You Are My Strength…

Psalm 18:1-2 (NIV)

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 Verse of the Day continues to remind us that God is the source of our strength.  He is our rock, our fortress, and deliverer when we are facing the challenges and battles of life. He invites us to take refuge in Him … to allow Him to be our defense … our shield.  There is no power like our God! Indeed, what a powerful word we have from the inspired pen of King David!

Oh, I just sense there is someone … or perhaps many who need this Verse of the Day! You are fighting spiritual battles … that are beyond your own understanding … beyond your own strength … beyond your own abilities.  Let me assure you 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 … in order to build your faith and to increase your trust in HIM and Him alone! For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12)

Paul gives us some spiritual context for the battles we all will face in life: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons of our warfare are not of the world; on the contrary, they have divine power to demolish the strongholds of the enemy. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) Yes, the battle belongs to the Lord! It is His divine power that will carry you through them! So, I encourage you to take up the sword of the Spirit … which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) For the Word of God is the ONLY offensive weapon we have been given for battle! Yes, the Word of God is sufficient to arm you … for it is the power of God unto salvation. The Word, along with our spiritual armor, equips us to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power so that we will be able to stand our ground … and having done everything to stand! (Cf. Ephesians 6:10-17)

My friend, I encourage you to take every thought of defeat captive and to make it obedient to Christ. Through prayer, seek Him and allow Jesus to be your stronghold and fortress … your shield and strong tower. Go to Him in faith and trust that He goes ahead of you and that He is your rear-guard. Settle in your heart this truth: “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) Yes, this is my prayer for you and all who are on the front lines of suffering and hardship … for those who are in engaged in any struggle to difficult to fight alone. Take refuge! Find rest in the Lord Jesus Christ! He invites each of us: “Come unto 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.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28-30) And Jesus has promised: “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) Oh, indeed, there is peace and rest for your heart that you can receive today! His name is Jesus, and He is watching over you.  I pray that you will seek Him with all our heart….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings! ~ Psalm 61:2-4

What Do You Desire?

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Our Verse of the Day is probably a familiar verse to most of us. We often cite it with expectation that God is going to fill our lives with all the things we value and enjoy. Right? Well, perhaps we should pause and look further at the context and intent of what David is imparted when he penned these thoughts.

Verses 1-4

In this Psalm, David considers the age-old question of why evil people seem to prosper and flourish while those who endeavor to live righteous lives often experience suffering and hardship. I sense that the Psalm was written as an encouragement to the people of God not worry or fret over this matter. And it is probably a good message for us to contemplate in light of the current tension, conflict, and discord going on in our nation right now. David begins: “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither … like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

But as we read past these verses and look into the meditation that follows, David widens our perspective to envision life beyond current circumstances. He encourages us to live with a view of eternity, and he redirects us to set our hope in the everlasting purposes of God … not just what we observe or experience in the present. He affirms that there will be a time of judgment and recompense which will be accomplished on God’s timetable. To me, this confirms that most of the tension we encounter in this world is the conflict between light versus darkness. John observed: “This is the verdict. Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:19) Paul articulated: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) Still, we understand that God is sovereign even in the midst of whatever wrongdoing He permits mankind to inflict on one another. And we know that light will ultimately prevail because God is Light. (Cf. 1 John 1:5)

Verses 5-11

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Cf. Matthew 5:5)

In these and the following verses, David goes on to describe how the behavior of godless people will be judged and recompensed. Their wicked schemes will only return upon themselves. Wrongdoers will ultimately suffer the consequences of their actions. But the righteous will abide under the care of the Lord … and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster, they will not wither; in days of famine, they will enjoy plenty. (Cf. Verses 18-19) And consider this encouragement: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; others will see that their children are blessed. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones. (Cf. Verses 23-28)

Even though we observe that God allows darkness to operate in this fallen world, He is with those who fear Him. The Father loves those who are just, righteous, and faithful. “The heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice.” (Cf. Psalm 50:6) As Paul affirmed: “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Cf. Romans 2:6-10) Yes, it is clear that God will reward each person according to what he or she has done. (Cf. Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12) So we are exhorted by David, the Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ, to commit ourselves to do what is good and righteous … to trust in the Lord always … and to wait for Him and His reward.

With these things in mind, I encourage you to revisit the implication of Verse 4. I believe to take delight in the Lord is to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength … to trust and obey Him … to encounter His unfailing love, abiding grace, and peace … to love one another as He has loved us … to serve Him through offering our bodies as living sacrifices … to live worthy of Him and to please Him in every way. When we take delight in the Lord, He will GIVE us the desires of our hearts. But what are the desires of our hearts? In the context of the entire Psalm, I think we have learned that the desire of our hearts should be focused on His promise of reward … of His blessing in this life as well as the everlasting life that awaits us. Yes, our eternal inheritance … His faithful and true promises … these are the rewards for perseverance in faith! “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (Cf. John 14:1-4) Yes, to be with Lord Jesus forever IS the desire of our hearts! For He gives true life to those who abide in Him and delight themselves in Him!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us—eternal life. ~ 1 John 2:24-25

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. ~ 1 John 5:11-12

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. ~ Jude 1:20-21

Silence the Foolish

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

As I read our Verse of the Day, I began to think about the significance of its message for believers – both for 1st Century Christians and for us in this current generation as well. I believe Peter affords a challenging insight into how we should conduct ourselves in a world that we have been called out of by the Lord Jesus.  So I have reprinted a larger section of the passage to give us the context:

1 Peter 2:11-23 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the unbelievers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:9) 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.

I have emphasized the “applications” I want us to see and consider.  First, Peter states it is the will of God for us to “do good”.  Righteous conduct is not optional for Christians.  We are to do what is right in all situations. This includes both our actions and our words! And the reason is that by doing good we should silence those who in essence oppose God.  It is good conduct that God seeks in us.  We are to show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, and honor the highest offices of government which God has established.  And if we should suffer for doing good, and endure it, this is commendable before God.  Peter goes on to provide the example of our Lord Jesus in how to conduct ourselves in the face of opposition.  We should not return insult for insult.  We do not retaliate; rather, we wait upon the Lord who said: “It is mine to avenge. I will repay.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30)

Deuteronomy 32:34-41 (NIV)

34 “Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? 35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” 36 The Lord will vindicate His people and relent concerning His servants when He sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. 37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, 38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter! 39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. 40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, 41 when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Romans 12:9-19 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Hebrews 10:26-35 (NIV)

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

So, I pray that we will embrace the will of God for those who believe in Him. His will is for us to “do good” as a testimony to those who oppose Him. God has given salvation and eternal life to those who believe; and He will judge those who are disobedient … those who disdain the blood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ … those who resist and insult the grace of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God will judge His people.  We just need to do what is right and let God take care of the rest! So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Desires of Your Heart…

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

This is probably a familiar verse to most of us. We often cite it with expectation that God is going to fill our lives with all the things we value and enjoy. Right? Well, perhaps we should pause and look further at the context and intent of what David is imparted when he wrote this Psalm.

In this Psalm, David considers the age-old question of why evil people seem to prosper and flourish while those who endeavor to live righteous lives often experience suffering and hardship. I sense that the Psalm was written as an encouragement to the people of God to not worry or fret over this matter.  And it is probably a good message for us to contemplate in light of the current tension, conflict, and violence going on in our nation right now.  David begins: “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither … like green plants they will soon die away.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Verses 1-4)

But as we read past these verses and look into the meditation that follows, David widens our perspective to envision life beyond current circumstances. He encourages us to live in the light of eternity, and he redirects us to set our hope in the everlasting purposes of God … not just what we observe or experience in the present. He affirms that there will be a time of judgment and recompense which will be accomplished on God’s timetable. I think that most of the tension we encounter at the moment is the conflict between light versus darkness.  John observed: “This is the verdict.  Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) Paul articulated: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) But we see that God is sovereign even in the midst of whatever evil intent He allows mankind to inflict on one another. Light will ultimately prevail because God is light. (Cf. 1 John 1:5)

Verses 5-11

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Cf. Matthew 5:5)

In these and the following verses, David goes on to describe how the behavior of godless people will judged and recompensed. Their wicked schemes will only return upon themselves. Wrongdoers will ultimately suffer the consequences of their actions.  But the righteous will abide under the care of the Lord … and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. (Verses 18-19) And consider Verses 23-28: 23 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. 25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. 26 They are always generous and lend freely; others will see that their children are blessed. 27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.

Even though we observe that God allows evil in this world, He is with those who fear Him. The Father loves those who are just, righteous, and faithful. “And the heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice.” (Psalm 50:6) “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) And He will reward each person according to what he or she has done. (Cf. Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12) So we are exhorted by David, the Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ, to commit ourselves to what is good and righteous … to trust in the Lord always … and to wait for Him and His reward.

With these things in mind, I encourage you to revisit the meaning of Verse 4. To delight in the Lord is to love Him with all your heart … to enjoy Him … to serve Him … to please Him … to trust and obey Him. But what is the desire of your heart and mine?  In the context of the entire Psalm, we learn that the desire of our heart should be focused on the everlasting life that awaits us.  Our inheritance, His promises, are the reward for perseverance in faith.  Jesus said, 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6) Yes, to be with Lord Jesus forever is the desire of our hearts. And He will give eternal life to those who delight themselves in Him.  

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!