“Remain Strong in God!”

One morning as I was making a cup of coffee I ran out of creamer and had to open a new container.  I unscrewed the top and picked and picked at the protective seal underneath to no avail.  I couldn’t get it to rip off for anything.  Finally, out of frustration, I reached into the dishwasher and grabbed a knife and punctured a small hole in the top of the seal.  After that, it was easy for me to put my finger in the hole and manipulate the seal for its ultimate removal.  Coffee time!

This had me thinking about how the enemy works in our lives.  As long as we stay sealed up in Christ the enemy can pick and pick but our packaging in Him remains strong.  No wonder Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1-3) felt such a compelling urge to get the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt to their full strength once again.  Wherever there is a hole or a breach in any structure it allows an opportunity for an enemy to poke his nose into and gaining access to manipulate the circumstances of life.  It makes his job easier.

Paul encourages us, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord,” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Our diligence will pay off after a while.  We must be like a wall without a breach.  We must take our cue from Nehemiah to patch up any deficiencies in our spiritual walls.  We are the ones who have to be “steadfast and unmovable” to have our work count in the end.  If we stop building and maintaining our walls then they will fall to utter ruin and we will have nothing to show for our work.

We must work at the upkeep of all that God has given us.  “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not,” (Galatians 6:9).  Our press matters.  Our work matters.  Our walls matter.  We must continue forth with the mentality of Nehemiah when he stated, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down…” (Nehemiah 6:3).  The enemy wants to thwart your work so that holes and weaknesses can be left for him to poke and manipulate.  But, if we want to “reap” then we must not “faint.”  We must push forth in doing good and leave the benefits to God.

Obtaining coffee creamer that morning was a struggle until I broke the seal.  Don’t let the enemy break your seal.  Stay covered in Christ and push forth until the end for your reward is coming.  Now is not the time to give in or give up.  If necessary, ask God to help you repair what is broken that you may be whole once again.  Remain strong in God!  You can do this!

Be blessed.

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“Before there was Egypt, there was a promise!”

Many times when we discuss the land of Egypt within the confines of the Bible, our minds automatically trackback to the time when the children of Israel were in bondage there.  We see them under the weight of the taskmasters, dealing with oppressive circumstances that are beyond their control.  They stand by and watch as some are beaten, others are killed; lack and degrading situations run rampant throughout their time there.  Fear, hatred, and jealousy by others drove them to the place where they are residing; a place where tough days seem like they will never come to an end.

Often times, when people find themselves in a hard spot of life, or when they find themselves coming up short and just not happy with the way things are turning out at this particular time, they refer to that circumstance as their place of “Egypt.”  This is where heartbreak and troubling times lie.  This is the place where it seems everything is fighting against them and no matter what one does it just doesn’t appear that they will ever come out on top.  People may not have taskmaster’s whips to deal with, but other things just lash and lash out at them, making it hard to get back up again.

As hard as this may be to believe, I assure you your Egypt will not last forever.  I’m sure the children of Israel had doubts about this.  After all, their time there lasted about four hundred years.  Yet, even before this family of seventy ventured into the land and grew to the astronomical numbers we see in Exodus, God knew all about their time there before they were even there.

In Genesis 15:13 God told Abram, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”  Outside of that prophecy God also said, “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance,” (Genesis 15:14).  In this we see, there was a promise before they even set one foot in Egypt; before they even encountered a problem, God already had a blessing lined up for when they came out.

Today, we fight against so many unknowns.  We deal with all the this and that’s of life that it simply just weighs one down.  One might not find themselves in a literal state of captivity, but something just sits on them heavy, becoming an almost unbearable burden, that they just don’t know what to do.  With a feeling of exasperation, some just give up, content just to go through the motions of life, without grabbing hold of the feeling of hope because of the fear of being let down again, just to drift back into that state of uncertainty once more.

But, I am here to tell you today, continue hoping and never give up.  Your “Egypt” is not lost on God.  God knows what you are facing.  He knows every disappointment you are dealing with.  He knows every struggle you are battling.  He knows everything that you are fighting through and that’s fighting against you.

It may be hard to see the proverbial silver lining in a dark cloud at times or the light at the end of the tunnel, but we have something better.  We have a promise!  God told Abram when his people came out, they were coming out better than when they went in.  God was going to judge those who did them wrong, and God was going to bless them greatly.

Another promise Abram received was in a few verses prior to those noted above.  God told him, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be,” (Genesis 15:5).  Not only were they going to be blessed, but they were going to come out increased in the people they were.  To go from one individual to the millions they would come out to be, they were going to grow not only in number but in experience through their troubling times.  They would have to learn to endure some stuff in order to be the people who would eventually be fit to take on the Promised Land.

While it may at times seem like the hard times are breaking you, they may be actually making you.  So remember, before there was Egypt, there was a promise.  And, I don’t know about you, but I will take a promise of God over a so-called silver lining any day.  The promises of God are sure.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we are told, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

In other words, no matter what you are facing today, Jesus has you covered.  No matter the obstacles or hard places that make you feel like you are in Egypt and you just want to give up, God has an unfailing promise of His love, grace, mercy, peace, and deliverance through even the most difficult circumstances.

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“Today, I Walk!” | Word For Life Says

The way one walks says a lot about them.  When I’m grocery shopping I’m a beast.  My walk is hard for my family to keep up with (which is why I shop alone, for the most part).  I can hit five or six different stores in one day of grocery shopping (I know prices by heart and refuse to pay more for it or I want a certain store brand – pray for me :)).  The way I walk shows everyone in my path, “I don’t play!”

You are identified by how you walk.  You can tell if someone is tired by the way they walk.  They may seem just a little slower and less focused due to exhaustion.  If someone walks with a limp they can be identified as being sore or perhaps injured.  A straight, persistent gait can imply confidence.  Someone with pep in their step can give the impression of happiness.  People pay attention to the way you walk.

People are not the only ones who pay attention to our walk.  God is watching each life that goes before Him.  That’s what the word walk means in the Bible.  It speaks of one’s life or conversation.  Their daily day-to-day affairs.  Colossians 1:10 exhorts us, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” (KJV).  Your walk matters.

The psalmist knew to whom he was living.  He did not possess his own life.  He did not own his own steps.  While he strode across the face of this earth, “in the land of the living,” he was walking “before the Lord.”

How many days do we waste living our days for other people?  How much stress do we put on ourselves to please other people?  It’s okay to work in cooperation with others, but we don’t live or walk for them!

Choose today to live and walk before the Lord.  Being a people pleaser will mess up your stride.  If you really want to advance spiritually and in this world, live your life “before the Lord.”  His opinion is the only one that matters.

Free yourself from the chains and shackles of people’s approval.  If you are straight with God – then, you are straight!  He’s the one that loves you!  He’s the one that saved you!  He’s the one that brought you to this new day.  Use it to walk “before the Lord!”

Today, I walk before the Lord!

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“Know That God Hears!”

 

“I called on the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place,”  Psalm 118:5, NKJV

It was one of those moments in prayer when you could utter no words, tearing streaming down your face, and only one phrase keeps repeating itself in the heart. That was me one night and try as I might to redirect my prayer, the Holy Spirit within me kept drawing me back to Psalm 118:5. I couldn’t get past it. After several attempts to lead my own prayer, I acquiesced.

There had to be a reason why my heart stayed so solely on this one verse. A revelation struck in the midst, telling me that I needed to be reassured that God hears me.  Sometimes the heart, as faithful as it can be, needs the additional support of knowing God hears.

“I called on the LORD!” God has so many wonderful characteristics and attributes, but one of the things that always strikes me as impressive is the fact that He hears my prayers, Psalm 54:2. In all lowliness of mind and heart, we come before Him freely. The Sovereign of the universe becomes attentive to us, to our needs, and bows down His ear to take on our concerns. He doesn’t have to but He is mindful of us, Psalm 8:4. He centers Himself to focus wholly and completely on us.

“The LORD answered me!” God responds! Our deepest heart’s desires do not fall on deaf ears. God is not playing cat and mouse with us. He wants us to seek Him that He may be found. “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near,” (Isaiah 55:6, NKJV). Then, He can respond!

How would we receive it if God verbally and clearly answered us? I, honestly, would probably freak out. But, answer us He does! How often have we gone in prayer, and the Sovereign of the universe has moved and acted on our behalf? Too many times to count! Often in my prayers, I am always thanking Him for inter-weaving Himself through every area of my life because I may not have heard an answer, but I can see His response. I can see Him moving mountains and obstacles. I can feel Him bringing peace in the midst of the storm. I wonder at His glorious love for us that causes Him to respond.

“Set me in a broad place.” Distressing times are tight. It feels as though you really can’t move this way or that. You feel locked in and bound up as if unseen shackles are imprisoning you. But, when God answers prayer, you feel release. You feel a freedom that was once a dream. It no longer feels like the walls are caving in on you, rather with a Herculean strength of the spirit, you feel like you can now push some stuff out of your life and move on.

My heavenly Father hears me! There’s no need to get too deep with words here. Sometimes we just need to be reassured of these old, simple truths. God hears me! Take that, and go in the peace of God today.

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“But, what did God say?”

“And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak?” Numbers 24:12-13

God’s people are truly blessed.  In the historical sense, covering the covenanted children of Israel, and even now for all those who are in a covenant relationship with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The story is not new, even if the variables of the story change from one situation and/or person to another.  God’s people, then and now, are blessed, and that’s something no enemy likes to see or deal with.  Nonetheless, the truth is, God is for His people.  We see it in verses that state, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9), and when the psalmist writes, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6) we feel those words speak to our own hearts.

God is for His people, and what He has spoken over your life means more than any negative enemy talk, and it is always God’s word that will be performed as opposed to any enemy’s influence.

God does not speak in vain.  He says, “I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right,” (Isaiah 45:19).  And His word will always perform that which He commanded it: “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).

Yet, and still, in the story of Balak trying to hire Balaam to curse what God has already blessed, we see the enemy’s plan is to still try to thwart God’s plan for His people.  God showed Balaam that His people are blessed and not cursed.  He showed him His people are different than other nations and the number of His people is increasingly blessed as well (Numbers 23:8-10).

After another attempt by Balak to get Balaam to curse God’s people, when he spoke, this is what Balaam relayed to the king:

“Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” (Numbers 23:18-20)

Whether the enemy likes it or not, God was not going to change His mind about blessing His people.  As a matter of fact, Balaam went further, tell Balak, “The LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them,” (Numbers 23:21).

God is with them.  He brought them out.  He is responsible for their deliverance.  There is nothing the enemy can speak against what God has already blessed (Numbers 23:23)!

Throughout this story, leading into chapter 24, it is evident to Balaam that it “pleased the LORD to bless Israel,” (Numbers 24:1) and there was nothing he or anybody else can do about it.

And that’s our take away from this lengthy story.  Only what God says over our lives or about us matters.  No matter which way, shape, or form another tries to speak over you, if it is not in line with what God already spoke, it will not work.  He is the Author of your story, and only He gets to write your ending.

So, where does that leave us when others are speaking something contrary?  The responsibility is on each of us to believe more in what God said and to only accept His Word as valid over our lives.

There are going to be many situations and people we face in life that will try to thwart your faith.  The aim of it all is to shake our foundations.  It’s to get us worked up in a frenzy so that we will be discouraged or afraid to move forward into where God has called us.

One picture in this whole story I like is that of the children of Israel themselves.  While all these attempts of others trying to curse them were going on, they were just down there, in the plains of Moab, pitching their tents, and resting in where God was leading them (Numbers 22:1).  They were doing and being what God called them out to do and be.  They were marching toward the Promised Land and gaining victories under their belt along the way.  It didn’t matter what others were saying on the sidelines.

Someone will always find an occasion to speak negatively over your life.  Situations will arise that will try to make you believe this is all it’s ever going to be, and it won’t get any better than this.

But, what did God say?

We are told in the Word of God of how important and valued we are to Him (Matthew 10:29-31).  We are told that we are His children (1 John 1:12), and as any good father would do, God takes care of His own.  We are told that He has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3).  We are told that He loved us even before we got our act together (Romans 5:8), and He continues to love us today because “God is love,” (1 John 4:8).  We are told we are not what we used to be (2 Corinthians 5:17) and now our identity is in Christ (Galatians 2:20).  We are told that God has a plan for His people (Jeremiah 29:11) and no matter what it looks like, it will work out for our good (Romans 8:28).

It’s not about what we feel, what they speak, or what we see before us.  It’s about what God says, and what He says will come to pass.  No enemy or situation can go beyond His Word!

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“Purposing the Heart”

Reformations on the outside don’t always equal change on the inside.  It has been proven time and again throughout history, and even throughout the Bible.  A great leader can rise up and make the necessary plans and put programs into place that should foster positive growth in a specified area.  But, if those toward whom the program was geared to serve don’t have a true heart for change, then what we see is a lot of outer stuff being switched around without any real inner transformation taking place.

Jehoshaphat was such a leader.  Jehoshaphat reinvigorated the spirit of worship toward God once more for the people of Judah.  He, himself, “sought the God of his fathers, and walked in His commandments,” (2 Chronicles 17:4, NKJV).  And as such, he was compelled to make the “Book of the Law” available to anyone who would hear.  So he sent leaders throughout the region to teach God’s Word (2 Chronicles 17:7-9).

Another area of reformation that saw positive changes was with the judges.  Men who judge honestly and not take bribes.  Men who would “act in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and with a loyal heart,” (2 Chronicles 19:9, NKJV).

After many ups and downs during his reign, and even a miraculous victory that was won just through praise (2 Chronicles 20), when it came time for Jehoshaphat’s reign to end and he was noted as “doing what was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32, NKJV)), the very next verse tells us the status of the people.  “Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for as yet the people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers,” (2 Chronicles 20:33, NKJV).

Leaders are just that – leaders.  They can go out in front of the pack and try to lay the course for the best plan of action but it is up to the individual to let the compass of his/her heart to be guided in the right direction.  There is a personal responsibility to have a purposeful heart that will intentionally pursue one’s own relationship with God.

How we get on in our relationship with God cannot be put off on another.  We can’t shun the charge to follow wholeheartedly after Him and claim that it’s the fault of others for why we didn’t follow through.

The reason for the lack of follow-through lies literally at the center of one’s heart.  A heart that is not fully devoted to God is a heart that won’t be inclined to continue to live for Him when those people who bring that positive influence are no longer in our lives.  We have to want God for ourselves.  Our hearts have to be intentional in our daily living for Him.

How do we do that?  What does that look like?

A purposeful heart will diligently seek after God.  Seek Him through prayer.  Seek Him in the Word.  Seek Him in times of worship.  A heart that loves the Lord will want to know more about Him and these avenues can help turn one in the right direction.  The psalmist said, “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,” (Psalm 119:10-11).

“I sought thee . . .”

“I hid” the word in my heart . . .

“I” denotes it is one’s personal obligation to charter the course of their own heart; to fill it with the purpose of God; to choose “the way of truth,” (Psalm 119:30).

Leaders can lead but we must make it up in our own minds and hearts to want all of Him as our own.  We must have a purposeful heart that steps closer to Him and not turns away (Proverbs 4:26-27).

David, a man after God’s own heart, became knowns as such because his desire, his goal, the purpose of his own heart was totally for God.  He is quoted as saying, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple,” (Psalm 27:4).  All the days of his life he wanted his heart directed toward God.

Purposing the heart is being intentional in going after God for one’s self.  Nobody else can do it for you.

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“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.

 

“Just a little bit more…”

 

Just a little bit more is all it really takes to turn someone’s day around.  I have been hearing some wonderfully inspiring stories lately of people who just do a little bit more than necessary.  It’s not hard to fulfill a requirement but when one chooses, to go beyond the necessary, I absolutely find it heartwarming.  It reminds you there are people who genuinely care, not just for themselves, but for others as well.

One video I recently came across on social mediate wasn’t necessarily grandiose in its delivery, but it was something someone chose to do to put an extra smile on the face of his students.  It was a principal who made up a creative “snow day” song to accompany the normal, drab announcement (link here).

I know, I know.  There are many, many wonderful and touching videos about.  So, why did I choose to focus on this one?  Simply, it put a smile on my face when I saw it.  And, I imagine on the face of those who initially received it.  It was a normal man, doing a normal job, with a little extra umph.

With so much focus on grand this and that, it’s nice to know that in just the ordinary of ordinary days, we can do a little something extra to make someone else’s day.

The Bible teaches us to be “others” centered.  The whole of everything we do on this earth is not just about us.  It’s about the lives we touch along the way.  It’s about the impact we make in the stories we write for our days that include others and what we did to help out just a little bit.  It’s about going the proverbial second mile beyond what I have to do to intentionally seek to make someone else’s day better; stepping out of self to serve another.  What a way to brighten someone’s day and show the love of Christ in action if we adopt more of that second-mile mentality and go beyond our ordinary.  Let’s put a smile on the face of others and quite possibly have a positive impact on our world today.

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” (Matthew 5:41).  Do the necessary, but then, go just a little bit more 🙂 

 

“Follow the Star!”

Hope.  I have to believe their journey was measured with steps of hope.  They’ve heard the prophecies.  They have studied to know when and where and what to look for and at its appearing in the sky they knew for sure, somehow, some way, that by following that particular star, it would lead them to the source of all hope being fulfilled.  It would lead them to the Messiah, the true King, who is worthy to be honored, worshipped and praised (Matthew 2:1-2).

There’s a lot of following and pursuits that people chase after every day.  But, if those steps aren’t leading us closer to the true King then it is a vain journey.  To have that wonderful life or miracle of newness on any street we don’t need to wait for a fictitious figment of our imagination to come to town.  We need to place one spiritual foot in front of the other and go after the true Star.

Not the twinkling celestial bodies in the sky that give light to the objects below, but the Star who is the “light of the world,” (John 8:12) that allows us to escape the darkness of sin and breathes new life into the dreary souls of these world travelers, illuminating a new path for our journey.

It is Him we are to look for.  It is Christ we are to chase after.  And, as they say, “Wise men still seek Him.”  Therefore, follow the Star.  For He is not only the King of the Jews the men of the old days were seeking after.   He is also the King of our hearts and the fulfiller of all the hope we are in search of.