Tested by Fire

Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 8:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, I Need You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 1 (Select vv. NASB).

His Great Mercy (vv. 3-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

When we are all born into this world, we are born with sin natures, separate from God, having come up short of attaining his divine approval (Ro. 3:23; Ro. 5:12-19; 1 Co. 15:21-22, 42-49). So, God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world, to take on human flesh, and to die on a cross for our sins. Thus, He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (2 Co. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24). And, when the Father resurrected his Son from the dead, Jesus rose victorious over sin, hell and death in order that we might live with him and to his holiness and goodness.

So, when we believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith, we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to new life (born again) in Him, in which we were created to be like God (Christ-like) in true righteousness and holiness. Righteousness is what is deemed right in God’s eyes. It is what is pure, holy, godly, upright, moral, honest and honorable. It is the opposite of sin, which includes such things as hatred, idolatry, spiritual or physical adultery, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, lust, and immorality, etc. And, holiness is being separate (unlike, different) from the world of sin, because we are being transformed in Christ’s likeness, of the Spirit of God.

But, our salvation has only begun when we believe in Jesus Christ, for it is a lifetime process of being saved (sanctified) and then, when Jesus Christ returns for his bride, our salvation will be complete. While we live in these flesh bodies, we will still be tempted to sin, but Jesus made the way of escape for us out from underneath the temptation so that we don’t have to give in to sin. For, we are no longer under its control once we give our lives to Jesus, because Jesus set us free. Amen! And, one day Jesus will return, and he will take us to be with him forever, and then we will no longer be tempted to sin or be sick or have pain or sorrow, for he will wipe away all the tears from our eyes.

Various Trials (vv. 6-9)

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

We all go through trials, at times. Some of them are small and some are very big. Some are extended, while others are short lived. I have been going through a series of them, of late. They are not huge, but are trying just the same. It began with a recent development of a skin allergic reaction to cold. Then, when we had our new patient visits with our new doctor after moving here over a month ago, and I told him about it, he just wanted me to take an antihistamine for it, even though I told him I have been pharmaceutical drug dependent free for about 10 years now. So, he mocked me. But, I stood my ground against his insistence that drugs were my “savior.”

And, then he said I looked anemic, so he took blood, and the blood test showed I had low vitamin B-12, but I don’t take vitamins, either, because of bad reactions to them. But then I thought maybe if I could find something all natural that it would work. And I did, so I thought, but when I sprayed the first spray in my mouth my tongue swelled and my throat began to close up, which is a serious reaction (side effect), plus I got a headache and nerve pains, which is often my body’s reaction to drugs. The Lord, after I had taken this, warned me, I believe, of the dangers of this, so I stopped.

During all of this I was also constipated, and no foods or drinks I was taking in to help with that were working, so I was miserable. On top of this I had some kind of skin rash or something on my thigh, so I started putting Vaseline on that, and it is much improved. But, then we went away for the weekend, and we stayed in a hotel, and there were bad issues with the first 2 rooms they gave us, but the third one finally worked for us. Then, I got 3 bug bites in a cluster on my chest, over my heart, which were reminiscent of when we got bed bugs nearly a year ago to date (we had those for about a month then). Now, 3 days later, the recent bites (source unknown) are still there, but they are disappearing. And, then yesterday, when I was getting out of my car to get the mail, my foot caught in my purse and I took a fall down on the pavement. But, by the grace of God I was not seriously injured.

By the grace of God, as well, I have been able to bear up under these trials and not let them undo me. I have been daily committing myself and these situations to the Lord, praying for help and healing, and for much needed wisdom, and the Lord has been seeing me through them all, and other trials, too. He has been giving me grace to make it, to keep trusting him, and to keep smiling and singing despite the pain and misery associated with any of them. I believe God is absolutely sovereign over my life, and that he has allowed these trials to come into my life as a way both to test me, and also to mature and to strengthen me in my faith and in my resolve to make him my only Lord and Savior. When we go through such trials, they teach us to rely on God and not on ourselves. We learn that our dependency must be in Christ alone, and not in humans or in drugs, or in anything else but God.

Prepare Your Minds (vv. 13-16)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

So, because of all that Jesus Christ has done for us, in dying for our sins, in freeing us from slavery (addiction) to sin, and in giving us new lives in him, and because he is our helper, strength, counselor and guide, we should commit our all to him. We must lay aside all which hinders our walks of faith and that which leads us into sin, so that we can run the spiritual race he has marked out for each of us to run. And, then we must put on our spiritual armor daily with which to fight off Satan’s evil attacks and schemes against us (Eph. 6:10-20).

What this means for us, in all practicality, is that we have to stop entertaining ourselves with the sins and trappings of this world, and we have to bathe our minds and hearts with the things of God – His Word, His Spirit, His Truth, and with His righteousness, goodness and holiness. And, then we have to obey what His Word teaches us, not merely being hearers of the Word only, but doers (See: Jas. 1). And, we should not live for the pleasures of this sinful world, but for the glory and praise of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Again, we are to be separate (unlike, different) from the world (holy) because we are being made to be like Jesus.

We need to take this to heart and not take God’s grace to us for granted, for if we continue in sin (in practice, in lifestyle) we don’t have that hope of heaven, but a fearful expectation of judgment. So, don’t be led astray.

Lord, I Need You
Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson /
Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness…

 

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When Problems Arise

Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 4:36 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, I Need You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 27 (Select vv. ESV).

Be Confident (vv. 1-3)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

We all go through struggles, from time to time, whether they involve solely temptations to sin against God, or they involve hardships, persecutions, financial difficulties, physical enemies pursuing us, marital problems, troubles with our children, disasters, loneliness, or having to make difficult decisions, or plans not working out the way we had hoped. And, we may be tempted to respond in fear, doubt, worry, anger, frustration, disappointment or in retreating back to sinful habits as a way of numbing the pain.

Yet, whatever difficulty, trouble, hardship or temptation we might be facing, our God is all-sufficient to meet our every need, and to give us all we need to remain faithful to him, to rest in him, to trust him with our life situations, and to believe him for the strength and power to endure, to resist Satan, and to flee the temptation to sin against God. In fact, through Jesus’ death on a cross for our sins, he made the way of escape for us out of temptation to sin, for he conquered sin and death for us via his death and resurrection.

As well, we read in Ephesians 6:12 that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. It isn’t to say that we don’t have physical enemies or that we won’t be hated and persecuted by other humans, for we will, if we follow Jesus. But, it is to say that the real forces against us are of Satan and his demons and that this is a spiritual battle that must be won with spiritual weapons of warfare, not with physical weapons or with human scheming. So, this is why God has given us spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-20) to apply to our lives every day so that we can fight off temptation to sin against him, that is the temptation to sin by telling lies, cheating, immorality, fear, and doubt, etc. So, daily we must put this armor on, if we are to be victorious in this battle.

So, how do we do this? How do we make the Lord the stronghold of our lives so that we don’t fear, and so we don’t give into temptation, and so we are confident in Christ in our battles? When we are afraid, we put off fear, and we put on faith. When Satan lies to us, we counter him with the truth, more specifically with the truth of God’s Word. Then, we choose to believe the truth and not the lies. And, when tempted toward immorality, we resist Satan, and FLEE the temptation. Too many people give into temptation to sin because they play with sin and they don’t FLEE. And, involved in fleeing is also being proactive by cutting out of our lives those things which lead us to sin against God. For, if we play with the fire, we are going to get burned!

Sing Praises (vv. 4-6)

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

When difficulties arise or when we are faced with temptation toward fear or toward immorality, etc., we need to immediately seek the Lord. We must call on him for help. But, it is pointless to call on him if we have no intention of listening to or obeying him, or if we are not willing to cut out of our lives what is leading us into sin. In other words, we cannot resist the temptation to have immoral thoughts or actions or to give in to fear if every day we are willingly taking into our minds and eyes what is immoral or which feeds fear and doubt, and for the purpose of entertaining ourselves. We have to decide if we are going to be serious about God and holiness or not. If we are serious, our Lord Jesus, via His Spirit, will help us every step of the way.

One of the best antidotes to fear, doubt and worry is to sing praises to God. Satan loves to whisper lies in our ears, or to get us to stay focused on the waves crashing in all around us, i.e. he likes to get us to think about all the negatives of a situation, and even to create non-existent ones in our own minds (paranoia). So, when we realize we are down in the dumps, and that our minds are dwelling on all the “what ifs” of a situation, we need to stop, pray, and sing songs of praise to our Lord, and songs which will strengthen us in our faith and which will combat Satan’s lies with God’s truth.

Follow Jesus (vv. 11-14)

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

If we truly desire God’s help, these words here have to be more than just words coming from our lips. Again, there is no point in asking for his guidance and direction if we are not going to listen to him and follow him. If we truly want to be taught his way, then we need to be willing to walk in the way that he shows us. So, don’t say it if you don’t mean it. God knows the difference. We can fool other humans, but we can’t fool God. He knows our hearts, and he knows who are serious about following him, and who are just playing games or are going through a religious exercise.

So, if you or I truly want to be taught the ways of the Lord, then we need to be willing to go the distance with God. We can’t pick and choose what we will obey and what we won’t, or to what extent we will be willing to obey. We need to have undivided hearts that don’t vacillate back and forth between what we want and what God desires for our lives. A level path is not a roller coaster ride. It is steady, even, sincere, committed and determined. And, we have to stay the course, but not in our own strength or willpower, but in the strength of the Lord and in his power and might.

I cannot stress enough that a godly life is a committed and determined life given over to God and to his service, and it takes sin and God and his Word seriously, and it does not take lightly his grace to us. His grace, after all, is not freedom to continue in sin without guilt or remorse. It is not carte blanche (free rein) to live however we want now that we are under grace. No! His grace, which brings salvation, instructs us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await his return. So, don’t give way to the enemy! Be strong in the Lord, and in his strength. Take courage and put your trust in God alone!

Lord, I Need You
Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson /
Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You…
My one defense, my righteousness…

 

Help in Trouble

Thursday, August 10, 2017, 2:32 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 46 (NASB).

God our Refuge (vv. 1-3)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

Life is full of changes. There are no guarantees that life, as we now know it, will continue. Our jobs could go away. Our spouses could die, or they could leave us for someone else. The stock market could crash, and we could experience another “Great Depression.” Our present form of government, as we understand it to be, could suddenly disappear, and in its place the beast (one world government) could rule supreme. Our houses could burn down to the ground. A hurricane could sweep our houses (or apartments) away, or so could a major earthquake or a tsunami. We could suddenly be struck very ill, or we could be involved in a serious automobile accident. Or, our nation could suddenly be attacked, once more, by a foreign nation (or entity).

Yet, in all of these things, and so much more, God is our refuge and strength to help us in times of trouble, if our hope and our trust is in him, and in his salvation. He is completely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made. He is all powerful, too. Nothing catches him by surprise, and there is not anything which he cannot handle. He will see us through any and all changes in our lives or in our circumstances. He may or may not remove us from our difficult situations, but he will give us the strength and courage we need to endure, to persevere, and to remain faithful to him in all things despite the difficulties we are experiencing in this present world of ours. So, we need to rest in him, trust in his grace, believe his promises, and carry on in Him.

Our Stronghold (vv. 4-7)

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

When difficult times come our way, which they will, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not be frightened in any way by the waves of the sea crashing in all around us. God’s presence is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us if we are truly his by faith in Jesus Christ. His grace is sufficient to help us in times of need. And, not only that, but God allows difficulties to come into our lives to purify us, to prune us, to make us holy, to conform us into his likeness, to revive us, and to mature us in our walks of faith, as well as to correct and rebuke us, if we have gone astray, so that we will turn from our sinful rebellion to walking in his holiness and righteousness.

We don’t ever have to be afraid of anything. Nothing can happen to us in this life but what God allows it, and he allows it for a purpose, and he will see us through it to victory. He will provide all that we need, but not necessarily all that we think we need, or all that we want. Especially here in America we have this idea that we need so much, but we don’t. We can survive on very little, in reality. We don’t need much food, either. Restaurants have been notorious for serving large portions of food, and to one person, which could probably feed an entire family in another country. But, we don’t need a lot of food, and, in fact, it is unhealthy to eat so much.

What comes to mind right now are the lyrics to the song “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” (by Henry F. Lyte):

Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence, my all shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought, and hoped, and known;
Yet how rich is my condition, God and Christ are still my own!

Cease Striving (vv. 8-11)

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Yet, it isn’t just that God allows troubles and hardships, but sometimes he is the one who brings them upon us. He is not only a God of mercy and grace, but he is a God of justice and righteousness. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, which is why he has delayed judgments, in many cases. Yet, he is a God who judges the people of the earth, too, and even his followers, and in order to bring those who have strayed from their pure devotion to him back to him as their Only Lord and Master. He warned of this in Revelation 2-3, among other passages of scripture. There he called his wandering saints (parts of his church) to repentance, and he warned of divine judgment if they did not repent.

God also judges nations and peoples who have come against his children, i.e. against those who have been born anew of the Spirit of God via death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ Jesus, their Lord. I believe much or all of the world is already under the judgment of God. I know that America is, and that what our nation (our government) has done to other nations, it will be done to us. And, what our nation has done to their own people, and to God’s laws, and to demoralize our nation, and to dilute the gospel message of salvation, God will judge, too. Yet, he will do this to stop all the evil, and so that the gospel message will go out to the ends of the earth before he returns for his bride, so that many more will be saved.

So, we are not to be anxious or worried or fearful when these things take place, but we are to put our trust in the Lord, and believe that he will work all things together for good for those who love him; for those who have been called according to his purpose. Instead of letting life’s difficulties get us down, we must recognize who God is, that he is God, and that he will be exalted (praised, revered) in the earth, and among the nations. He is still with us, he has not deserted us, and he is our stronghold. He will see us through to the end, and he will accomplish his purposes in all of our lives.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Adelaide A. Pollard / George C. Stebbins

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

For Our Transgressions

Tuesday, August 8, 2017, 3:34 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 53 (Select vv. ESV).

Who Has Believed? (vv. 1-3; cf. Rom. 10:16)

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, our God and Lord, came to earth and took on human form, begotten of God the Father, and born as a baby to a human mother. He suffered as we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. There was nothing about his physical appearance that anyone should be attracted to him. He did have some true followers (disciples), though. And, crowds did follow him, for he healed many, he drove out evil spirits, he performed many miracles, and he fed the hungry. But, when he spoke of the cost of following him, many who had been following him deserted him, never to return.

Many of the religious leaders within the Jewish temple did not like Jesus, and they made it their mission to destroy him. They hated him because he dared to be different, because he did not follow their human rules and traditions, because he healed people on the Sabbath, and he claimed to be God; and because he confronted sinful humans with their sinful conditions, warned of divine judgment and called for repentance and faith in himself. They were jealous of him because of his temporary and short-lived popularity among the people, and because they felt their own positions of power were being threatened by him. So, they plotted his death, and he was crucified on a cross for our sins (See: Jn. 1:1-34; Jn. 6:35-66; Phil. 2:1-11; 1 Co. 5:21).

We Are Healed (vv. 4-6)

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

When Jesus died on that cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. In his death, he put sin to death, and when he was resurrected from the grave, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death for our sake. By God’s grace, through faith in him, via death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ, we can be forgiven our sins, released from the ultimate punishment of sin (eternal damnation), delivered out of slavery to sin, and released to walk in the Spirit and in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and be given eternal life with God.

When we are born into this world, we are born with sin natures, separate from God and unable to attain God’s divine approval through human effort. So, that is why Jesus gave his life up for us, that we might be saved from our sins, walk in the Spirit, and have eternal life with God. Because he died, we are able to die to sin, and because he lives, we can live with him and for him for eternity. Yet, he did not come to earth, take on human flesh, and suffer for our sake just so we can escape hell and have the promise of heaven when we die. He died that we might live for him, and he suffered that he might be our compassionate and merciful high priest in taking our sorrows upon himself that he might also comfort us in our sorrows.

The Will of God (vv. 10-12)

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

It was God the Father’s will that his Son should suffer and die for our sins. This was planned for us even before the creation of the world, and that many of us would believe on him as our Savior and would become children of God, and followers of Christ. Through faith in Jesus Christ we are not only made righteous in God’s sight, but we are able to live righteously for Him and for his will for our lives, for this is why he died. Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14).

So, we must walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit of God, and no longer according to our sinful flesh. For, if we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, even if we have made a profession of faith in Christ Jesus. If we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), for His sake, we will gain eternal life with God (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14). If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we still walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). The true story of Jesus (the gospel) is not just that Jesus died to forgive us our sins, but he died to deliver us out of slavery to sin, and to give us new lives in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23; Gal. 2:20). Amen!

Tell Me the Story of Jesus
Fanny J. Crosby / John R. Sweney

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Fasting alone in the desert,
Tell of the days that are past,
How for our sins He was tempted,
Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor,
Tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor.

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see;
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
“Love paid the ransom for me.”

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

Cry for Help

Sunday, August 6, 2017, 3:34 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 34 (Select vv. ESV).

All My Fears (vv. 4-7)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

This passage of scripture has a special place in my heart. I was abused as a child. My father was a big bully who picked on those weaker than him. He was mean and hateful, and physically and emotionally abusive. I was very much afraid of my dad, and I avoided him as much as was possible. And, in those days they did not have child protective services like they do today. And, no one counseled us in how to deal with the abuse or the pain we were feeling deep inside, and so all those emotions got stuffed. Yet, I prayed often to the Lord, and I did experience his comfort, yet I did not know that, by stuffing those emotions, I had built a wall of fear around myself.

Then, one day it all came to a head, but to make a long story short, I went to my best friend to ask for help. She didn’t know how to help me, either, but she did not give up, and I didn’t either, and then it was as though a light bulb turned on inside her head and she said she knew what my problem was. She said it was a spirit of fear. I asked if God could deliver me, and she said “Yes.” I asked if we could pray, and she said “Yes.” And, when we prayed I physically felt the weight leave my shoulders, and my countenance did change, and I had a smile on my face, and my face was radiant and no longer covered with fear (shame). Praise God!

I wish I could say that I never struggled with fear ever again, but that would be a lie. God had delivered me out of my troubles, but throughout much of my life Satan would try as best as he knew how to try to get me to be afraid again, and sometimes he was successful, when I caved to my circumstances rather than me trusting the Lord. But, God has been faithful, as he always is, and he has delivered me time and time again as I have faced many “giants” in my life, and he has safely brought me through to victory. Amen!

Fear the Lord (vv. 8-14)

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

This word translated as “fear” in English can have at least two meanings. One is to be afraid, such as what I described in the section above, but the other is to show respect, honor, esteem, value, and reverence. We are not to fear people or our circumstances, in the sense of lacking faith in God and being afraid of what will happen. But, we are to fear God, yet in the sense of showing him honor, respect and reverence by following him and obeying him despite our circumstances or how other humans may treat us.

When we walk in the fear of the Lord, we honor him with our lives by submitting to his Lordship over our lives and by following him wherever he leads us, but not just physically, but with our whole being – with our attitudes, actions, words, thoughts and behaviors. We are committed to him and to his service, and we take him and his Word very seriously, and to heart, to follow him in obedience. He is truly our owner-master and we are his bondservants, and our lives belong to him, and are no longer our own to do with what we want. He is the one who now directs our steps, and our desire and passion are for him, and not for the things of this world.

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). Yet, it doesn’t end there. We are delivered out of slavery to sin so that we can now become slaves of his righteousness. Now we no longer walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh, but now according to the Spirit of God. We are not only made righteous, but now we live righteously.

The Righteous Cry (vv. 15-18)

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, and we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we now live to his righteousness, and we walk in the fear of the Lord, other humans will hate us, reject us, and will persecute us for our faith and commitments to Christ. Yet, we are not to fear what other humans may do to us, or what difficult circumstances we may yet encounter. But, we are to trust the Lord in all things, believing that he is completely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made, and that he has a plan and a purpose for everything he allows into our lives. He will carry us through it all, and he will give us all we need to endure, to persevere, and to keep following him in obedience and in sharing his truth with all who will listen.

When we go through life’s difficulties, which we will, we are to cry out to God in our pain and suffering, and trust him to heal, to comfort, to encourage and to strengthen us. I believe we should also ask him to teach us what he would have us to learn through our suffering, and to use us for his glory in other people’s lives. He will hear our cries, and he will answer. He may not always answer in the way we would hope, or in our timing, but he will provide us with all that we need to remain faithful to him, and to be his representatives to others who are also in need of his love, comfort, mercy and grace.

When the Lord delivers us out of our troubles, it is not always physical deliverance, though sometimes it is. It isn’t that we always need to be taken out of troubling situations, but that we need to learn to lean on his grace through our difficulties. It is in these times that we grow in maturity in our walks of faith, that we draw closer to our Lord, and that our love for others grows, too. Sometimes what needs to be changed is our hearts, our minds, our attitudes and our actions, not our circumstances, and so God allows us to go through tough times to purify us, to prune us and to make us more like him. He knows what we really need, and he will always do what is truly best for us, and what will bring glory to his name. So, cry it out to him!

All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.

When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.

Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.

Testing Your Faith

Sunday, June 4, 2017, 8:15 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “When Pretty Things Get Broken.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1 (select vv. ESV).

Various Trials (vv. 2-4)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

What is joy? Joy is “grace recognized,” i.e. “the awareness of God’s grace, his favor” (biblehub.com). Jesus, for the joy set before him, “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). What was the joy set before him? His grace, which he was to extend to all the world via his death on a cross for our sins, and via his resurrection from the dead. It was the knowledge that his death and resurrection would mean life everlasting, and freedom from slavery to sin, to everyone who trusted in him as Lord, and as Savior of their lives.

So, can we be joyful and sad at the same time? Yes, I believe we can, because joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is not conditional to our human emotions. Even in times of severe trial and great sadness, we can prayerfully and thankfully be appreciative of God’s grace to us, in its various forms, calling on him to help us in our time of need, even with tears streaming down our cheeks. And, that can be joy, because it focuses on Jesus, who is our compassionate and merciful high priest. So, we should “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3). We need to just rest in him.

Yet, what does it mean to count it all joy when we go through trials? It means to recognize God’s grace in our lives, i.e. that he is doing things in and through us way beyond what we could even imagine. It means trusting in his sovereignty over our lives, believing that, “in all things, he works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Ro. 8:28). Yet, “good” is not necessarily what we want or desire, but it is what God knows is best for us, i.e. what we truly need for us to mature in our faith, and to have steadfastness (persistence) of spirit, and for us to be Christ-like in heart, mind, attitude, faith, word and in action. So, we need to believe him, submit to his Lordship over our lives, and trust him to work it all out according to his plans and purposes, and for his glory.

Need Wisdom? (vv. 5-8)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

When we go through difficulties and trials, we definitely need wisdom to know how to respond with grace, and to not let our circumstances or what others do or say to “ruffle our feathers,” i.e. “to cause confusion, agitation, irritation or annoyance” (yourdictionary.com). There are probably always going to be people in our lives who will try to “get our goat,” i.e. who will attempt to irritate us. But, we can’t let them. We need to rise above these situations, by the grace of God, and by exercising godly wisdom. We must put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20), as well, in order to fight off the temptation to give way to our circumstances and to not trust our Lord.

Yet, when we pray for wisdom to know how to respond with grace and godliness to difficult trials, and to people who want nothing more than to trip us up, and God shows us what to do, then we need to apply to our lives what he shows us, otherwise it was pointless to even ask him.

Remain Steadfast (vv. 12-15)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Some days are better than others. Some days we feel stronger, and other days we feel weak emotionally or physically, and it is more difficult during those times when the trials come. Yet, we don’t endure and persevere in our own strength or willpower. The steadfastness of spirit doesn’t come from within our own flesh. It is supernatural. And, it comes as we yield to our God, cry out to him in our suffering, and trust him to work in and through our lives for his purposes and for his glory. It comes when we learn to rest in him, and we don’t feel like we have to make things happen ourselves, and when we lean on him for understanding and trust in him for his strength.

When we are tempted to give in, give up, blow up, or clam up, that doesn’t come from God. Now, there will be times when God will tell us to be silent, but that will not be all the time, for he has given us mouths to sing his praises, to proclaim his excellencies, to share his gospel, and to call people to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. It is Satan who wants to silence us, and to get us to give up, and to yield to pressure to compromise our faith so that people will like us, and so we won’t face persecution. Yet, Jesus said if we are ashamed of him and his gospel, he will be ashamed of us (Mk. 8:38). The devil will also send people along in our lives to try to trip us up, and to try to get us to blow it. We can’t give in to them for a second!

Yet, the devil is not the only force in our lives which tempts us to sin against God. We can be lured and enticed by our own sinful desires. For example, we may be tempted to compromise our faith, or to not speak to people about Jesus, or to dilute the gospel, because we want to be liked by others, and not hated. And, when the Spirit within us prompts us that we need to speak, and not keep silent, or he impresses on our hearts that we need to say something to someone, and we know we will be hated and rejected, we may be tempted to rationalize our way out of it. This is because we know it will mean, not only that this particular person is going to now reject us, but that they are probably going to convince many others to hate us, too. Yet, we have to obey God, even if it costs us our reputations or our very lives.

When Pretty Things Get Broken
By Joni Eareckson Tada

I have a piece of China, a pretty porcelain vase –
It holds such lovely flowers; captures everybody’s gaze.
But fragile things do slip and fall, as everybody knows.
And when my vase came crashing down, those tears began to flow.

My life was just like China, a lovely thing to me;
Full of porcelain promises of all that I might be.
But fragile things do slip and fall, as everybody knows.
And when my life came crashing down, those tears began to flow.

Now Jesus is no porcelain Prince. His promises won’t break.
His holy word holds fast and sure. His love, no one can shake.
So, if your life is shattered by sorrow, pain, or sin –
His healing love will reach right down and make you whole again.

Now don’t we all cry when pretty things get broken?
Don’t we all sigh at such an awful loss?
But Jesus will dry your tears, as He has spoken;
‘Cause He was the one broken on the cross.

https://www.joniandfriends.org/media/uploads/downloads/when_pretty_things_get_broken.pdf

Under Your Shelter

Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 7:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Total Praise.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 61 (Select vv. ESV).

My Refuge (vv. 1-3)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

Are you going through a trial, a difficult time in your life? Do you have unanswered questions? Have friends or family forsaken or betrayed you? Are friends or neighbors talking evil about you behind your back? Do you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb around the people you see every day? Are you being opposed for your stand for Christ and for his gospel? Are you being lied to or lied about? Or, are you going through financial struggles, relationship difficulties, the loss of a loved one, or health issues, etc.?

Whatever your trial or difficulty may be, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can cry out your pain and suffering to him, he will listen, he cares, he feels your pain, and he is there to give you comfort, encouragement, hope, healing and strength to make it through each and every day, plus the wisdom to know how to respond to your troubles and heartaches. He loves you beyond measure, and he has a plan and a purpose for everything he allows you to go through. So, trust him, rest in him, believe in his promises, don’t faint, and find your strength under the shelter of the Most High.

When our hearts are breaking, and when we feel lonely, because we don’t fit in with the people around us, we need to be led to the Rock which is higher than us, namely Jesus Christ. He didn’t fit, either. He stood out like a sore thumb, too. He was distinctly different, strange to some people, and even thought of as crazy to others. Although he had crowds around him much of the time, largely they were there to see the miracles he performed or to have their bellies filled, but when Jesus told them the cost of following him, a large number of them deserted him. So, he understands, he empathizes, and he will wrap his loving arms around us and comfort us with his love.

Steadfast Love (vv. 4-5)

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

When we trust Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, by God’s grace, through God-given faith in him, he indwells us with his Holy Spirit. In other words, God comes to live within our lives. He makes his home in our hearts. We walk (conduct our lives) now according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, for by faith we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The old has gone. The new has come. We now live in him, as well as he lives in us. Thus, we do dwell in his tent forever.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, and in what he did for us in dying on a cross in our place so that we could be delivered from the curse of sin and bondage to sin, we make a life-time commitment to him. We may not think of it in these terms, but God-given faith is a vow of fidelity to our Lord. It is a promise to be his forever, to follow him wherever he leads us, to walk in his ways, to love him, to serve him, and to give our lives over to his control. Jesus said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self and take up our cross daily and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, i.e. we will die in our sins. But if we lose our lives for his sake, i.e. if we die with him to sin, we will have eternal life in him (Lu. 9:23-25; cf. Ro. 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24).

Ever Sing Praise (v. 8)

So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.

Because of all that Jesus has done for us in saving us from bondage to sin, and the penalty of sin, and giving us new lives in him, to be lived to his righteousness, we should forever sing his praises! This should be a part of our everyday lives, whether we sing out loud, or whether we sing quietly in our hearts. I think I have songs going through my head most of the day, and since they are from the Lord, they encourage and help to strengthen my heart and give me courage to keep doing what God has called me to do.

Not only should we be singing praises to our Lord, and be singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs which lift up his name, we should be sharing these with others to encourage and to strengthen their hearts. The Bible does not say the songs need to be professional sounding, in the eyes of mankind, or that we have to have good sounding voices, as judged by the world. “Spiritual songs” are of the Spirit, not of the flesh, so they aren’t about entertaining people or about being “recording ready” for professional purposes. They are more like just putting scripture to music, and they give out the messages God wants for his children, to encourage, strengthen, spur us on to love and good deeds, and to give hope and healing to our hearts.

Not only this, but singing songs of praise to our Lord gets our focus off our troubles, and it gets us focused on our Lord, and on serving him, instead. It gets our focus off what other people are doing or not doing toward us, and it gets us focused on loving people with God’s love and care, even loving our enemies. For, it changes our perspective, and it lifts our spirits, and it gets us thinking from an eternal perspective rather than thinking about this life with all its miseries. This is not an escape from reality, nor is it removing ourselves from personal responsibility for the things of this life, or for the people of this world, but it keeps our eyes on Jesus where we find our hope, purpose, healing, direction, encouragement, empowerment and strength.

Total Praise / Richard Smallwood

You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You.