In My Distress

Psalm 120:1

I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.

Always a timely word!  Whenever you or I feel stressed … hard pressed … distressed … anxious … or even fearful with what is happening in your life, God has affirmed in His Word that He wants us to call upon Him.  God in our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble (Cf. Psalm 46:1) So whatever we are going through, we should give it to the Father.  Talk with Him.  Share with Him.  This verse assures us that He will listen.  As Peter affirmed, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7) Here Peter quotes Psalm 55:22 which reads, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.”

If you feel defeated for some reason … if you feel like giving up or giving in to your circumstances or situation … pause for a moment.  Breathe.  Breathe deeply.  Now I encourage you to read how Asaph reset His mindset when feeling overwhelmed with the world and culture that surrounded him.  Read Psalm 73 this morning.  It will not take long, but it will impact your day.  I believe it will bring you some fresh perspective.  I am particularly fond of its conclusion:

Psalm 73:23-28 (ESV)

21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward You. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Oh, how I pray that we would understand how much God loves us!  He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3) Even now, He is running toward you … to embrace you and show you His lovingkindness. (Cf. Luke 15:20) Just be still and embrace Him.  Rest in Him.  He is the God of peace.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. (Cf. Philippians 4:7) In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Yes, Jesus is all you need, and His grace is sufficient for you. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9) So, call upon Him.  He will listen to you.  And when you are finished, be still and listen to Him. I believe you will be amazed at His answer….

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

The Plans I Have For You

Jeremiah 29:11-13

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

This is a very familiar verse for most of us!  It is often quoted, and many of us have memorized … even memorialized these prophetic words.  No doubt that any one of us want to have a positive outlook on life … a hopeful future … and a purpose directed by God.  These things are central to our human experience and longing.  But Jeremiah looks deeper into what hope and purpose entail.  There are actions on our part that are fundamental to the realization of those plans God has promised to bring about in our lives.  In Verses 12 and 13, he states, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I think we need to look closer at those words in the context:

  • You will call on Me
  • You will come and pray to Me AND I will listen to you
  • You will seek Me
  • You will find Me WHEN you seek Me with all your heart

I sense there are people who want to know God’s will for their lives.  They want to know HIS plans for their lives … the future HE envisions … the prosperity and protection HE promises.  Yet they do not pray … they do not sit still and listen … they do not seek God with their whole heart.  They have their own ideas for happiness … their own conceptions of prosperity … and they simply want God to bless what they want to do … based on their own plans for their lives.  This is not what the Word of God teaches us; and I urge anyone caught in this inner struggle and take a step back and examine themselves and their motivations….  We need to consider what the Prophet Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 55:6-9 (NKJV)

Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the man of iniquity forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

This is why we need to come to God … to pray to Him … to listen to Him … to seek Him with our whole hearts … in order to know what HE has planned and ordained for our lives IN HIM.   A few days ago, I mentioned this verse: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10) Here, Paul quoted Isaiah 64:4 which reads: “For since the beginning of the world people have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him.”  Since the beginning people have not understood what God has planned and purposed for us; yet Paul indicates that God HAS revealed these things to us through His Spirit.  Indeed, God has made known the riches of His wisdom. But you and I cannot find out the plans God has for us … the future and hope He has ordained for us … if we do not have an intimate relationship with Him.  As Hebrews 11:6 asserts, “But without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Do you want to know the plans that God has for you? His desire to give you abundant life? (Cf. John 10:10) Eternal life? (Cf. John 3:15-16) Then you need to call upon God.  You need to go to Him and pray.  You need to listen.  You need to seek Him with your whole heart.  For we read in Jeremiah 29:14 where God has said, “I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. Do you see what the verse is telling us?  “I will bring you back from your captivity.”  Captivity?  Yes, we have held ourselves hostage … imprisoned ourselves with our own thoughts and our own plans … our own visions of the future and not the plans God has designed and purposed for us.  He allowed us to be held captive there … in those thoughts … so that we could see and experience the futility … the servitude … the enslavement … of man-made dreams!  But God has something better … something greater … something more fulfilling and satisfying for our souls … if we would but seek an intimate relationship with Him who is our Creator … our Savior … our Lord.

Here are some exhortations that come to mind:

Psalm 33:10-11 (NKJV)

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. 11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.

Psalm 146:3-4 (NIV)

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge (submit to) Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 14:22 (NIV)

22 Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.

Proverbs 14:22 (NKJV)

21 There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.

Proverbs 23:17-18 (NIV)

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. 18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:17-18 (NIV)

“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin….

Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV)

24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

James 4:3-5 (NKJV)

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

So what is the application?  God knows the plans that HE has for you!  His thoughts toward you are thoughts of peace … not of harm.  His thoughts are for you … not against you.  The future He offers is the hope of eternal life … given to us through Christ Jesus our Lord.  God is asking us to come to Him for answers … to call upon Him and pray to Him.  God is asking us to seek Him with all of our heart … to trust Him in all things and not lean upon our understanding.  Our understanding is limited.  We only know in part. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12) But what we do know is more than sufficient!  For we know the love of God … His great love (Cf. Ephesians 2:4) … His lavish love … that we might be called His children. (Cf. 1 John 3:1).  Yes, we can trust God for our future because we can trust God for His love. Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Lord – My Strength

Psalm 18:1-2

I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Our theme of God our strength … our fortress … our refuge … our shield … and our salvation continues!  What a powerful word we have from the inspired pen of King David!

Oh, there is someone …  perhaps many who need this word this morning!  You are fighting battles that are beyond your own understanding … beyond your own strength … beyond your own abilities.  They are battles that belong to the Lord!  You do not have to carry them!  You were not meant to carry them! God is wanting to show you HIS power … HIS strength … HIS love and care for you … to build your faith … to increase your trust in HIM … and Him alone!  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) And the weapons of our warfare are not of the world; on the contrary, they have divine power to demolish the strongholds of the enemy. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

I encourage you to take every thought of defeat captive and to make it obedient to Christ.  Through prayer, seek God and allow Him to be your stronghold and fortress … your shield and strong tower.  Go to Him in faith and trust that He is your rear-guard.  No weapon formed against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord. (Cf. Isaiah 54:17) This is my prayer for you this morning … for those who are in spiritual battle.  Take refuge.  Find rest in the Lord Jesus.  He said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Cf. John 14:27) Yes, receive His peace this morning!  He is watching over you….  Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Confession and Forgiveness

Psalm 86:5

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.

Had a rough week … a challenging month … a time of spiritual battle when temptation has mounted a coordinated attack against you.  Were you caught off guard … unprepared … or just too weak to counter the offensive launched by the enemy? Did you finally surrender to the temptation? Unfortunately, it can happen to any of us. Our thoughts and behaviors do not always reflect the new creation that we have become in Christ. And sometimes I feel like I am a wider target when I am on top of the spiritual mountain.  Just when I think that my faith is strong and my armor secure … a struggle with temptation ensues; and sometimes I miss the way out in order to endure it. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13) The Apostle James has observed this process as follows:

James 1:13-15 (NIV)

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

That is the process … that is how temptation is formed and sin follows in its wake! Our carnal nature … our sinful nature as human beings … can easily raise its ugly head and engage us. And I think we need to realize that not all temptation comes from outside evil forces; rather, it can stem from our own internal desires or lusts that entice us and lead us into thought patterns and behaviors that manifest themselves as sin.  I’m not talking about the obvious sins such as murder, adultery, sexual immorality, etc.  I’m speaking about the inner sins such as covetousness, envy, jealousy, malice, deceit, hypocrisy, arrogance, slander, bitterness, anger, rage, and filthy language we have been admonished to avoid.  Whether we display these behaviors in our relationships with others in overt or subtle ways, these sins are detrimental to our witness and hinder His command to love one another as Christ has loved us. As much as I want to believe that my heart is not of this world … that I have consecrated myself unto God … there are occasions that I simply fail to resist these types of inner heart issues, and I need to repent and be cleansed.

So I love the reminder of our verse today.  God is forgiving and good! God abounds in love to those who call upon Him.  That is why prayer and confession is so essential to spiritual discipline.  That is why transparency is necessary to have intimacy with the Lord Jesus. Fellowship with God requires honesty … integrity … sincerity. I am so grateful that the Apostle John articulated and shared how believers must walk in the light and in the truth.  There is no continuum between darkness and light – only one or the other.  God is light and in Him is no darkness at all!

John 1:1-5 (NKJV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

1 John 1:5-10 (NKJV)

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.

1 John 2:1-2 (NKJV)

1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Yes, John is quite forthright about confession. It is vital for us to acknowledge our sin to God when it occurs … when the Holy Spirit convicts us (Cf. John 16:8) … and to agree with God that we have fallen short of His command to be holy just as He is holy.  The writer of the Book of Hebrews addresses the need for confession:

Hebrews 4:11-16 (NKJV)

11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. 14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Yes, when we come before the throne of grace, we can apply the example of King David as recorded in Psalm 51 to better understand “how” to make our confessions before God. David demonstrated honesty.  He exhibited sorrow and repentance.  He recognized the authority and sovereignty of God to execute judgement for sin.  And He knew God would have mercy because of His great love and faithfulness.  Oh, we cannot feign anything with God.  He knows our hearts.  He knows the truth. All things, including the inclinations within our hearts, are naked and open to the eyes of Him before whom we MUST GIVE account.  Jesus knows our weaknesses … and He wants to restore us to fellowship with Him.  Confession and repentance are the first steps to reconciliation … and the sacrifices of a broken spirit – a broken and contrite heart – are the path to restoration.

Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever! (Cf. Psalm 106:1)

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

A.S.K.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

A few weeks ago, as I drove my granddaughter Kennedy to school, she asked me a question.  The question was concerning whether her mother should ask a client if Kennedy might be able to volunteer in their nursing home this summer.  Well, I thought that was the greatest idea … for an 8-year old to spend time with our elderly and to learn the deeper lessons of compassion.  I was truly touched by her sincerity….  Anyway, she repeated the question.  Would it be okay to ask for the administrator’s permission?

Well, I seized the moment and told her Jesus would like to give her some advice.  And then I proceeded to quote her this passage:  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Well, she thought that was pretty cool….  So I began to tell her this verse from Matthew 21:21-22:  21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (See also Mark 11:23-24) Well, now I had her attention.  So I threw one more at her from 1 John 5:14-15 which reads:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.”  By this time Kennedy had wised up and asked me if we could just go to Dunkin Donuts and get some Munchkins!  LOL!  And of course Granddaddy simply answered, “Ask and you shall receive.”

What a wonderful time for me … to share the Word of God with a sensitive young heart.  And I think that moment we shared somehow planted another seed of faith within her.  And I hope this little story planted a reminder in your own heart – to spend intimate time in prayer with the Father.  Prayer is the most powerful conduit we have to access the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and spiritual resources of God.  He is ever present … ever available to us!  Like a small child – go to Him in prayer.

Luke 11:10-13 (NIV)

10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

            A – Ask and it will be given to you     

            S – Seek and you will find

            K – Knock and the door will be opened to you

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

When Hard Pressed

Psalm 118:5-6

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; He brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

Feeling uncertain about what lies ahead in your life? Feeling distressed? Feeling anxious or stressed? Afraid?

In Psalm 118, King David describes how he managed his countenance when he felt surrounded and overwhelmed from the stresses of life.  Interestingly, as I read this Psalm, I noted that it begins with this thought: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”  For indeed, His love is an everlasting love. (Cf. Psalm 103:17; Jeremiah 31:3) And His love is the source of the courage we need to face the challenges and hardships that we will encounter in life.

This passage affords us insight into what action we should take when “hard pressed” in life – namely, we should cry out to the Lord.  Go to the quiet place … the secret place … and pour out your heart before Him.  Yes, it is natural and normal to cry … to weep … to seek refuge … to seek consolation and understanding.  When we become distressed, our first thought should be to find the place of refuge God makes available to those who love Him.  To cry out is not to groan and complain! To cry out is not an attempt to run from our problems or to ignore them.  Rather, to cry out is the first step we need to take to confront them.  We need to go to the Father in prayer … release our feelings to Him … and then wait … and listen.

What you and I go through in managing our emotions and our responses to the circumstances of life in this fallen world is a common process for us all. There are physiological aspects for sure (we’re human), but there are spiritual aspects as well. And getting distressed and anxious and fearful is not what God has in mind for us.  On the contrary, He wants trust and faith to abound within us. David wrote, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”  He goes on to share: “The Lord is with me; He is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. 14 The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” (Psalm 118:7-9; 14)

James indicates that the emotion we should feel is joy whenever we face various trials.  Now I agree to feel joy would be difficult at best when we are suffering, hurting, feeling overwhelmed or hard pressed, but I encourage us to consider the reason that James goes in this direction :

James 1:2:8 (NIV)

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 perseveranceLet perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anythingIf any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Trouble, hardship, suffering … these test our faith – our trust in God.  But the outcome of this process is to produce perseverance. When David cried out to the Lord, he probably did so in an effort to find consolation for his emotions … or the reassurance God had not forsaken him. But I believe David also prayed to seek wisdom from God. He had difficult and complex problems to manage and resolve.  He was stressed out because of the pressures he felt.  Yet, David knew God loved him and would understand what he was feeling and going through.  He knew where to find both comfort and answers.  Indeed, God will give us the wisdom to solve our problems if we would but ask Him – and then trust in the answer He gives. Yet, sometimes that wisdom does not take the form of an executable plan of action.  Sometimes wisdom is just silence in the deep quiet of God’s presence … trusting Him for the unseen and for the unknown.  Did He not say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you?” (Cf. Hebrews 13:5-6)

A final thought on the consolation we receive from God when we paddle through the rough waters of life.  What we experience, the triumphs and failures … the victories and defeats, all these shape us.  They grow us.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) As James wrote, they make us “mature and complete” in faith.  And so, I believe God wants to use all of the brokenness each of us has felt and endured and navigated, to be useful and effective as we minister to others in their situations.  As overcomers, God has created us in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) So I will end with this passage from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 where Paul wrote: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (and afflictions), so that we can comfort those in any trouble (or distress) with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

When you reflect on your life … the stresses and anxieties and fears that arise … when you are hard pressed and need to make decisions, cry out to the Lord!  He is there! He is waiting for you!  He is listening!  As you trust Him, the Lord will order your steps and delight in the progress you make growing in faith. (Cf. Psalm 37:23-24) Then as you mature, and your faith is being completed, share your story with others.  Your own life experience is a proven platform to minister to others … to love others as you have been loved. As the Scripture above stated, the comfort you will receive from God is given so that you can comfort others who experience the same trials you have endured.  I pray our own prodigal experiences can be used by the Father to bring other prodigal children home to Him.  For it is our own stories of repentance … return … reconciliation … restoration … and redemption that testify to the incredible, unsurpassed, love of God for us. As David said: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!