November 5, 2009

Security

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121


Jesus guaranteed that in this life, we would have trouble but when we choose to put our faith in Him, we can overcome anything.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

John 16:33

No matter what happens in our lives, we can never be separated from God's love, His protection or the purpose that He has for our lives. He is there to protect us when we place our trust in Him. It does not mean that He will fix every problem we will encounter but if we choose to trust in Him and His plan, He will get us through. God is truly our Helper and our Security.


October 9, 2009

Forgiveness

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13 (NIV)




Recently I have dealt with the hurt that has come from the wickedness of gossip and lies. People within my church began spreading things about me that were untrue and extremely hurtful. Over these past few weeks, the hurt that I experienced from it turned into anger and soon the unforgiveness crept in allowing bitterness to form. Knowing how easy it can be, when bitter, to fall into sin with an unforgiving attitude, I began to search God's word for wisdom.


God's timing is perfect and last Sunday at church, my pastor preached on bitterness and the bitterness that comes from having an unforgiving heart. I have spent this week focusing on these truths.


In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells of a servant forgiven a huge debt by his king. When the same servant has an opportunity to forgive someone a minor debt, he chooses to inflict punishment instead. The king finds out and is outraged:


"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:32-35, NIV)


These words penetrated my heart as I thought of my bitter attitude toward those who have hurt me. As I meditated on these verses, God reminded me of times that I have said or done hurtful things to others. God's forgiveness has been extended to me in those times and so I can no longer allow myself to withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged me.


Forgiveness is a process and something that God must work within us but we must be willing to let go and to allow Him to work. I have to continue to forgive the ones who hurt me and as I have struggled with this issue, God is showing me biblical steps to take as I forgive those that have caused this hurt.


We must recognize and confess our own sins.

Psalm 41:4, "I said, 'O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.'" (NIV)


We must rejoice in God's forgiveness of our sins.

Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (NIV)


We must remember that forgiveness is a continual process.

Matthew 18:21-22a, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times." (NIV)


When we allow forgiveness to take place and allow the Holy Spirit to heal our hurts, I believe we are then able to experience Psalm 34:8:

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."


September 10, 2009

Letting go

"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes".


 

Psalm 37:7


 


 

You know that you have truly surrendered to God when you rely on God to work things out instead of trying to manipulate others or to force your own agenda in order to control the situation. You let go and let God work and instead of trying harder, you find yourself trusting more.


 

Surrendering your life means that you will follow God's lead when you are not even sure where He may be sending you. You will wait for His timing, not knowing when it will come. You expect a miracle not knowing how God will provide and you totally trust His purpose without understanding the circumstances.


 

Christ showed the ultimate example of self-surrender the night before His crucifixion when He surrendered Himself to His Father's plan. True surrender says that if the circumstance or hurt you find yourself in is needed to fulfill God's purpose and to glorify Him, then you will take whatever may come your way.


 

This kind of faith and maturity does not come easily but true surrender is hard work and requires intense warfare against our self-centered nature.


 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
       and lean not on your own understanding;

 in all your ways acknowledge him, 
       and he will make your paths straight. 

Proverbs 3:5-6

September 3, 2009

Loyalty

A friend loves at all times, 
       and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17


 

How can I know who my friends really are? This question is often times perplexing but with time spent in reading God's word, He reveals to us the answer to this question. One test is discovering ones loyalty. This test comes when a true friend loves us through the very best and worst of times in our life. People's true colors are revealed when we find ourselves going through extremely difficult or painful circumstances and how they react and respond to us.

True friends can also wound us in painfully awful ways that in turn can be true blessings. A true friend is not afraid to tell us the hard truth even when they know it may hurt us. Because we can trust them and know that they are loyal, we are able to trust their honesty. We have to be weary of those in our lives that do not have the courage to confront us when we truly need it.


A gossip betrays a confidence, 
       but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

Proverbs 11:13

A true friend is also trust worthy. We can speak to them in confidence and know that what we share of our lives is safe with them. Gossip, which is the sharing of rumors or information of an intimate and personal nature, will ultimately destroy friendships and will create much friction. We should surround ourselves with the wise. Those friends speak frugally and use their tongue to nourish and feed, not tear down. It is amazing how a simple word of encouragement and support can motivate a person to do the right thing and understand truth. Our tongue does not only affect our OWN life but can also change the life of those we choose to either bless or curse.

In the end, a true friend is there to comfort, encourage and speak truth when we need it and to love us where we are and offer us support through the hard times.

August 19, 2009

Wrath or Mercy

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
       slow to anger, abounding in love.

 He will not always accuse,
       nor will he harbor his anger forever;

  He does not treat us as our sins deserve
       or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
       so great is his love for those who fear him;

  As far as the east is from the west,
       so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

  As a father has compassion on his children,
       so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

  For he knows how we are formed,
       he remembers that we are dust.

  As for man, his days are like grass,
       he flourishes like a flower of the field;

  The wind blows over it and it is gone,
       and its place remembers it no more.

  But from everlasting to everlasting
       the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
       and his righteousness with their children's children-

Psalm 103:8-17


 

God's grace could not be more beautifully expressed. As we fumble through life, we can cause God so much pain and yet amazingly enough He responds to us in a way that we do not deserve. Whenever we are treated badly or hurt by others, we find ourselves feeling justified in treating those who have hurt us just as badly in return but this is not how God responds to us. We each deserve God's wrath but instead He lavishes His abundant love upon us and shows us compassion. God's response to us is totally opposite of how we deserve to be treated and is the example that we should follow when we respond to those who have betrayed and hurt us. What a struggle to love those around us the way that He loves us but He calls us to love this God-like love in our relationships.

God is just and holy but is merciful and reasonable as well with us. He deserves only our complete loyalty and in fact commands it but being our Creator, He knows our limitations and wavering hearts. It is amazing that instead of giving us the punishment that we so deserve for our ways, He treats us as His beloved children. (Psalm 103:13-14) He extends compassion, pity and mercy upon each of His children. (Ezekiel 20:15-17) We each make mistakes and break the heart of God but we never have to fear that our actions will ever sever our relationship with Him. He is always waiting with open arms for us to return to Him where He will welcome us home. Our hearts should be a reflection of His and we should extend the same compassion, mercy and forgiveness upon those that He has called us to love even when they break our hearts.

July 15, 2009

Evident

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:4-7


 

The joy came but as it came, so did the testing. Scripture tells us to take joy in the testing of our faith but that is not always easy and often times require a lot of faith and a ton of patience. It is amazing though that through our testing we can still experience a great amount of peace as well as joy.

People seek after things like peace and joy and most definitely hope but often do not find them very easily because they are searching in the wrong places. These things can only be obtained when we have a relationship with God. Joy, peace and hope are benefits that we receive when we choose to walk with Him and are willing to sacrifice for that relationship. We know that more often times than not, sacrifice goes hand in hand with suffering. Does God want us to suffer? Absolutely not but He knows that through our suffering, hope, joy and peace will be most recognized in our life.

We are only able to obtain true peace, joy and hope in our life when we have a true relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We can read the Bible, attend church and countless bible studies but doing these things will not bring us that which we seek out. We must choose to walk with God, obey His commands and seek to have a heart like His. We must accept our circumstances and choose not to worry about those things for which we have no control. If we fix our eyes upon Christ instead of our situations then our future becomes full of hope and in that, those around us will see Christ living within us. Our actions and words will be reflective of a life lived walking with God and not focused on ourselves.

Choose to lay all your hurts and worries before Him and accept the circumstances you find yourself surrounded by and in Him you will find comfort as well as hope and peace.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Romans 15:13


 

July 6, 2009

Bruised and Broken

A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out".

Isaiah 42:3


Sometimes in life, our struggles can bring us to a place of spiritual depression. A place where you feel as if God has left you and you are standing alone in the midst of your personal storm, feeling like you just cannot take anymore. You find that you are ready to throw in the towel and say, "I've had enough. I'm done". Times like this come more often than not and it is easy to find yourself wondering where God has gone.

In the middle of dark times do you find yourself sitting alone in a corner asking why or are you standing with your arms outstretched praising the God who loves you even when you feel abandoned. The story of Elijah when Jezebel is after him ( 1Kings 18:16-40) reminds me that whenever we think that we have had enough, God steps in and shows us just who He is in the midst of our storm and provides us with what we need and that He has been there all along.

When we cry out to God, the Holy Spirit can bring us the hope and peace that our heart longs for in hard times. In every aspect of our life, God provides us with His grace and love and it will always be enough when we allow that truth to sink deep into our heart and life. Only when we feel like we are sinking and weak and are struggling to get through, God is strong for us. Our weakness is His opportunity to step in and help us not hurt us.

July 2, 2009

Weary

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Matthew 11:28-30

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

  • Refrain:
    Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
    Look full in His wonderful face,
    And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
    In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O'er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!


As I found myself in the dark place, I was weary and exhausted but the words of Turn your eyes upon Jesus would play repeatedly in my head. I was having such a hard time recognizing exactly what my eyes had become focused on and what had taken my eyes off Him. I was so tired and felt like giving up so many times because the burdens and struggles were more than I could bare and were weighing me down. I could not get my head above water and I was sinking fast. I knew what the Bible said and I knew what to do but trying to regain my focus was a lot harder than I ever thought possible. I stumbled upon the words in Matthew that said Jesus does not invite the "wise and learned" but instead the "weary and burdened". What a great epiphany I had as I repeated those words repeatedly in my head. He is inviting me, as tired and exhausted as I was from the difficult struggles that I was carrying to "come to Him" and He "would give me rest". This will now mean that I will have to refocus on His face and not the things around me. When I finally do that, I will find my way out of the darkness in which I have found myself. It will require aligning my heart with His once again.

Shakespeare said that "The prince of darkness is a gentleman" and this statement is quite true. He knows exactly how to sneak in the back door and how to charm us in order for our eyes to lose focus on the One who will protect and love us. As I now move forward closer to Christ, all those things that are of this world will become "strangely dim" and I will see the "light of His glory and grace".

June 30, 2009

Lost

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I have spent months in a place so deep and dark that I did not think I would ever find my way out. It has been cold and lonely and there has been the sound of silence echoing all around me over and over. I had finally found myself at the very end of my rope and had totally lost hope in everything.


How does this happen? How do you get to such a dark place and not even realize you are headed there? For me, it was a slow process but I clearly remember waking up one morning and being surrounded by darkness. Of course, it was not actual darkness but was the darkness that comes with loneliness and complete emptiness. I have spent months feeling my way around in the dark looking for some way out but have had no success. Now let me clarify and say that in my complete loss of hope, I did not lose hope in Christ but instead lost sight of Him. This feeling of being lost made me realize that I looked to people for direction and support instead of the One who truly knows me and knows my every need. This is how it all happens. This is how we lose our direction. We make people into gods, which in turn take our eyes off the One who should be our direction.

This can be a scary place to be in when you feel like you have nowhere to turn and you have yet to realize what has actually happened. You truly find yourself standing in a room filled with people who love you and you are standing in the center screaming at the top of your lungs for help but they all look at you and smile as if nothing is happening.

As Christians I feel that we have this tendency to get lost in our own agendas and we sometimes forget to love and minister to those who are in need of it. We tend to focus on the unsaved and embrace them where they are but forget that even those fellow believers around us have times of pain and hurt and true turmoil but we can miss it. When this happens, and you are the person needing help, you can often times find your world turned upside down because suddenly nothing makes sense anymore. Things you once thought were true no longer seem true anymore. It is a painful and lonely place but there is hope and I have finally found that faint light at the end of the tunnel that is leading me out.

The exciting part is that now that I can see a faint light, there are also shadows, shadows of those who have been there all along that I was unable to see before but are there now who are pointing me in the direction of the light ahead. Suddenly things do not feel as cold and there is a warmth to the light ahead that is pulling me outward to where I need to be again. It is surreal and comforting and I know that once I finally get to the end there will be a peace like I have never known.

Right now, my life is not perfect. It is a huge mess all over the floor, shattered into a million different pieces but I have this most amazing Artist who is waiting for me to hand Him every piece so that He can put it all back together and create what He knows my life can and will be when my eyes are set back on Him. He is waiting for me to lift every one of those pieces back up to Him so that He can create a spectacular masterpiece through His mercy, grace, forgiveness and love. Only then, will my life be turned back into something that makes sense and is useable and only then will I be renewed and complete and His fingerprint on my life will be truly evident.

January 15, 2009

Strong Tower

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;

The righteous run to it and are safe.

Proverbs 18:10

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 9:9-10


 

God is our strong tower against all of our enemies and His grace will sustain us when we seek Him first in times of trouble. We see this when reading about David as a young man crying out for help when Saul had saught out to kill him. In his time of trouble, David looked to God as his fortress and found that He was in fact "an ever present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1) How we respond to our fears determines where we find our strength in times of trouble. Do you choose to run, hide or maybe even ignore or maybe you choose to retaliate? No matter what your choice, it will be a weak defense if God is not your fortress and first line of protection.

Repeatedly throughout scripture, promises are revealed to us that God does not just provide us refuge but instead, He is our refuge. Those promises made to us cannot be accomplished if we choose to run the other way whenever we find ourselves in the midst of a storm. We must choose to run toward God. We must choose to pray and align ourselves with Him submitting to His will and truth and trusting Him for our good even if everything we desire says the opposite.

What keeps you from experiencing God as your refuge? Do you find yourself seeking shelter somewhere else? Have you dug yourself into a deep hole and are struggling to get back out? With God, nothing is impossible and when we choose to run into His arms, we will find a safe haven, comfort and direction.

We must remember that God is our dwelling place and that He cares for those who trust in Him. We must believe that He is our ever-present help and our refuge and in Him, we will find rest. We must be confident in knowing that He is our shield and our strength and proclaim Him as our deliverer refusing to give into our fears for He is our fortress and our strong tower.