“God is in Your Midst!”

“The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing,” Zephaniah 3:17

With the glow of the Christmas season behind us and packed away, the wonder of God coming near man should not be packed away also.  Oh, we hear it often leading up to December 25th, the promise that tells us, “They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us,” (Mt. 1:23).  What of the rest of our days?  Days past the Christmas season when trials of the mundane and every day rock your boat; when the disappointments of failure and difficulties of decisions come to war?

What then?

God is still here!

I thank God that that promise is just not for the Christmas season.  We are told over and over again in Scripture of the availability of God to draw near to man.  From Genesis through to Revelation speaks to the heart of man: “I am here.”  Exodus 17:7 asks the question, “Is the LORD among us, or not?”

The answer is a positive, “YES!”

Not only is He here but He is “mighty!”  Mighty means He is strong enough to handle whatever life throws at you.  Nothing surprises Him and nothing is impossible for Him, Luke 1:37.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Ps. 46:1).

The rest of this verse is just as reassuring.  God not only is in the midst, but He also specializes in deliverance.  In the above verse, it says, “He will save.”  To the person who yields to Him in faith, God can bring release.

Lastly, God will “rest in his love.”  God loves us.  His love is present with Him in the midst of where He is.  His love is assurance.  His love brings with it peace.  His love causes Him to “joy over thee with singing.”  Yes, God sings over the people He loves; “For God is love!” (1 Jn. 4:8).

God is here in your midst and with Him comes all His wonderful attributes of care and concern for His people.

“Peace on Earth”

Sin has destroyed peace.  Circumstances try to overrun peace.  Emotions can’t seem to grab hold of peace but, if this time of year teaches us nothing else, it’s that peace is still a very real thing to not only seek after but to find.

The Savior was born for peace.  He came to reconcile, restore, and offer peace to mankind of the likes they never could have else wise imagined having.  His peace is not commercial and it’s not superficial.  The peace of Christ is an inner peace that comes from knowing that even through the hardest trials of life, God’s love for each of us is so magnificent that He offered us this great gift, the best Christmas gift we could ever hope for, through His Blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace should not be so elusive for the heart to behold.  While the Shepherds were in that field on that holy night, the chorus of the angels rang out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” (Luke 2:14).  Peace is part of the salvation package; it’s part of the gift we have received through Him.  While it may not always seem like it or even feel like it, in Christ you have a peace which, “passeth all understanding,” and this peace “shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:7).

Your life hidden in Him is something beyond human comprehension.  You are cemented in a joy that cannot be moved because the One who holds your hope cannot be moved.  Your Redeemer came as a babe and reigns as Victor and He, being the Author of your salvation, is not only your eternal reward in heaven, but He is your peace on earth today.

Father God, Help us through this season.  Not just the holiday season, but these seasons of life that we find ourselves wrapped in.  There are so many questions of why that we may not always understand.  There are circumstances that often we just cannot figure out.  Thankfully, You know it all together and you didn’t ask us to try to know the beginning from the end because You already do.  You asked us to have faith and just rest in the peace that Your Son has already given us.  For many, this time of year is very hard.  For some situations, we can’t begin to imagine the hurt and confusion one carries, so we stand and pray that people everywhere would feel a refreshing of Your peace in their lives today.  AMEN!

“The Babe of Bethlehem”

“And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,  And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” Matthew 2:5-6

At the writing of Matthew 2:5-6, over 700 years have gone by since the Old Testament prophet Micah told of a Ruler that would be birthed out of this little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-3).  While over those centuries of waiting, countless babies have entered this world and linked the beginning of their lives to this motherland, only One’s heritage can connect the dots with those long-ago words that herald the coming of the Savior of the world.

He would be the freedom the world has longingly yearned for.  He would be the peace, souls since the beginning of time, have dreamt about.  He would be the Shepherd who would not lead with a rod or a staff, but with His life.  This blessed Babe of Bethlehem would be the all eternal One, whose days are from everlasting (Micah 5:).  He would be the Babe seen as He “who is, and who was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” (Revelation 1:8), and He would change everything the world once knew.

No wonder hearts were stirred.  No wonder souls were searching with excitement.  No wonder kingdoms were in a ruckus.  The Babe of Bethlehem was no ordinary babe.  He was God incarnate, God in the flesh, “God with us,” (Matthew 1:23).  The imperfect people born in this world would need the help of that perfect Savior born in Bethlehem.

The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of that precious Babe who had finally arrived in the world to bring this long-awaited hope.  He that was born as the prophesied Messiah would lift the judgment of condemnation for those who not only seek Him but find Him.  And, they are no longer content to have Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, but their soul’s desire is to wrap Him in their hearts.

 

“…But Lord, I Thank You!” – Word For Life Says

Job 1:20-22 “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”

Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Job 19:25-27 “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:  Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”

Anytime we see a “…” in a sentence it expresses a train of thought and direction or a transition if you will.  That “…” is very important to this message.

Times of transition can be good and bad.  When one is engrossed in unpleasant circumstances a nice change of pace can be just what the doctor ordered.  It breathes new life into you and lifts your spirits high making you feel as if you are on cloud nine.  At the same time, when one is entering times of affliction, lack of any sort of substandard anything compared to what they are used to, the feelings of dread and just suffering through take over.

There are different seasons that everyone goes through in life.  There are times of joy and there are times of pain.  While we don’t mind dealing with the seasons of joy and happiness that come our way, a whole other story could be told for the times of pain and suffering we encounter.

There are seasons, even for the Christian, that come that are not too pleasant.  There are times when the people of God had to endure trials and tribulations.  There are episodes of turmoil that have wiggled their way into our families, our lives, our jobs, and our finances.

Sometimes difficult and new stuff pops up out of nowhere, things you weren’t looking to happen in this season of life, and it has blindsided you and caught you off guard.  There may be things that surprised you and now you just don’t know which way you are going.  The road hasn’t always been easy to travel.  We are looking for the new.  We need a transition.  We are in need of a “…” moment.

It’s time to move from the victim mentality and don a praise mentality.  It’s time to move from the feeling defeated mentality to no matter what’s going in my life, “…Lord, I just want to thank You” mentality.

A praise mentality says no matter the situation we are going through I still have a reason to worship.  We still have a reason to lift our hands in utter adoration!  We still have a reason to fall to our knees in prayer!  We still have a reason to believe His grace and mercy is at work in our lives!  I still have a reason to say, “Thank You!”

Job is one of the most figurative Bible characters who we surmise as suffering outside of Jesus Christ our Savior.  So, I figured if anybody can teach us how to be thankful despite what we’re going through it could be Job.

Job was a man whom God describes in the Bible as being upright and perfect, Job 1:8.  He is known for turning himself away from the path of evil, not giving it a foothold in his life.  Yet, in his righteous living, he was still susceptible to being tested in some of the worse ways possible.  He lost everything from possessions down to the very people he loved the most in life.

Job’s experiences can be summed up in that one word: suffering. Job knew suffering.  Job knew what it was like to love and lose; to have and to have not.  What’s more is he lost everything at the same time, piling traumatic event after traumatic event on till he thought his heart couldn’t take any more (read Job 1-2 for greater detail).

Sitting in a pile of ashes with seemingly nothing left, could he at least find comfort in the good word of a friend? Will they speak encouragement to help him carry the weight of his burdensome troubles?

The answer sadly is, “No.”  His friends started out with good intentions but by the time they reach chapter 4, Job’s friends became what is known as “miserable comforters.”  They decided to chime in with their opinions of what was right and wrong.  This was where their attempts at comfort went downhill.  They berated Job and blamed him for all that he was going through.

Job literally had no one and the weight of the world was upon his shoulders, but his response to his trials is what blew my mind away.  When things first began to unravel for him, in the verses we read in chapter 1 he shaved his head, fell down on his face and he worshipped.

The words that came out of his mouth were of praise and thanks.  He said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!

That word “blessed” is synonymous with celebrating God with praise in spite of.  That word blessed is acknowledging God is good no matter what the circumstances around me say.  That word blessed is also translated in the New and Old Testament to give thanks!  “Blessed be the name of the LORD!”  Job, with his shaved head of sorrow and humble spirit, gave God thanks amid the sorrow he was going through!

His response reminds me of Psalm 34:1 where the psalmist proclaimed, “I will bless the Lord at all times and His praise shall continually be in my mouth!”  I will thank God always and I will never stop celebrating His goodness!  I will show God gratitude always and I will never stop lifting Him up.  I will appreciate God even in this and I will never stop recognizing that He and He only is God of my life.

Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  My always for all things may not look the way I want it to right now, but Lord I thank You, is what he’s saying!  I am not saying thank you because I like problems, but I am saying thank You because I know the God I serve.  I am saying thank you because He is working on the inside to change things on the outside.  I am saying thank you because God is setting us up for a future that is glorious in Him!  Therefore, “…Lord, I just want to thank You!”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  I am in Christ; therefore I give thanks!  I have been washed by the blood, therefore I give thanks.  Yes, life hurts sometimes and yes, the walls come crashing down sometimes, but I owe God a praise.  I thank God for seeing me through every trouble, every storm that blows my way!  “…Lord, I just want to thank You!”

Job’s response went even further than this.  In Job 19, he said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives.”  Things were not exactly turning in his favor.  At that time, his today didn’t look any better than his yesterday.  His friends are still in his face challenging him with their accusations.  But, despite his personal persecutions, he emphatically declares, “I know . . .”

Knowing speaks of assurance. A declaration of knowing tells doubt there is no place here for you. “Know” is certain that this is what it is. And, what he is certain of is “my redeemer liveth.” God is alive and will always be alive. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” (Revelation 1:8).

“He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”  Job knew that God was and is the end-all of all authority, victory and power. Standing upon anything denotes mastery and dominion of said object.  Job knew where his trust lies.  In God who is victorious: “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him,” (Psalm 68:1).  Paul, speaking of Christ said He, “hath put all things under his feet…,” (Ephesians 1:22).  Even this.

“And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”  There is hope beyond the here and now. Physically, it didn’t look good for Job. He had “sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown,” (Job 2:7).  He, in dealing with the pain of his body and the pain of his heart must have thought there is not that much more time left. At one point of desperation, things had gotten so bad, Job prayed for death (see Job 6:8-9).

Despite it all, he knew that there was a better day beyond the corruption of his flesh.  His body, when the time came, would lie in the ground and the worms would have their way with him, but he looked forward to another glorious time when “in my flesh shall I see God.”  Things were hard for Job, but in his speech, you can still see his faith alive and active in what he believes: and he believes GOD!  Therefore, “I bless God!  I give God thanks!”

Job teaches us how to respond to God in midst of trials and troubles.  He may have been down, especially when his friends attacked him, but he still recognized God for who He is.  He basically transitioned his mentality to shift his focus from what was before him to the God who can save Him.

Yes, he grew weary and even questioned why he was going through what he was going through.  Who wouldn’t?  But, through it all you still see his faith in God come to the forefront in the midst of his story.

In the end, Job was blessed with a double portion of blessings.  God testified of Job to his friends.  God spoke up for Job and said, “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath,” (Job 42:7).

It’s not too late for God to turn it around and to testify on your behalf.  The week of Thanksgiving is here, and this year is not over yet.  There is still room for a blessing.  And, even if not – if God never does another thing for us, can we say, “Lord, I thank You?”

At the end of the day, as hard as it may be sometimes, we must transition our thinking and say “… But Lord, I thank YOU!”

 

“When the Father speaks…”

There is a lot of inner dialogue that goes on and there is a lot of outer dialoguing that goes on.  The inner dialogue comes from the person within.  It talks to oneself sometimes words of encouragement, and that’s okay.  But, when it begins to express doubt, confusion and rehearses hurt repeatedly, it becomes a dangerous voice causing one to lose out on some of the best stuff God has for them.

The outer dialogues we hear daily comes from the voices all around.  Again, sometimes one may hear words of love, but when these voices speak criticism, discouragement, and put-downs, their words need to be silenced and replaced because they are not doing anything to one up or to help along the way.

Any voice, inner or outer, which speaks contrary to the words of the Father, must be made to shut up.  When the Father speaks, His is a heavenly dialogue, and what He has to say far outweighs any word on earth.

When the Father speaks His words are power.  “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God,” (Psalm 62:11).  Every other speech will fail and grow weak when it meets up against the strength of what He has to say.  “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12).

When the Father speaks His words are fulfilling.  “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it,” (Isaiah 55:11).  In the sea of worthless words that drown the hearing of this world, God’s Word can be trusted to do what He said He would do.  It will succeed at everything spoken of it.

When the Father speaks His words are truth.  False speech seems to dominate this world.  Whatever the platform, people are careless and deceitful with the words that they throw around.  But God’s words are dependable and faithful.  They are “truth” (John 17:17) and His words don’t lie (Numbers 23:19).  “For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth,” (Psalm 33:4).

When the Father speaks His words are life.  Jesus said, “…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life,” (John 6:63).  Not only are His words filled with life-giving power in the here and now, but when He speaks they are words of eternal life (John 6:68).  For those who believe in His Word, it will provide them with everything they need to live.

And, when the Father speaks, it is forever.  “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever,” (Isaiah 40:8; see also Matthew 24:35).  There will never be a time when His Word will not be.  All the inner and outer dialogues that take place daily will eventually pass away.  But, everything declared in His Word, shall be forever.  It’s not going anywhere.  Therefore, we can stake our very lives on it, live by it, and hope in it.  Because, when the Father speaks, His Word will always be there for us through it all.

Today, when the Father speaks, let His voice be louder than all others and let His words be the strength for your day.

“God’s Got You Covered!”

 

Do you ever feel opened and exposed during the trials of life?  Do you ever feel that the enemy has free pickings when it comes to your heartache?  Well, he doesn’t!  The enemies of this life may chase you, hunt you down and all together seek to make your life miserable, but the enemies do not have the last say over anything.  God, in His complete sovereignty, has you covered!

If anybody knew about being constantly chased by enemies seeking to take their life it was David.  Saul, in a jealous pursuit, saw something special in David, the favor of God, and wanted to destroy David.  There were days when David may have felt like giving up.  There were days of hiding in caves and pretending to be a mad-man to seek solitude in other countries.  But, through it all David dealt best with his enemies through prayer.  He declared who his God was and committed his trust to Him.  In Psalm 140:7, “O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.”

To be covered means to be concealed and to be protected.  The battles of this life may at times make us feel that we are an open target to everyone who can’t stand the favor of God on us, but be of good cheer, God’s got us covered!  “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever,” (Psalm 125:2).  And, if God is like a mountain surrounding us then there is no adversary that can break through the covering He has over us.  It may feel like we are on the run sometimes but God is still that protecting force that “covered my head in the day of battle.”  Commit your heartaches, your battle and your enemies to God and let Him be your covering today.

“God, I need help.”

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Do me a favor.  Right where you are, close your eyes and think of something you are dealing with, going through, or praying for.  Utter these words before God in prayer” “God, I need help.”  And then, proceed to tell Him what you need help with.

Sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be.  So it is true when it comes to our prayer life.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have times when I spend a great deal of time before the Lord in prayer.  But I have also learned that sometimes I need to stop over-spiritualizing my prayer, and simply ask God for help in doing or going through what I am involved in at that particular moment.

Those four words, prayed with a sincere heart before the Lord, can change the scope of everything.  Whatever is before you, don’t be afraid or hesitant to pray, “God, I need help.”  God is there as your “very present help in trouble.”  He’s there for you.  All you need to do is ask for help.

“The Truth about Self-Doubt”

Image by katya899 from Pixabay

One of our most famous struggles in life is with doubt.  We have faith in and for others.  We believe God to the fullest.  Yet, doubt seeks to rob us in another area.  It’s when we allow thoughts of inferiority to enter our space.  It’s when we let the insecurity we experience on the inside come to the surface and convince us we are not enough.

We know that God is good.  And,  we know He is awesome in everything He does.  But, when it comes to convincing ourselves of what He can do in and through us we have a hard time accepting that truth in our lives because something or someone has caused us to believe we don’t measure up; we don’t have what it takes to adequately pursue what God has placed on the inside of us.

One Bible verse that has helped me overcome that line of thinking; thinking that keeps your hopes and dreams submerged in the sea of doubt is this: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 1:6).  Meaning God will finish what He started in you and He will keep on working on you until that day of Jesus Christ.

A lot of people feel some type of way about where they are in life right now.  They are viewing their lives through the lens of the journey rather than the destination.  All that God wants to do through us and for us will always be a continuing and evolving work.  We, as long as we are on the face of this earth, can never say that we have arrived.  We will never fully meet our destination point until we are face to face with Jesus.

But, already knowing where our destination finishes should give us hope for the journey.  Rather, we tend to let the journey disappoint us; we let the journey decide for us what our future will turn out to be like, telling us what we are and what we’re worth.

Our journey shouldn’t be a measure of stress or discouragement causing seeds of doubt to be planted about what God has placed in you.  Your journey is the process that’s taking you in the direction of your destination.  And, I don’t care who’s doing this or that over there or here – God still has His hands on us.  God is still working on behalf of His children.  God is still perfecting and performing stuff in our lives.  God still has a glorious future up ahead for each one of us if we will just believe, hold on, and wait through the process of His performance in us.

So, the truth about self-doubt is this: God is not finished with you yet.  Your journey is still moving.  Your story is not over.  You are not in a race to live in comparison with others.  You are a follower of His lead until you become everything He has designed you to be.  As long as you are alive and kicking, His purpose in you is alive and kicking.  Don’t count yourself out.

Another truth about self-doubt is this: it’s not about whether we think we are good enough.  It’s about the good He is able to do in us (another God-inspired thought).  You are more than what your journey appears to be.  You are measured by your destination.  You are measured by Jesus Christ inside of you leading to your destination; drawing you to trust Him in everything He is calling you to be.  If He has placed something wonderful in you, He will bring it to pass.  Just believe and hope in Him.  For in Him is where your real self-worth is found.  Therefore, since your worth is in Him and He is the one perfecting and performing your process, don’t doubt yourself and what God is able to do in you and through you.  You are so much more!

“Getting a Closer Look”

 

Photo by Roberto Delgado Webb on Unsplash

Once, I was traveling out of town and the hotel we were staying in had one of those beauty magnifying mirrors that swing out on an arm.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  They get up close and really personal in your face.  What you thought you looked like in a normal mirror became something totally different in this magnifying truth teller.

I often avoid those mirrors because there’s only so much truth about my face I want to see.  But, looking into these things a whole world of pores and things that seem to come out of nowhere all of sudden can’t be ignored.  The eyebrows need more manicuring than once thought.  Things need to be plucked, covered, or taken care of to present this face to the world before I left out that day.

As I said, I always avoided these mirrors but I must admit when I stepped back to see the final results I was more than pleased and fully intend on having one installed in my bathroom at home.

How often are we afraid to take a closer look at ourselves?  Not our face per se but at things like the inner man, our life, and our relationship with God.  Are we too afraid of what we’ll find when we look too closely?  Do we not want things revealed to us that may have gone by without a closer inspection?

God wants the best for His people but sometimes the best means we have some stuff that needs to be plucked and dealt with first.  We have to seek the beautifying of His Spirit in order to step back and see the glorious final results He has for us up ahead.

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. . .” 2 Corinthians 13:5

 

“God can do EVERYTHING!”

With a prayerful heart, I know that GOD CAN DO EVERYTHING!

So go ahead and pray for the brokenness you may see in someone’s life.  Pray for healing and restoration to take over others.  Pray for chains to break off of others.  Pray for sicknesses to be cured, pain to be covered and for peace to enter in for some.

Be built up in your faith and assure your heart that “GOD CAN DO EVERYTHING!”  Job declared it when he said, “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee,” (Job 42:2).

Everything we pray for, I know that God can do it.  He can fix the broken and heal the sick.  He can bring deliverance to those bound in chains and restore the shatter pieces of others lives.  GOD CAN DO IT!

No matter what you are facing today believe that GOD CAN DO EVERYTHING!  Whatever it is, give it to Him and believe!  He is our Good Father.  Jesus says, “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).  Be it spiritual, such as the Holy Ghost (Luke 11:11-12), or any other matter, we are encouraged to bring it to Him in prayer and cast it there (1 Peter 5:7).  Nobody can do it like HIM!