At Peace in His Presence

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”  Psalm 23:1-2

David saw that in our relationship with God there is a peace that cannot be found in any other place.  The phrases “lie down” and “still waters” show the sheep, in the very famous psalm exalting the LORD as our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1), being unafraid due to the wonderful care of the Shepherd.

Sheep, who are naturally fearful animals, are at peace in His presence, regardless of what the world may be experiencing.

The Bible gives us many references to the peace that we find in our relationship with God.  Some of my favorites are:

  • Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
  • John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
  • John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
  • Philippians 4:6-7 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

All of these solidify the type of relationship the sheep have with the shepherd; the type of relationship we experience in Jesus Christ our ultimate Shepherd (John 10:11).  Many are grasping at various things and pursuits to fill their life with peace.  This peace and serenity can only be found under the protection of the Shepherd.

If you cannot find peace today, simply look to Jesus, and there you will find peace in His presence.

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. . . Because of God

Many of us are familiar with the story of Joseph.  We have the main points in his life down pat: his coat of many colors, his dreams, and his interpretation of others’ dreams.  We know of him being sold into slavery by his own brothers, his life in Egypt, the accusations of Potiphar’s wife, and his imprisonment.  But how closely do we pay attention to his actual relationship with God?  Do we focus more on the “From the Pit to the Palace,” side of things than on his integrity before God?

In his story, Joseph appears to start out as a young man who is a bit boastful and can’t wait to tell every listening ear his dream.  (I’m not saying he was boastful, just that it appears so).  His dreams became so that they incurred the hatred of his brothers.  This hatred would boil up within them until it filled them with violent intentions.  At one point, they thought murder was one option to rid them of this dreamer.  Instead of killing him, they opted to get rid of him while making a little money on the side.  They sold him into slavery.

In what appeared as the hardest time of his young life, Joseph’s relationship with God deepened.  This showed in the way God cause him to be prosperous and favored no matter where life put him (Genesis 39:3, 21).  Joseph also displayed the importance of his devotion to God in not sinning against God (Genesis 39:9) and in his refusal to take credit for all that God was doing through him (Genesis 40:8; 41:16, 28, 32).

God blessed Joseph with this incredible gift yet in his humility and dependence upon God, he denounced any accolades of his own.  He considered himself to be a vessel, realizing that “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace,” (Genesis 41:16).

The humility of Joseph took him far in life.  Eventually, he became second in command over Egypt.  Had he gotten big-headed I’m sure the story would’ve turned out quite differently.  If he had reverted to the “Me, Myself and I” attitude that a lot of people seem to display, Joseph’s story would not have been noted as the legacy we now know.

“It’s not in me,” Joseph readily proclaims.  The Bible tells us, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).  The Apostle Paul out-and-out tells us what Joseph already proclaimed.  We don’t have it in us!  Any gifts, any abilities, any special insights, and any favor – we have it because of God!  There’s no room for a self-sufficient attitude when God is trying to work in you.

When Daniel went before king Nebuchadnezzar to interpret his dream, Daniel, like Joseph, admitted his frailty as a human.  He said, “This secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living,” (Daniel 2:30).  He did not consider himself anything special just because he could interpret dreams rather, he gave glory to God, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his,” (Daniel 2:20).

Standing before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was asked, “Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?” (Daniel 2:26).  Daniel answered much like Joseph did.  He said, “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days,” (Daniel 2:28).

It is amazing the miracles that God can perform through the one who will not compete with Him to gain the credit.  When God instructed Gideon to go against the Midianites with only three hundred men, He did so, “lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me,” (Judges 7:2).  When there is competition for glory, God will retain His!  If one is in competition with Him they are “against” Him and God can’t work mightily through them!

It’s not just an Old Testament thing.  Peter said, “Why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12).  Let’s face it, we are human, and unless God puts it in us – unless God gives it to us, we don’t have anything to offer this world.  “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven,” (John 3:27).

Let’s do a credit check today.  Not to decipher our financial status but rather our relationship status with God.  It’s not “Me, Myself and I,” but it’s God working in us.  Let’s stand with Joseph and declare, “It’s not in me: God shall give . . . an answer . . .” (Genesis 41:16).  Everything that we have or are able to do in life is because of God.

Blessings to you . . .

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God’s Omniscient View

In dealing with any adverse condition, circumstance, or trouble one thing’s for sure: God knows all about it and He has the final say! This was proven at the beginning of the book of Job when He limited what Satan could do (see Job 1:12 and Job 2:6) and at the end when God commanded a double blessing over Job’s life (see 42:10) and we see that “The LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning . . .” (Job 42:12a).

But what about the in-between?  That’s the hard thing about trying to hold on while going through the trials of this life isn’t it?  We don’t know the outcome as we are traveling through those difficult times. How awesome would it be to see the beginning from the end; yet, that would not allow our faith to be exercised and stretched, for the Bible says, “(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

While we may not be able to see or even understand everything we are dealing with or going through; while we may not have an omniscient overview of our life, God does.  He is omniscient meaning He is all-knowing.  The Bible lets us know, “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).  There are no limits to what He knows, sees, or understands.

Isaiah 46:10 also reassures us that God is, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”  In other words, to reiterate my previous statement: “God has the final say” and His purposes for our lives will stand because He is the only one who knows all about it!

Be encouraged today, my friend, knowing that God’s got this no matter how chaotic, difficult, hurtful, or wrong it seems right now.  He, in His divine sovereignty, sees it all and has it all under control.  His view of our life is so much better than our own.  Hold on and trust the God who is infinitely all-knowing.

Have a very blessed day!

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A new attitude for a new day . . .

A new attitude for a new day . . . “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

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In Christ, we are the possessors of the promise!

In Christ, we are the possessors of the promise! If God promised it, it is yours!  “. . . So whatever the LORD our God takes possession of before us, we will possess.” Judges 10:24

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Praying . . . 5/20/22

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God, we as Your people stand before You today both as hopeless, and yet as being full of hope. If it is to ourselves we look for strength and resources then we are a hopeless bunch because there is no good thing in us. But, if it is You and Your mercy we are leaning on then our lives have nothing but hope because You, Lord, are the Author of all that can be and when we are trusting in You, we have the possibility of everything before us. Help us this day to keep looking to You where we can find hope, and not to ourselves. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, AMEN!
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Opinions

Opinions, everyone offers them.  Sometimes they are solicited, and sometimes not.

Opinions can be a welcomed, new perspective on a matter.  Then again, opinions can be discouraging whether the basis of them is right or wrong.

The thing we must remember about opinions when referring to people is just that, they are someone’s opinions.  What that means is it may or may not be factual.  It may or may not be the best option for your case.  It only means that is the way another views whatever matter is before them.  It is their best evaluation of the situation.

Does this mean they are wrong?  No.  Does it mean they are right?  No.  An opinion, again, is what it is, an opinion.

Does that mean we shun all opinions given to us?  If we are wise, the answer is no.  The reason being, that while opinions are opinions, the Bible constantly encourages us to seek wise counsel.  Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise,” and there are many more verses written like this that support these same thoughts.

As much as some would like to ignore the fact, there are people who know more than we do and we can glean from their knowledge, expertise, and experience concerning the different matters of life.  We do not know everything in and of ourselves and so prudence demands that we get close to wise counselors and partake of what they have and can teach us to enrich our lives.

Now, the opposite of that is invalidated opinions or harmful opinions.  The thoughts of others that can put a grinding halt on your life and mission.  These interferences disrupt the flow of your day if you allow them and can be a damper on the fire that God has placed inside of us.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul, being at the forefront of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ through many regions of the world in his day often came under the scrutiny of others’ opinions.  One particular time that stands out to me was when he and the other 275 passengers aboard a broken ship had to either swim to shore for safety or float there on pieces of the broken ship (see Acts 28 and chapters prior for the entire story).

Once on shore, Paul gathered sticks for a fire, and out of the heat, a snake bit him and attached itself to his hand (Acts 28:3).  When those on the island that were gathered there saw this, they claimed that Paul was a murderer who may have escaped the sea but was still going to get his just desserts (Acts 28:4-5).

Paul, not phased by them or the snake, shook the creature off and went on about his business while the others stood to see what would become of him, expecting him to fall down dead.

When Paul didn’t respond as they thought he would to the snake bite, their opinion of Paul changed quickly in the eyes of these people.  They changed their view of him based off of what they could see with their natural eyes and started to call him a god (Acts 28:6).

That is a very dramatic turn from being labeled as a murderer and then having the script flipped to the people claiming he was a god.  This shows us how quickly, and how circumstantially, people’s views of you can change.

The problem is, that too many people have halted what God has placed in their hearts because of the opinions of others.  Too many have let others revoke their dreams or dictate their calling when it is the Father who knows His good will and thoughts toward you (Jeremiah 29:11).

Constantly looking to others for validation can hinder the mission God has placed you on.  If Paul had succumbed to their opinions, as one labeled a murder, he could have tucked-tail, turned, and hid in a corner, which would not benefit where God placed him and what God wanted to do through him.  By the way, while on that island, some were able to be healed due to the Paul becoming aware of their illness and being able to pray for them (see Acts 28:7-10).

If Paul allowed his head to get puffed-up when others claimed he was a god, he would have been no good for God’s mission in that place and in the places he was traveling to.

Please, and I mean, please with fervency on top, let me reiterate, that there is much wisdom in wise counsel.  Almost the whole book of Proverbs reads as wise counsel on what to do and not to do and the one who wants wisdom would be wise to follow it.  And verses like Proverbs 19:20, which says, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” really stand out on the importance of seeking and following through on wise instruction.  DO NOT neglect this great gift of available wisdom.

But, don’t let the invalidated opinions of others sway you from your calling.  If you are unsure about a matter, seek good, godly wisdom (as noted above).  Also, never forget that the greatest source of wisdom and knowing of what to do in an unsure time is to look to God Himself.  Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

If you are having a hard time figuring it out, pray for a heart of discernment because we DO NOT want to lean on our own opinions if they are wrong, either.  Don’t get hung up on self.  Again, we have these nuggets of wisdom from Proverbs: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits” (16:2), “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (16:25), and “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts” (21:2).

Above all, we want to be right with God for it is what He thinks of us, His knowledge and His perspective about our life, and what He wants from us and for us that matters the most.

Overcome the obstacles of false opinions, seek wise counsel, and look to God above all else.  He is your confident source for all of life’s decisions.

God bless you.

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Praise From God

Many of us are familiar with the sons of Jesse being ceremoniously paraded before the prophet Samuel to see who would be anointed as the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16).

As with most people, Samuel viewed the potential candidates according to what he could see, judging by their physical appearance.  But it was God who interrupted his erroneous train of thought and informed Samuel the criteria by which He judges is far from the world of human perspective, saying, “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Praise from God will never be about what everyone else sees.  Praise from God will never be given based on what is done on the outside of an individual.  Outward rituals and performances never impress our God so much as the inner moving of one’s heart.

God has always been in love with the inner man, for it is only in that place of hiddenness where one’s true character and motives reside.  In this place, God’s eyes and knowing go beyond the scope of the visible.  God’s view of a person is more thorough in reach and scope than any human eye can fathom in that secret place inside.

People work strenuously to put on a show for others.  Do the right things, say the right words, and they will see that you are a good person.   Performance in a certain way will gain you the right audience and praise from people, right?

How we behave on the outside can be an overflow of the true character on the inside, but this is not always so.  While things may look good on the outside, the heart is what matters to God the most. And it is what’s in the heart that receives praise from God.

Paul wrote in Romans, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:28-29; emphasis mine), meaning it doesn’t matter the rituals and performances one does on the outside to make themselves to appear to be a child of God, rather it is “the circumcision is that of the heart” that matters most.

My friend, we are living for the praise of God, living to please Him with our lives.  Outward rituals will never impress Him like a true heart that has been changed from the inside out instead of one trying to work righteousness from the outside in.

There are a lot of things that can touch your heart, but when living for God and loving Him touches it more, then something beautiful takes place there.  Something that cannot be ignored by the Father.

Prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Psalm 139:23-24. 

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The Common Thread

There are many things that make us unique creatures.  We all have something that is particularly special about us.

You may be that one with the personality that instantly lightens up a room when you enter in.  Or, you may be a great analytical thinker – a real go-getter and problem solver.

Perhaps you are a great encourager who puts a smile on the face of others.  You may be a great cook, a tinkerer, and a fixer of many things.

As many as there are people on this earth, there are just that many ways to think, do, and perform the things that make you uniquely you.

All the different features and skills – they are remarkably you as God’s unique design.  Knowing this, David says, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:141).

But in the community of humanity, looking through the scope of everything that makes us us, there is one thing many fail to remember.  Universally speaking, we all have this common thread: “The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2, NKJV).  

Not one of us placed ourselves here (truth).

Not one of us was spawned from higher dirt than others (how absurd).

Not one of us gave life to ourselves (can I get an amen).

Through our many differences, there are more things about us that are the same.  And with God being the maker of all, there really is no reason for any to sport a superiority complex or to live under an inferiority complex.

In the grand scheme of humanity, we are all God’s beautiful creation.

Above Photo Source

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In Christ, We Are Free!

Grace is God’s move to save souls.  Grace is something that has been afforded to us by God.  To revert back to the old covenant would be a moment of rejection, saying what Christ did on the cross was not enough.

The Bible emphatically lets the believer know over and over again, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8).  Our salvation is us receiving what we did not deserve, that unmerited favor.  Thus, we are no longer “under the law, but under grace,” (Romans 6:14).  To return to the old covenant is a return to the law.  Galatians gives this warning, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace,” (5:4, ESV).

That move would undo the work that God accomplished by sending His Son to the cross.  If the law and adherence to those rituals could have saved mankind once and for all, then Jesus Christ would have never needed to come to this earth, be born a babe in a manger just to die on that old rugged cross, bearing the sins of the world.  Paul wrote in the book of Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” (Galatians 2:20-21, emphasis mine; see also Gal. 3:21).

Jesus very plainly spoke, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6).  John the Baptist also declared, “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” (John 1:16-17).

Before Paul’s life was changed on that day on the road to Damascus he was known as Saul.  Before Jesus met him there and shined on his life a new mission, he was a persecutor.  Before grace met him in the midst of his sin, he was bound by the law.  At one point Paul told of his background enveloped in legalism and trusting in works of the flesh, saying, “Though I might have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless,” (Philippians 3:4-6).  According to the law, Paul had all the right marks checked off his list.

Yet, when Christ changed his life all that previous stuff was counted as “loss for Christ,” (Philippians 3:7).  His life now was marked by faith and grace.  He wrote to the Corinthian church, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me,” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Now, he encourages those in Galatia to let their walk of faith be molded by the grace of God and not by the bondage of the law wherewith they have been made free, as his life now demonstrates.  He wants their life to be marked by the power of Christ living on the inside and not by outward symbols and empty rituals reminding them, and us who are born of the Spirit:

“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” Galatians 4:28-31

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