor to understand these concepts and put them in practice.  For instance, in a perfect world, where the average rate of return on an investment is 12% per year (don’t laugh – we know times are tough and something like this is very unlikely at present), that a person that is eighteen years of age who puts $1000 U.S. into a Roth IRA investment every year for just 10 years, and leaves it alone, will have over one million U.S. dollars waiting for them at age 65 – TAX FREE.

How many people are willing to do that at that age, or consistently?  What if the return is only 8%, but they invest the maximum allowed per year every year (at this time, through two separate employers [you can be self-employed as well] a person can put in $5,500 U.S. dollars TOTAL) for just 20 years?  At age 65, they will have almost two and a half million U.S. dollars waiting for them.  Who knew?

In any case, it would be a terrible thing to have to give an accounting to God of how great wealth was lost through fiscal mismanagement or spent on personal enrichment.

Taken Through Trials

There is a reason that Jesus suggested that we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  He Himself was led by the Spirit of God to be tested by Satan himself.  We are going to be taken through trials to purge the dross that we have within us.  We shouldn’t be surprised at the trials that we face.  Regardless of what we are selected to do, we will face trials of many kinds.  Sometimes, they can take decades before we are ready (it took God forty years to get the Egypt out of Moses before He called him to service…)  But there is one specific calling that no one wants to receive, and that God requires the greatest trust from His people .

Selected for Suffering

God trusts us with what we are able to do and won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure without providing a way.  God DOES give us more than we can handle so that we can grow in faith and character as we overcome our deficiencies with HIS strength, power, and ability.

One of the most difficult callings, or selections, is to be called to suffering.  God will eventually remove all suffering and pain.  Sometimes these things happen because it is God’s will that they happen and are not a direct result of sin:

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

It is very difficult for a person when God selects them for suffering.  Having to bear that tests a person’s faith down to its very core.  When the trial is prolonged (especially accompanied with excruciating pain) without help from others who support and encourage rather than assume and accuse, depression can set in, because the suffering is so great.

God greatly desires that Christians be patient and compassionate with people who have been called to this.  This does not include whiners who have a hangnail and act as though they have been skewered with a spear like a stuck pig.  These are people who have crippling diseases (like Lyme’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, and the like).  Not every disease manifests itself on the outside for all to see. And the mental and emotional abuse afflicted upon people is much harder to see than physical abuse.

Even though God’s people are called to suffering, God assures us that eventually all pain and suffering will end for those who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sometimes that will be addressed in this life (like the blind seeing, the lame walking, the sick cured, and the like), or in the next.  Either way, God will eventually provide an end to it.  But just as Jesus said concerning the blind man who was that way from birth, there is purpose to it – not only for character development, but so that the works of God can be put on display.

Special Service

There was once a story about a man who came into a logging camp.  He was shown the logging operations, and was given the grand tour.  When they came to the river where the logs were being floated down to the logging plant from where they were cut, a logger stood at the edge of the river.  Every now and then, he would use a pole that he was carrying and reroute a cut tree down a smaller fork in the river.

The man asked the logger who was directing the trees what he was doing.  The logger replied, “oh, those are special trees”.  The visitor asked, “What is so special about them, and how can you tell?”  The logger replied, “The trees I am selecting are very special.  They were harvested from the very tops of the mountains.  The winds are ferocious up there, and these trees are bent as the storms wail against them, but they stay strong and resilient.  Although all of the trees are profitable, these trees have endured the greatest of trials, and are greatly prized by furniture makers and artists, and are worth many times more than what the other trees are worth.  They will be used in ways that show their beauty, and when they are finally shaped, will endure for generations as priceless antiques and masterpieces.”

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

If you have been selected for great suffering, rejoice:  God plans to use you in the most beautiful of ways.  Once you have been tested, expect to be put on display.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I demonstrating to God that I can be trusted with whatever He is selecting me to do and be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are good and gracious.  Help me to both find the area where I am called, and to do thrive in it so that You may be glorified.  Strengthen me so that I will be able to endure all the trials that I have been appointed to, and to overcome any difficulties that I encounter.  May Your character be put on display at all times, that as an image-bearer for You, I would be able to fulfill all that you have planned for me to do since before time began.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Trust in God – Psalm 62:5-8

Our Souls Can Rest in God When We Trust Him.

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Reasoned Rest

David, the author of this Psalm, encourages himself, and us as well, to allow our souls to find rest in God.  He states he can do this because David, without a doubt in his heart, knows that his hope and salvation come from God.

When we truly take to heart that God is sovereign, and desires for us to be saved, and that He wants to protect us, we can find reassurance and peace in knowing that we are being well cared for by God.

Formidable Fortress

David refers to God as his Rock, Salvation, and Fortress.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He does not change like shifting shadows.  He is perfect in all His ways.  David can depend upon the steadfastness of the character of God.

As a picture of this, David uses a rock to signify how strong, durable, and trustworthy God is to him.  He likens God to a fortress, a well designed structure that is still used today to keep out evil and protect what is inside (think Fort Knox).  In the case of God, He is an impregnable fortress – no one and nothing can penetrate the defenses to attack or corrupt God.  God is immutable, and is able to stay that way because:

  • God is all-powerful: omnipotent
  • God is all-knowing: omniscient
  • God is ever-present: omnipresent

We can depend upon God not only because He is sovereign, but also because it is impossible for Him to not be sovereign.

Sturdy Salvation

David reminds us here that our salvation and honor rest in God.  God and God alone is the only one who can rescue us from our sin.  Our identity is to be found in Jesus Christ.  He is the one who provides us with His righteousness.  He is the one who provides us His honor.

Since God is sovereign, David recognizes that any honor that he has been provided has been given to Him by God.  No one can claim honor, because anything that they have done or accomplished was provided by God.  God has given us our bodies, minds, and souls.  He has provided all of the physical universe.  Even the very breath we are taking right now is because God is gracious to us and is providing it.  Because of this, David is confident in his salvation, as God is the author of it and is able to sustain and protect him.

Treasured Trust

David implores us to place our trust in God and, by implication, not in ourselves, anyone, or anything else.  David can say this with great confidence, as his heart is firmly convinced in the strength, character, and ability of God to do all things needed to protect and provide for us.  David both reasons these things in his mind, and recounts from personal experience how God has been at work in his life.  We can look back on the life of David, and see how David was treated by God and through that, trust in the Living God as David did.

Prayerful Petition

David also exhorts us to pour out our hearts to God.  David implies that he has a two-way relationship with God.  God not only provides for our physical and spiritual needs, he also engages us in EVERY aspect of our lives.  The Lord God Almighty’s very name, YHWH, means “I am he who exists and is dynamically involved in your life.”

God seeks to have the very deepest level of relationship with us.  We can not only trust God with our protection and provision, but also with our innermost desires and concerns.  God waits with anticipation for us to really open up to Him and engage Him as we would our most intimate and best friend.  He delights in us pouring out our hearts to Him.  And while we can bring praises and petitions to Him, we can also share ourselves with Him – even though He already knows us!  It is for OUR benefit, not God’s, that we share ourselves at that deepest level.  God is a jealous God (in the good meaning of jealous) – there is no part of us that God does not declare – “You are MINE!”  Give yourself to Him totally and completely.  And God will satisfy the deepest, innermost part of your soul.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we trusting God not only with our protection and provision, but also with our deepest and most hidden inner being?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is a glorious thing to know how trustworthy and faithful You are.  You reveal Yourself to us through Your word and Your creation.  You constantly pour out Your love for us in all that You do.  You seek us as a shepherd seeks lost sheep, and care for us with an everlasting love.  Help me to give myself to You in every way, shape, and form, that even my innermost being would be shared with You.  You have earned my trust, and it is my honor to share myself as fully as I can with You.  Help me when I am in need.  Care and provide for me.  And help me to release the parts of myself that I hold on to, that I cling to, and never reveal to anyone.  Help me to bring all of them out into Your glorious and beautiful light, that they would be displayed as precious jewels.  Remove the dross from my life, and if anything in my innermost being is not desirable, help me to bring it out and leave it at the foot of the cross.  This I ask and pray in the precious and mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Victory with God – Psalm 20:6-9

May the Lord grant all your requests.

6 Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

9 Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!

Vital Victory

We have victory in Jesus!  It cannot be understated.  Rejoice in it!  We have been freed from indentured servitude to sin to be free to follow God.  We were born to worship.  Let us worship the One who laid down His life for us.

Regardless of whether we are successful at any secular endeavor in life, we have been made more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.  Since God is for us, who can be against us?  Remember – you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.  When we overcome sin by receiving Christ, we are given special access to God’s victory banquet that will be held in Heaven. Many were invited, but few have been chosen.  We must prepare ourselves for the victory we already have.  Let us not be dawdle with trivial things.

The Challenge of Chariots

Which is easier – to put our trust in an army of the most highly trained, best equipped, and (apparently) loyal army to protect us, or to put our trust in the Lord our God for our protection?

We are often more prone to put our trust in what we can see rather than what we cannot see:

We cannot see the spiritual because of the fall of Adam.  Let us put our trust in God, who is sovereign over all that He has created, rather than in riches or kings or anything on Earth.

Stand Steady

Those who trust in the world’s help will fall, but those who trust in God will stand firm.  Daniel stood firm and prayed to God when he was told he could only pray to the king.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood firm and refused to worship an idol.  There are many others.  The greatest to stand firm was Jesus Christ, who allowed Himself to be crucified for us.

An Amazing Answer

God answers the call of His children.  He has an answer prepared before we even complete the request!  God greatly desires to answer our call to Him!  He eagerly waits to hear from us.  What good Earthly father would ignore their children’s cries for help?  God is truly good, and with compassion and joy desires to answer us.  Let us be patient as we wait for His response!

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I trusting in God for victory, or in someone or something else?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me victory through the victory You provided to Christ through resurrection.  Let me never forget Your sovereignty over all that You created.  Strengthen me in my struggles, and hear my cries for help, O Lord.  You have said that You answer our requests even before they are out of my mouth.  Watch over me this day Lord God.  Grant me victory in every area of my life.  May my path be set straight and upon You and Your Word only, Lord God.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Leadership of God – 1 Timothy 3:8-13

It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Requirements of Responsibility

The body of Christ, now as well as then, needs capable leaders and leaders-in-training to ensure that the body is orderly, well-kept, and that their needs are met.  Before anyone should be put into a position of leadership, they should first be examined to see if they are up to the challenge.  Leadership exacts a toll on people.  And to the extent that leaders allow themselves to be crucified – to submit to the task of servant-hood and apply themselves to fulfilling their responsibilities well – will determine the success or failure of their leadership.

Paul lays out the expanded character requirements of Deacons here.  It is important to note that all of these requirements should be the core foundational principles of EVERY Christian man and woman.  We should ALL be found worthy to be chosen for roles of leadership.  Jesus is our model; He led the disciples, and leads us now.  How much more should we try to emulate Him so that we can be useful in the Kingdom of God?

Capable Character

Paul lists several important character traits that the Deacons should exhibit prior to even being considered for appointment to this office:

  • Worthy of Respect
    • When leaders act responsibly and show themselves devoted to the tasks at hand, placing a special emphasis on the needs of those being led, they are worthy of respect.  When they abuse their office, or the responsibilities entrusted to them, they are no longer worthy of that respect.  In that case, they should be relieved of duty, confronted, and be restored once the issue has been addressed and they have once again shown that they are steadfast in their walk with God and worthy of respect.
  • Sincerity
    • Sincerity does not preclude hilarity.  A person can be jovial, but should be very serious when it comes to ensuring that their responsibilities are properly and promptly executed.  They should be able to set aside frivolity and indifference so that they can be clearly seen to understand the gravity of their calling, and be trusted to execute their responsibilities in such a way that any who watch will not have any reason to lay a charge against them.
  • Sober-Minded
    • Many have indicated that this means that a Deacon cannot drink alcohol.  In leadership, it is very important that the leader emulate the character that they wish to see in those whom they are leading.  It is imperative that this example be exemplary.  Imagine what a Deacon would have to say if they were called just after dinner and a glass or two of wine, to come out to the church to help with some immediate needs, or provide counsel to a member of the flock over the phone.  Wine addles the brain.  It is best to be sober-minded at all times, if possible.  While not prohibited, great thought should be given when contemplating the consumption of alcohol both for timing as well as amount.
  • Financially Content
    • The candidate should be able to put into practice the wisdom that God has provided to them concerning financial matters as instructed in the Bible.  This includes giving to the ministry of the church, financial planning, and with payment of all financial obligations.  There may be times that the candidate has unusual circumstances – one of the leading causes of bankruptcy is medical debt.  These should be taken into consideration.  The person should not desire to pursue dishonest gain, be in a state of greed, or envious of the material success of others.  If a person is faithful in the little things of life, they will be faithful in the big things of life.
  • Biblical Understanding
    • This requirement cannot be emphasized too greatly.  The Deacon, in the role of meeting the needs of the body, needs to have a firm understanding of God’s Word.  Not only should they have a firm understanding, they should have a great love of the Word.  It is only when there is a great love of God’s Word that they are able to do what God has called them to do when leading God’s people.  Because the office of Deacon is often the training ground for Elders (both lay-persons and ministers of the Gospel), it is critical that they show a commitment to the Word of God, and demonstrate through their lives that the understanding that they have in their mind is shown by their actions, speech, and thoughts as seen by others.
  • A Clear Conscience
    • When they are properly demonstrating in their lives the truth of the Word of God, they will walk with a clear conscience, being able to test God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will in their lives.  This will further embolden them to walk more confidently with God.

If after demonstrating these characteristics, if there is nothing found against them, they should then be considered for the vital role of Deacon.

Women Welcome

But this role is not only for the men.  Women can also serve in this capacity.  Paul gives a few qualifications for women to be considered.  Because of the God-appointed roles of men and women by God, they will not have all of the specific requirements that men are required to display.  The qualities of character that women are to display in order to be considered for the office of Deaconess are:

  • Worthy of Respect
    • Deacons should be worthy of respect.  It is hard to follow a leader when they demonstrate through their words and actions that they are unworthy of respect.
  • Careful Speech
    • God has made women natural communicators.  Because of this, the enemy likes to take the strengths that God provides and twist them to malign the image-bearers of God and by implication, God Himself.  It is important that women who are to be considered for the position of Deaconess not engage in gossip, or accidentally (and especially not on purpose!)  divulge anything said to them in confidence as they meet the needs of the body.  They need to be above reproach in how they speak, and keep matters that are private from becoming public talk.
  • Temperate
    • God has provided women with a natural ability to harness their emotions for accurately judging situations (womanly intuition).  However, the enemy does like to twist the good things of God, and women may have a tendency to be overly emotional or take the statements of others to heart before they are carefully evaluated to see if they have any merit.  In this, it is a requirement that women are able to manage their emotions properly so as not to be compromised when these situations occur.  Steady leaders are easier to follow than moody ones…
  • Trustworthy in all things
    • As with all positions of leadership, it is absolutely vital that the person be trustworthy in all things.  If people are unable to trust their leaders, there will be a reduction in their ability to fully engage in the work at hand.  This undermines the credibility of the leader, and eventually, people will just ignore them.  When they are not longer trustworthy, they are no longer worthy of respect.  It is hard to lead when no one will listen to you.

Family Focus

In any organization, their needs to be a hierarchy for decision-making and, as a necessary part of that, accountability.  God has appointed men to be the head of the household, and women to be in an advisory role.   While this may seem sexist to our generation, it is not that men are superior and women and children are inferior, but there has to be a chain of command:

  1. Jesus Christ is the head of the organization of the family
  2. Men are the leaders who are (ultimately) responsible for making the decisions and (ultimately) accountable for the success or failure of the family organization.  Men are, as Christ, required to lay down their life for those he has been placed in charge.
  3. Women are in a very good position within the family organization – they (should) have great influence in the decisions that affect the family.  They are required to submit.  It has been said that submission is the willingness to duck so that God can throw a right cross at leadership when needed…
  4. Children are adults in training.  Treat them accordingly.

When a man is leading his household faithfully and under the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it should be easy for those under his leadership to not only willingly submit to his authority but to rejoice and be glad in the decisions that he makes, for they will be in everybody’s best (long-term, and not selfish) interests so that they align with God’s Word and God’s plan.

Firm Foundation

When a Deacon is leading a life full of the Spirit and in step with the Spirit, he/she will be gain a boldness in their walk – a boldness from the confidence of knowing that God is leading them, that God is sovereign, and is has everyone’s best interests (within the framework of God’s holy and perfect plan) at heart.  They will grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s Holy Word, as God reveals more to them so that they can be better servant-leaders.  This confidence will be in a humble attitude, and should encourage those who have entrusted these leaders to greater trust and confidence in their ability to provide leadership to them.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I leading my life in such a way that I would be considered for a position of leadership?  And if I am in a position of leadership, am I leading my life in such a way that I am worthy of respect and above reproach?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the Truth.  Guide me in Your Truth, and help me to live a life worthy of respect and above reproach.  Help me to completely submit to You through Your Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  May my life be poured out to You as a drink offering.  May it honor and glorify Your Holy Name.  May it be in dedication to You and Your purposes.  And may my life be lived in such way that others will glorify Your Name, and be drawn to You.  Help me in the role that You have placed me in so that it may be carried out to its best and fullest extent.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Judges 7:2-8

God Plus You > All The Known Universe

2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

 Required Resolve

God is looking for a people who will trust in Him and gather their strength from Him.  When Gideon was tasked with convening the army that would destroy the Midianites, he sent for the fighting men of Israel.  They replied, but not all were up to the task.  God reduced the size of the army by giving the fearful an opportunity to bow out.  God wants us not only to show up, but to trust in Him and overcome our fear through our trust in Him.  We need to have resolved in our hearts that God will provide whatever we need, since God has called us to the task.

Solemn Selection

“Not all who are called are chosen.”  God then indicated that there were STILL too many people in Gideon’s army.  It is a shame to Israel that God would say that because they had so many people in the army that they would boast after victory that they had delivered themselves by their own hands.  God is looking for confident but humble people, knowing the true source of their strength and victory.

it is still amazing that after more than two-thirds of the gathered men went home, God declared there were still too many people!  How counter-intuitive this must have seemed to Gideon!  Usually the largest, best-trained, best-armed, best-prepared army wins the battle.  But God was letting Gideon know and understand that the battle did not belong to him, but rather, the battle belonged to the Lord:

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.‘”

Divine Deliverance

After God thinned the army even further, he chose only three hundred men for Gideon’s army.  Gideon must have felt overwhelmed and afraid, even though he knew it was the Lord that had called him to this purpose.  God placed fear into the hearts of the Midianites, and they feared the name of Gideon. When the Midianites heard the trumpets and battle cry of Gideon’s army, they cried out in fear, and began to kill each other as they fled.

Gideon’s army of three hundred water-lapping soldiers didn’t have to lift a finger; all they had to do was stand strong in the face of the enemy.  And God delivered the Israelites from the Midianites, as the other Israelite men faithfully pursued the Midianites and destroyed them.  God also tells us:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I standing strong in the Truth, with complete trust in the Lord?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You provide for all of my needs.  Grant me strength today when opposition comes against me.  Remember me – act divinely on my behalf, that I may overcome all fear and valiantly take a stand for You.  Remember me in my weakness, and drive all fear from my heart, for there is no fear in perfect love.  Regardless of the foes against me, whether they surround me, or any emotional issues that I may experience, grant me peace in my heart that I may honor and glorify Your name in these battles.  This I ask in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

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

Stewardship from God – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Wealth is a Trap; The Wise Put Their Trust in God.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Warning of Wealth

To those whom God has seen fit to provide much, much is required.  The provision of great wealth can cause people to being to trust in it rather than in God.  Their wealth is what they turn to when they have problems in life.  And wealth CAN extricate a person from many issues in this world.  Indeed, most people who have wealth trust not in God but in the security that they are well provided for.  Jesus said:

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Since God owns all of the silver and the gold, as well as the Earth, and everything in it and on it, He is able to provide for our every physical need as well as our spiritual and emotional needs.  The wealthy need to be careful to remember where their wealth truly comes from, lest they forget and attribute themselves as the source.

Sharing is Caring

God has trusted much with the wealthy, but with great privilege comes great responsibility:

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Since everything belongs to God, we are merely stewards of it.  And the rich have been blessed greatly by God with material wealth.  They must judiciously use it to further the Kingdom of God, rather than to merely spend it on their own pleasures.

You can only do three things with wealth:

  • You can save it (or grow it into greater wealth)
  • You can spend it
  • You can give it away

In this passage, God indicates that part of the responsibility of wealth it to give it away.  The steward entrusted with wealth is required to be seeking God with all their heart to know what God’s will is for His wealth.  Whether it be charities, ministries, the indigent, or whatever God places upon their hearts, they are to be faithful in managing and administering the wealth entrusted to them.

Firm Foundation

When we are obedient to God, we are assured that we are laying up treasure in Heaven rather than treasure here on Earth, where moths and rust destroy.  For where our treasure is, there also is our heart.  Those who have been provided much must seek God for direction in how to manage what they have been provided.  ALL of us must do this, but the ones who have been provided much have a greater burden upon them for their increased responsibilities given to them by God.

Many people have said that they would not mind being given that kind of responsibility.  However, are they able to manage the little God has provided to them?  If not, what would they do with that much more responsibility and wealth?  We are each given what we are able to manage.  If we are faithful with little, we will be faithful with much.  Indeed, we should turn our attention to the giver of the gifts rather than the gifts themselves.  And pray for the rich, for they need much help to be put all things in balance.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we being faithful with what little we have been entrusted with?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of all good gifts.  Thank You for providing me with what I have.  Give me direction, strength, and ability to manage all that has been provided so that it honors and glorifies You.  Help me to be free from envy when I have little, and to be free from pride when I have much.  You own everything, and I am merely a steward of it.  All that has been provided to me I dedicate to You for Your purposes.  Direct my paths and guide my ways that the outcome would be fruitful.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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

Commission of God – Luke 10:1-4

Get Going – The Harvest Is Ripe!

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

Get Going!

The hardest part of anything is taking the first step.  We are being sent out to fulfill The Great Commission!  The Church needs to take to heart this command from Jesus so that we can be fruitful in our labors.  If we aren’t pursuing this, then what are we doing?

Hefty Harvest

At the time this passage was written, the people were hungry for God.  The soil of their hearts had been prepared, and there was a great gathering of souls as Christianity spread throughout the entire known world.  Even today, in many places that haven’t heard the message of Christ, there is hunger when the salvation message is given.  We are to ask God to send people out to gather the harvest.  Let us be like Isaiah who said, “Here am I. Send me!

Little Lambs

Christians are referred to as lambs, and Jesus as our shepherd.  These metaphors were used because the world was an agrarian society, and the people would easily relate to the similarities in the stories to their own lives.  One of the interesting things about lambs is that they listen only to the voice of their shepherd.  If anyone else comes and tries to lead them, the lambs are scared and run away.  We need to learn the voice of our shepherd and listen carefully so that we can run from the voice of anyone else.

Trusting Travels

We are to trust in God.  God wanted the early disciples to trust Him completely.  He told them that they should take nothing with them – neither a purse (money) nor a bag (supplies) nor sandals (extra shoes).  They were to be completely dependent upon the one who supplies all of our needs.  And in fasting and prayer, following the Lord’s commands, they performed many miracles and drew close to God the Father.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask a question: Are we doing what we know that God wants us to do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have called us out of darkness and to Yourself.  Help me to completely and totally follow You with complete abandon to my former life.  Help me to trust You, and not look upon what has been provided to me.  You are able to provide for my every need.  If you have called me to something, You will provide whatever is required.  Your character is perfect, and You will fulfill all that You have set forth to accomplish.  Help me to know Your voice so well that I would flee the voice of any other.  Help me to take any first steps toward the goals that You have provided to me so that I may be faithful to You.  Show me the harvest that is ready, so that those whose hearts You have prepared will the brought into the light.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, 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?

Faith in Christ – Hebrews 11:35-38

No Servant is Greater Than His Master

35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Faith Followed

Are you being persecuted for your faith in Christ?  Rejoice!  You are in good company!  You have been found worthy!  Most of us, when reading about faith the book of Hebrews, want to dwell on the earlier portion of Hebrews 11.  But since Christ suffered for His faith, we shall suffer also.  Following Christ in many nations is worthy of the death penalty.

Here in America, a country founded on Christian principles (Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence), we embarked on an experiment in liberty that afforded to its citizens great freedom (especially of religion, not just worship) through the idea that people who are able to self-govern themselves through the belief in accountability to God don’t require draconian authority over them to live civilly in society.  When this occurs, the founding fathers of the United States of America reasoned, it was possible that such a level of freedom was achievable.  It should be very evident now, that in light of the people of the United States of America throwing off the yoke of Christ for the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, that such a government is untenable, the citizens will (and do) selfishly seek to codify in law government favoritism towards their particular desires, passions, and industries at the expense of the liberty of others.  As such, Christians are now being persecuted for living out their Christian faith in accordance with the freedoms that they were promised in their founding document of law.  But rejoice!  Here is how we should respond:

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Creating Character

Faith helps us to endure all of the trials of life.  And when we endure, we gain character:

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sometimes it is tough when we are going through trials that test our faith (especially at night while we sleep).  But you can be confident that God will never leave you or forsake you, for His character is perfect.  And since God will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond your ability without providing a way, there is always a glimmer of hope – even if that means your release from trouble is when you go to be with Him in glory.  God may place circumstances in your life that overwhelm you.  However, this usually happens when He is trying to get your attention.  But let’s not forget that many have been tortured and murdered for their faith.  And in those trials, God can give you peace beyond comprehension to help you through the difficulty.

Faith Fortified

When we are suffering for our faith, we are told to rejoice!   For as we surrender to God in our suffering, it strengthens our faith in Him to be able to get us through it.  Jesus said that only a little faith is needed to accomplish mighty things:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

If only a little faith is required to move mountains, and that nothing will be impossible for us, what great and mighty things does God want to accomplish through us that would require the great faith and trust that comes through enduring our trials as we walk with Him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Do I merely endure my trials, or does my faith mature in reverential trust and fear of God with joyful expectancy of what God will do next in my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my strength is failing as I wait expectantly for You to act in these dark and evil days.  Give me the strength to go on so that I will not faint as I wait for my character growth to be completed in the crucible of trials.  Help me to trust You as a young child trusts their parents, completely and without reservation, as these fleeting difficulties are worked out by You, for I know that You are sovereign, and nothing happens without your express prior knowledge and approval.  Help me to soar like an eagle, for I feel grounded, unable to even spread my wings.  Comfort me in my sorrows and difficulties, and guard my heart with Your peace, that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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The Fear of God – Deuteronomy 10:12-13

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Fear Factor

We have all heard the expression, “That’ll put the fear of God into him!”  But what exactly is the Biblical meaning of “the fear of God”?

  • Is is an aversion of a “proverbial old, angry, bearded, white-robed man in the sky with his finger expectantly hovering above a smite button, waiting for the least opportunity to press it”?
  • Is it an anticipatory dread of the eternal forthcoming sentence as punishment for sins?
  • Or is it something else?

The Case of Character

In order to answer that question, we must first look at the character of God the Father:

  • Jonah, angry that He was sent to preach repentance to the Ninevites, had this to say about God:
  • He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

  • In Lamentations 3:22-23, it is very likely that the prophet Jeremiah wrote the following:
  • 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness

  • John the Apostle wrote the following:
  • Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

It is clear, just from the three accounts above, that God is not waiting in heaven with His finger over the smite button just waiting for us to make a mistake – that is the devil’s lie, looking for any reason to try to deceive us and bring condemnation upon us.  And while there is a coming judgement where all whose names are not found in the Book of Life will judged and sent to the lake of fire, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  The Apostle John also says there is no fear in love.  So this “fear” must be something else.

Reverence Revealed

There is a big difference between abject fear (terror – Greek phobon – we get our word “phobia” from it) and reverential fear.  Abject fear is an emotional response to a life-threatenting or pain-anticipatory situation.  However, when referring to “the fear of the Lord”, it is a different type of emotional response.  The “fear of the Lord” is a reverential trust and understanding that not only is God a Just Judge and will punish all evil, for He is Holy; but God is also Love, full of compassion, mercy and grace for those He created.  It is this synergy of both aspects of God’s character that permit us to see that He is not some towering ogre waiting to destroy us but rather a loving Father who righteously disciplines us so that we will not have to face His punishment (the white throne seat of judgement).  The love component of His character allows us to reverentially fear Him in love, where there is no emotional phobon of punishment.

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask the question:  Are we motivated by God’s love to reverentially trust God, or are we motivated by the perceived threat of punishment for doing evil?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Your love to us through your mercy and compassion in that You sent Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.  Remove any fear in my heart, Lord God, of punishment, and help me to reverentially trust You in Your steadfast love, mercy and grace.  Strengthen me when I am weak.  Guard my heart against all unrighteousness, and help me to come to You as a child in wonder and awe.  Forgive me of my sins, and give me clean hands and a pure heart, that I may worship you in exceeding joy.  Help me to recognize the warped viewpoint of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that I would not be deceived.  Blessed be Your name in all the universe!  May all creation rejoice in Your character!  Amen.

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Combat Training with God- 2 Chronicles 20:15

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”

It never goes well when we try to do things on our own.  When we are faced with any issue, it is best to seek The Lord our God, for He will fight the battles we cannot fight.  God is more than willing to stand between us and our enemies.  We see this throughout the Bible:

There are others, but this should suffice.  When we are faced with overwhelming issues, we should always seek the Lord.  He may very well have planned to fight for us.  Joshua did not inquire of the Lord, and was tricked by the Gibeonites.  So, why don’t we seek God when we are faced with overwhelming issues?

  • We think we can do it on our own
  • God has been silent, and we don’t think He will come to our rescue
    • This is usually a test.  The teacher is usually silent when we take tests…
    • Sometimes, in order to see the beauty of the stars, night has to fall, because the Sun drowns out everything else…
  • We are paralyzed with fear
    • We have taken our eyes off God and placed them on our circumstances
  • We may have sin in our lives, and we feel guilty about asking God for victory
  • Disease, or worry, has worn us down and brought us to a place of misery and despair
    • When we are worn down by these things, we are in a very bad place.  Even seeking the Lord is difficult when every breath brings pain and every moment is sheer misery.
    • We need to be obedient to Scripture.  Have you followed God’s prescription for healing?

In all of these things, we need to seek God for everything: the large battles, and especially the small ones; forgiveness, and strength.  God is always working, and greatly desires us to seek Him in prayer that He may show up and bring glory to His name.  When God is silent, be faithful, and know that He is with you.  Seek Him out as did the Psalmists in Psalms 83 and 109.  Let nothing come between you and God.  We have so much technology that we often go to Google rather than go to God.  And God WILL show up to help, for He loves you very much.  And always remember:

But God…

So, what situation has you backed into a corner where you desperately need to hear, “But God…”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are beautiful beyond description and a marvelous to behold.  You enter into our pain, give us comfort and strength, and guide us in the ways we should go.  You provide for our every need, and even for our desires.  You are forever faithful, and like all fathers, delight in Your children.  Help me this day, Lord God, for I am weary.  Enter into my circumstances.  Deliver me through them, and fight the battles that I cannot win.  Guard me against all evil, and my heart greatly praise You for who You are.  Help me to seek You always, even when You seem to do the opposite of what I ask.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Trusting in God – Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Fear is an interesting emotion.  Just about everyone has experienced the heart wrenching, gut kicking, grip of fear in their lives.  When we experience that level of emotion, it has a tendency to so overpower us that we are unable to see things clearly – it effectively incapacitates us.  Fear is a natural response that God gave us to help us to survive.  Without fear, we would most probably do things that no level-headed person would ever consider doing.

The Bible indicates that fear has to do with punishment.  Yet we are told to fear God.  In the latter case, this is a reverent trust in God; not a gripping, emotional aversion.  How we respond in circumstances is a witness to the power and glory of God.  When we show fear, we are in effect saying that we cannot trust God to deliver us from our circumstances.  While this may seem odd, you may want to take a look at the life of King Hezekiah when Assyria was threatening the kingdom of Judah.

When we trust in the Lord, even when there seems to be no way to victory, it brings glory to God, and strengthens our faith.  The reason we trust is because God is faithful.  And in that, we are able to be faithful, regardless of the issues that plague us.  We trust in God for the big stuff – Salvation, Resurrection, Eternal Life, etc.  But we are told to have faith like little children.  They don’t question – they have complete, unwavering faith in their parents, especially when they don’t understand something.

So let’s ask the question:  Are we trusting God in the little stuff?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, in my times of need, please drive all fear out of my heart so that I may be able to trust you more.  My fear gets in the way of trusting that You are who You say You are.  Deepen my faith in these times, Lord God, and help me to respond in a way that glorifies Your name.  You have revealed Yourself as faithful so that others may see Your faithfulness and trust in You.  Do not let my emotions instruct my will to direct my intellect; rather, help my intellect to instruct my will so that it can direct my emotions.  You are able to do this and far more than we can ever imagine, Lord God.  Help me to be faithful to You in childlike faith and trust.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ name, Amen

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Healing with God – James 5:14-16

14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

One of the most effective and visible ministries of Jesus was His healing ministry.  The needs of the people for spiritual and physical healing were immense.  Jesus healed people from demonic possession, disease, and even death itself.  In every case, there was always faith.  In one instance, it is recorded that Jesus was unable to do many miracles because of a lack of faith.  Faith was the key ingredient.  And it wasn’t always the faith of the one being healed:

  • A centurion’s servant was healed.  Who had the faith?  The centurion or the paralyzed servant?
  • The son of a man who was demon possessed was healed by Jesus when the disciples could not drive it out.  Who had the faith?   The man, or the son?
  • A Canaanite woman’s daughter who was demon possessed was healed.  Who had the faith?  The woman or her daughter?
  • A paralyzed man was healed when his friends lowered him through a roof to give him access to Jesus.  Jesus then saw THEIR faith.  Not HIS faith.  It was the faith of the friends that Jesus saw and responded.

In all of these cases, it was the faith of someone other than the recipient of healing whose faith prompted Jesus to respond with healing, and in some cases, even praise their faith!  In that light, let’s take a look at James 5:15

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

In this case, it is the prayer of the elders offered in faith, not the person who is sick.

So, are you sick?  Do you need a healing touch from God?  Be obedient to God’s word: go to a Bible teaching, Bible believing church, and have the elders of that congregation anoint you with oil and pray over you, so that whatever issue you have, spiritual or physical, it will be healed; and if you have sinned, you will be forgiven.  And remember that it is the faith of the elders, not yours, that will heal you.  Since you have gone to them IN FAITH, IN OBEDIENCE to scripture, your faith is noted as well.  And if you are still concerned, pray what the father of the demon possessed son said/prayed, “I believe – help my unbelief!”

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, you respond to faith, for faith is the expression of our belief in You of who You are.  Cleanse me this day of my unrighteousness.  Forgive my sins.  Bolster my faith, and help me to be obedient to Your Word, even if it doesn’t make sense to me.  Father, You healed even Naaman, commander of the army of Aram, when in obedience, he washed himself seven times in the Jordan, and his leprous skin became like the skin of a young boy.  You are sovereign, Lord God, and nothing is impossible for You.  Remember Your servant this day.  In obedience, I come to You and will do as You ask, that You may be glorified.  Prepare the elders’ hearts as I go to seek them out.  For You are forever faithful, doing everything that You promise.  Prepare my heart now, Lord, for I know You will bring this about.  This I ask in the name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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A Calling of God – 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

What a high calling!  To carry the requests of the people to Almighty God!  A great privilege indeed.  Oh, the needs are great in this wicked generation. What deep and soul-piercing burden has God placed on your heart to deliver to Him in His Throne Room?

Whatever your burden, bring it to God, who has the power to move Heaven and Earth to bring glory to His name.  Have you ever considered that the rainbow, God’s everlasting covenant with the Earth (Genesis 9:13), required Him to utterly change the very fabric of nature, to alter the laws of physics, to make the sign of His covenant (Genesis 9:12-16)?  What will He then do for you, His royal priesthood, out of love, mercy, and grace, to bring Glory to His name?

A short prayer of preparation:

Gracious Father in Heaven, forgive me my many faults.  Cleanse me of all unrighteousness, that with clean hands and a pure heart, I may bring my petitions and praises to you in full confidence of your ability and willingness to answer.  I an grateful that Your Holy Word tells us that you have already prepared an answer.  Grant your servant favor this day, as I bring these requests to You, for there is no request too small that You are unwilling to answer.  Amen.

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Surrender to God – Matthew 6:25

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest” refers to “common-sense carefulness” as “infidelity” in the life of a disciple.  He goes on to say that Jesus asks us to consider where God comes in with our priorities.  He continues on and says that it is not the Devil that chokes the Word of God out of our life; it is the cares of this world.

When we worry, we are basically saying that we cannot trust God for His provision, protection, or ability to meet our needs in some area of our lives.  We are therefore denying the sovereignty of Almighty God.  Additionally, we are inadvertently saying that God does not care about the little things in our lives.  But even the hairs on our head are numbered (Luke 12:7).  What we should do instead is to trust God in every area of our lives.  The word Chambers uses to describe how Jesus says we should respond is “abandon” (italics in the original).

A prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You cared for us so much that in provision for our sins that You sent Your one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be crucified so that our sins would be forgiven.  You have shown us that You care about the most important challenge we face – That you are a Holy God, and perfection is Your standard.  Father, help us to remember in even the most minute areas of our lives, that You have taken interest and greatly desire to provide for our every need.  Perfect in us the mind of Christ, that we would be completely yielded to you, and in our surrender to Your perfect will, we would abandon our concerns for ourselves.  Help us to seek first Your Kingdom – Your perfect rule and reign in our lives, that we may in confidence know that all of these other things will be added to us.  This we ask in the precious name of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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