Shhh, shhh. . . everything is okay


Image result for free picture of father hugging child(Chorus) I need to be still and let God love me.
I need to be still and let God love me.
When this old world starts to push and shove me
I need to be still and let God love me.

[1] I need to relax and let God take over,
I need to relax and let God take over.
He’ll take this load off my shoulders.
I need to relax and let God take over.

[2] When there’s trouble all around me
And my soul cries out for rest.
When I feel that I’m failing
Even though I’ve done my best.
When decisions get so heavy
And there are answers that I need,
I know it’s time to just be still, and let
God love me. . .

Chorus

(Recorded by B. J. Thomas, written by Archie P. Jordan and Naomil Martin Traducido.)

Music you can feel. I hit play, opened the frayed and yellowed drapes, and curled up in the chair. Three tall pines, in silent silhouette, stood sentinel against the night-time sky. I stared, unblinking, into the darkness. Then I heard the voice, that voice, murmuring, soothing, caressing, gently loosening the hurts and calming the fears, those hurts and fears I hid until my daughter was sweetly tucked into bed.

How, Lord? How am I going to do it? I can’t provide the video games and designer jeans her friends have, I can’t give her the love and influence of a father, I can’t. . . “ Tears finally fell then, as I felt, through the music and the voice, the heart of God join with mine.

The marriage had never been right, so there had never been gentle, tender embraces, those need-meeting, hurt-soothing encircling cuddles designed by God that let a woman feel, once again, small and cherished and safe, like a little girl nestled against her father’s broad chest, enveloped by strong, gentle arms. But in that music, in that voice, I felt the fiercely tender love of my Heavenly Father. As if I could feel His arms around me, I relaxed. I just relaxed and let God love me.

Image result for free picture of father hugging childWhen you just need a big hug. That was a night more than 30 years ago, and God has been hugging me in many different ways so faithfully all these years. We all long just to be held and comforted sometimes, if we are honest. Sometimes, the world pushes and shoves without letup. Or maybe we react to ordinary, daily life with unordinary, unreasonable feelings. It was both of those things for me just yesterday. My beloved Lily was sick, numerous calls failed to secure an appointment with a veterinarian because it was not an emergency, I felt drained and tired and irritable, damp weather soaked into my back and hips, the piece of writing I was working on would not come right after three days of revision and blah blah blah with fears and complaints and other very real problems I could not get off my mind. I kept trying to quote verses as I went about the tasks that (I thought) had to be done. Although I knew what I needed, I never actually sat down with my Bible and talked with God. I never actually got still and let God love me, not until time for evening devotions.

Take time to sit down with God. Then, finally, I sat in my rocker by the window and picked up my beloved Amplified Bible, the cordovan faux-leather covered one that had belonged to my Dad. As I re-read Psalm 25 through 34, which I have been doing for weeks now, two verses brought peace, that peace I had forfeited all day long because I had not set aside time to sit and be alone with God, and I had allowed fretting—rather than meditating—to occupy my thoughts.

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Psalm 32:10 says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts, relies on and confidently leans on the Lord shall be compassed about with mercy and with loving-kindness.” (AMPC)

Psalm 34:9 promises, “O fear the Lord, you His saints – revere and worship Him! For there is no want to those who truly revere and worship Him with godly fear.” (AMPC)

I circled those two verses with red ink and drew arrows to them, the only way to make them stand out on pages already marked with underlines, brackets, and parenthesis. Then I prayed, something like this:

Tell Him exactly how you feel. Oh Father, I do trust and rely on You, even though I do not feel that way right now and I am sorry for that. I do depend and lean on You with complete confidence because You have always, always, always taken care of me, just as You promise in Hebrews 13:5. And Psalm 32:10 says Your mercy and loving kindness will completely encircle me, so that means nothing can harm me. It is like Your arms really are around me. It is like You really are hugging me close and whispering, “Shhh, shhh. Everything is okay.” as we do when a child wails over a scraped knee.

And Psalm 34:9 promises I will not want for anything if I truly revere and worship You with godly fear. You know, Lord, I do from the bottom of my being honor and respect you, I appreciate You, I cherish You, I know You rule over all that is and was and is to come. And I know You know I am very mindful I am only a mist, a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14), and I am awed that You love me and sent Jesus to die for me so that I could have an abundant life with You here on earth and then spend eternity with You in heaven. And You know I do truly adore You, Father. You are my everything!

Image result for free picture of father hugging childLord Jesus, I know you don’t love me any less just because I am tired and I could not do the things I felt I should today, although my self-critical thoughts, and maybe the enemy, make me feel that way right now. I know You understand the frustration of living in a human body and dealing with silly, wrong-headed feelings we humans have sometimes, feelings like hopelessness and discouragement, even though we know better than to let feelings like that linger and pollute our heart.

So, Father, I will think about these two promises as I go to bed—that your mercy and loving kindness will completely encircle me and that I will lack nothing. I don’t FEEL like that right now because I fretted most of the day, and, as You tell us in Psalm 37:8, “fretting leads only to evil.” And that is what happened to my thoughts today, so Lord, please forgive me for fretting and not trusting better today. Please help me keep my mind on Your promises.”

I sat there, slowly rocking, wondering if I should go to bed yet. But I still did not feel peace, so I continued.

Give Him all your cares and worries, fears and doubt. Father, You say in I Peter 5:7 to cast, or toss, all our cares onto You because You care for us. And you also say that You know just how I feel. In Hebrews 4:15 You say You are our great High Priest Who is “. . . able to understand and sympathize and have a fellow feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation. . . Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.” (AMPC)

And that next verse says, that because of all of that, we should

“. . . then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace—the throne of God’s unmerited favor [to us sinners]; that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need—appropriate and well-timed help, coming just when we need it.” (Hebrews 4:16, AMPC)”

Image result for free picture of father hugging childI walked to my desk and picked up the sheet of paper on which I had printed the definition of mercy from www.gotquestions.org:

In the Bible, mercy is extended to an offender in the form of forgiveness or to the suffering in the form of healing or other comfort. In any case, mercy can be characterized as compassionate treatment of those in distress. Whether the distress is caused by the guilt or penalty of sin or by a debilitating physical condition, mercy is there to help.”

That’s me, Father,” I continued. “I am in distress, still, even after praying and trying to be at peace. And it is because I have given in to worry. Forgive me, Lord. Thank You that You deal with our failures with compassion.”

Believe that He is tender and compassionate toward you every day – because HE IS!. I paused and just kept silent. Portions of Lamentations 3, another verse in my arsenal, came to mind, where Jeremiah was recalling how hard life had been but then said,

Image result for free picture of jesus and lamb[21] But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation:

[22] It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.

[23] They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.

[24] The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.

[25] The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word.]

[26] It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.”

I paused again, staring into the darkness outside the open window, remembering how often I had repeated verses 25 and 26, many months ago now, when I was deep in the mud and mire of depression. I had been using the NIV version at the time, which reads “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD”.

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Thank Him for His faithfulness to you personally. Yes, Lord,” I resumed, “You have taught me so very much these last two years about staying uplifted in You and thus avoiding the enslavement of discouragement and hopelessness and despair. Thank You, Father. I do remember how faithful You have been and always will be. You said in Psalm 107:43 that it is wise to take notice of and consider the great love You showed in delivering Israel over and over. I will think about how faithfully You have delivered me from all my fears and troubles, over and over. I know You never change (Hebrews 13:8)

So, dear dear Father, One Who loves me so, I do put all my cares into Your loving hands, and I choose to wait with hope and expectancy and confidence, because You promised in Lamentations 3:25 that when I have a need and I ask with the authority of Your Word, that You will be good to me. You are good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for You, Lord. You are merciful and gracious, as You say in Psalm 103 and that You do not treat us as our sins deserve and I know it is because of what You say right here, in verses 11 through 14:

[11] For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him.

[12] As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

[13] As a father loves and pities His children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe],

[14] For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints on His heart] that we are dust.”

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Think about how much He loves you and His attitude toward the nature of your human condition. Oh, Father! That is another way of saying that Your mercy and loving-kindness fill the earth, isn’t it, that there is no place I could go to and not be enveloped in Your tender, loving, care. And You say the fact that we are human is imprinted on Your heart. If something were imprinted on my heart, then every beat of my heart and every thought of my mind, every fiber of my being would be affected by that.

So You are saying that with Your every thought toward us, You remember our human weaknesses. Maybe it also means that You remember the moment You created each of us, as parents remember when their beloved child was born.

Could it be that You also remember that without You, our Fountain of Living Water, we cease to exist, that we return to dust? When You look, with compassion and mercy on our humanness, do You stir up those “ rivers of living water” (John 7:38) that You give to us when we believe in You? Yes, Lord, I think that whenever we reverently and worshipfully fear You, You stir up those waters and our thirst is satisfied. Like now, Lord, this time with You and Your Word has refreshed my soul, and I feel Your peace beginning to settle. Nothing has changed yet everything has changed.

Image result for Free Picture of God My Fortress. Size: 161 x 92. Source: www.youtube.comThank You, Lord, thank You! You and You alone are my Rock, my Source of Strength, my Refuge, my Fortress, my Strong Tower into which I run and am safe, my Shelter, my king of Kings and lord of Lords, Who rules and reigns with majesty and splendor over all the earth and all its inhabitants, Who brings the Light of Truth and Love into the darkest night, Who carries Your little ones in Your arms, my great and Good Shepherd, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Glorious One Who lives in unapproachable light, Who is the Light of the World, my Defender, my Healer, my Mighty One and my best Friend, who holds me day and night safe in His all-mighty, ever-faithful, ever-merciful, ever kind and loving arms. How truly great and awesome You are, Lord!

Image result for free picture of god will help meFear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties; yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain your with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

Dear friend, I sincerely pray that your days like I had, days when you forget or simply cannot keep your mind on God and His Word, are few. But when those days happen, take time to sit and quiet yourself in His presence, and let God love you through the life-giving truths of His Word. He will never, no never, no never fail you! (Hebrews 13:5).

The grass withers, and the flower falls but the Word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8, NIV).

Taking God’s Word into your heart brings light and life.(Psalm 119:130)

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When we wobble, God doesn’t! Part 3 of 3

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True troubles! Without some true trouble, some stress and real strain, I confess much of self would still yet remain.That couplet popped into my spirit more than 30 years ago, when I was returning home after taking my eleven year old daughter to school. I typed medical dictation at home that year, since the tiny company I had worked for had gone bankrupt, and I pinched each penny. Hard. Back then, although I constantly worried about providing for my daughter and myself, God was teaching me to trust Him and to see whatever hardship came up as loving training from Him. And that lesson is as applicable—and just as hard sometimes—today as it was then.

Regarding wobbliness and wobbly times, so far we have learned that:
[1] We learn more when our way is wobbly.
[2] Trials (times that make us wobble) are good for us.
[3] Trials teach us things we learn no other way.
[4] Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of Christian maturity.
[5] Trials protect us from the deadly condition of complacency.
[6] We CAN make progress during trials because God equips us with what we need.
[7] No matter what happens, we can–like Habakkuk–be confident that God will get us through the trial.

Today, we will consider the following points:
[8] Experience, the best teacher? YES!
[9] Do trials ever end for the believer?
[10] The more we wobble, the less we will.
P.S. Just for you, dear friend!

[8] Experience is the best teacher. Yes! You can thoroughly practice swimming, on land, but until you are actually in the water. . . You can thoroughly practice rock climbing at the gym, but until you are actually on a mountain. . . You can thoroughly study about trusting God in hard times, but until you are actually in hard times . . .

As I learned years ago when my daughter was little, God sometimes puts us in hard places that make us desperate – for the loving purpose of helping us grow. He is being kind to us. Scripture reassures us that “God is loving toward all He has made.” (Psalm 145:17b, NIV)

Image result for free picture of person ion deep endDuring trials, it may feel like God has thrown us in the deep end and left us, but that is merely our flesh reacting. As our human bodies react to threat, so do our soul and spirit. There is an automatic response in our heart when we face what we perceive as danger, just as there is an automatic response in our body when we face a physical threat.

And that is precisely where the possibility for growth comes. In that moment when we feel fear, or discouragement or whatever negative arrows the enemy is shooting at us, we can learn to lean on truth, and—to the extent that we do that (Psalm 33:22)–that truth will set us free from fear and its consequences (John 8:32). If we allow it, the enemy can magnify our natural, human reaction of fear. But, if we turn instead to God, God can turn that fear into strength.

In those moments, as we seek God by meditating on His word constantly (Deuteronomy 6:4-8 and Psalm 1) we can calm our frail, human hearts by focusing our mind on passages like Isaiah 41:10.

So do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

I remember the morning at the gym when trying to memorize this verse. Holy Spirit helped me reflect: “The all-mighty, all-loving One who made and sustains the universe is right here with me, He Himself, and He adores me. There is no reason to fear. That One is the Person I am depending on, who I am calling and making my God, the Ruler of my life. He has promised to give me strength and to help me and to support me. And that includes this very moment. . . ”

Image result for free picture of father and child in waterConsider this. How would a loving, compassionate father begin teaching his child, who has never before seen deep water, how to swim? He holds his little boy firmly in his arms while wading slowly in until the boy’s feet are submerged, all while he holds the boy snugly in his arms. The father pauses and splashes the water with his hand, lets the boy play with the water and get used to it and they laugh about it together. Then, the father goes a bit deeper, pausing each time for reassurances and more laughter until finally the water is up to the child’s chest and then the father starts walking through the water, letting the boy experience the feel of water flowing over his little body. That might be enough for the first time. The next time, the father would hold the boy in his arms and let him splash about on his own, while being held, and so on.

That beloved little boy is never endangered although he feels he is! Only the presence and embrace of his father calms him enough to let the lessons proceed. Trials can make us afraid, even terrorized, but we can, through choosing to believe what He says, benefit from the presence and embrace of our Heavenly Father and, step by slow step, learn to use our God-given potential to keep going through trials. Then, when we come to a big trial, we will go right through it, just as a traveler swims across a river that obstructs his path.

As I reflect on my relationship with God, I can see that the trials in the early years were easy compared with trials in recent times. He strengthened me and hardened me to difficulties, as He promises in Isaiah 41:10. So, by God’s grace I now stay steadier through trials and I look for God’s blessings while I walk through them. Experience has taught me the truths of Lamentations 3:19-66—that indeed” The LORD is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s Word.” (Lamentations 3:25,AMPC)

Beloved, God NEVER abandons us or fails us or lets us down, in any way (Hebrews 13:5).It just feels like it sometimes. And the cure is always trusting and obeying.

Image result for free Clip Art of End of the road. Size: 72 x 100. Source: clipground.com[9] Do trials ever end for the believer? The short answer? No. Why? It is because of the nature of our fallen world, the nature of man, the nature of our enemy, and the nature of God’s plan for mankind. BUT GOD HAS MADE A WAY TO LIVE IN VICTORY AND JOY!

The nature of our fallen world—so long as we live on this earth, we will have troubles. The world is under the curse described in Genesis 3. We will not enjoy the Edenic type of life that God planned for mankind until our inmost beings leave the earthly tabernacle of this flesh and live in the presence of God Himself in heaven. “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”, Job 5:7 tells us.

The nature of man. So long as we live on this earth, we will struggle with sin (Romans 7:7-25). Psalm 51:5 tells us we are all born as sinners. Romans 3:23 says we have all “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” but verse 22 joyfully proclaims the righteousness which comes “from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Once saved through faith in Jesus, we must keep pursuing and obeying God, as we saw earlier in this writing. No person, except Jesus, has ever been and can ever be good enough. Right before he died, the great apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Phillipi. In Chapter 3 of that letter, he explains why he puts no confidence for salvation in anything he does (or “in the flesh”) but rather he keeps pressing on, he says, toward “the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14, NIV) And that was right before Paul died. Think about that!

Image result for Free Picture of Earth. Size: 204 x 204. Source: dreamicus.comThe nature of our enemy. So long as we live on this earth, Satan will constantly seek to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). For an excellent teaching on the activity of Satan—and a teaching that will calm fear and fill you with hope!–see “Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You”, by John Piper at www.desiringgod.org. Eventually, at the end of time Satan will be “thrown into the lake of burning sulfur . . . and will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10). In the meantime, throughout each of our lifetimes, we can walk in the victory over Satan and sin that Jesus purchased for us.

The nature of God’s plan for mankind–As Genesis 2:16-17 records, God made humans with the freedom of choice, and that includes whether or not we love Him. We can, through Him, choose NOT to sin, as we see in Romans 6:11-14. We can overcome sin, through offering our whole selves to God and choosing to love and serve Him (Joshua 24:15).

If we truly love God more than all else, we will place more value on heavenly things than things of this life. If we “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2, NIV). We will then be empowered to consider what we learn through trials of greater value than whatever inconvenience, hard work and even suffering trials may cause.

In light of all that, we can be encouraged and accept trials as part of life and as of no more consequence than the fact that we must keep breathing, eating, sleeping, etc. as long as we live. Certain things are just part of life.

Image result for free clip Art Of Abundant Life. Size: 125 x 106. Source: clipground.comAnd our life can be abundant! We can choose to believe what Jesus told us in John 16:33, that in Him we:

may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have troubles, trials, distress, and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

For me, investing time and energy in meditating on and memorizing that Scripture and many others has gone far in developing a better attitude than I once had about the trials of daily life.

[10] The more we wobble, the less we will. So here we sit, you in the trials and temptations of this day in your individual life and me with mine. No matter where you are and what you are doing, God is right there, watching over you, loving You. So, I pray,

May He strengthen you with power in the inner man by the Holy Spirit [Himself] indwelling your innermost being and personality). May Christ through our faith, [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, and make His permanent home in your heart!” (Ephesians 3:16-17a, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of wobblingHere I sit, using an alternative word processor program, my three favorite Bible translations opened on my desk, pausing to look out the window and stroke Lilly as I think of a word, and also pausing every fifteen minutes to stretch. Most of the trials described at the start of this blog are still present, but I am making great spiritual progress precisely because of and through the difficulties. God is working His strength into my heart. He is training me to keep my mind better fixed on things above (Colossians 3:2) and He is doing that through my experiencing the difficulties of life on this earth. Just as using the wobble board in physical therapy improved my balance, so do trials improve my innate wobbliness. The more I wobble, the less I will!

Oh, trust Him! Lean on Him and hope, with confidence, in Him! Wait on Him. He has not failed you, and He never will. He is training you through hardship and trials because He loves you and it is for your safety and your good. His mercy and loving kindness are upon us in proportion to our waiting and hoping in Him (Psalm 33:22), so wait patiently on Him! God is good to those who wait on Him (Lamentations 3:25). Like the eagle, turn your face into your storm and spread your wings of faith. Let God use the very storm that threatens you to cause you to mount up with Him and renew your strength!

P.S. Just for you, dear friend:

Image result for Free Picture Of Hawk Soaring. Size: 164 x 110. Source: www.smithsonianmag.comAs I sat in the sun, purposefully getting vitamin D, proof-reading this piece of writing, God sent a hawk soaring right in front of my eyes as I reclined on the lounge chair beside the pool. I see hawks fairly often in the neighborhood close by when I walk there but never this far. And that is not all . . .

As I sat, frantically scribbling, trying to describe the beauty and awe of watching that one hawk soar right above my head, back and forth, surfing the invisible currents of air, the sun shone through its outstretched wings, revealing the tips were lighter colored than the rest of those long wings. As I sat writing with part of my mind, with the other part, I was thinking:

A spiritual message. . . There is a spiritual message in the fact that I could not see the wind on which the hawk was soaring, just as non-believers do not see the wind on which we believers soar through troubles. But non-believers are watching and they know something unseen is helping us. Whether they “believe” in the Power they cannot see or not, they are still seeing that Power in action and our soaring gives God the means to demonstrate His power to them.

A word from Holy Spirit? . . . Then, while jotting those thoughts down, I felt a powerful urge to write that Holy Spirit says someone reading this will be enabled to soar in victory through their trial.

Image result for free clip art of Who me. Size: 73 x 100. Source: handymanwire.comSelf doubt. . . replaced with boldness! How dare I, little old me, say that? I am not like the powerful prophets and teachers of God I see and hear that I should say such a thing. But then, praise God, faith, truth and obedience overcame those lies of the devil as God’s truths bubbled up from within: that timidity and fear did not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7), God does not have favorites (Romans 2:11), God does train those who are willing to hear His voice clearly (John 10:27-29, Isaiah 30), and I could trust God and be bold (Jeremiah 1:8).

Obedience brings blessing (Luke 11:28) and when we use what we have, God gives even more (Luke 19:11-27). The moment I made up my mind to write that statement—that Holy Spirit was saying someone would be empowered to soar when they read these words—that very moment, friend, I saw a small group (called a “kettle” I later learned) of hawks suddenly appear in my field of vision, straight ahead. And that first hawk (had he been scouting?) began circling them.

Image result for Free Picture of Kettle of Hawks. Size: 163 x 110. Source: www.pinterest.comIt is a whole host of them, Lord!”, I thought, “like an army! It is like a picture of Your body of believers, faithfully soaring on the wings of Your wind, following along obediently, and, like eagles, using the very trials surrounding them to soar high up, with You, where You want them to go.”

It’s like Your believers today, in the United States and the world, who choose to believe and to know You are still on Your throne, in the midst of the apparent victory of evil and wickedness. We know You are working ‘everything out for the good of those who love You and are called according to Your purpose’, as You say in Romans 8:28. As we trust in You and face the future with faith, You lift us up, to heavenly places with You.

I watched, open-mouthed, eyes squinting, as the kettle of hawks soared back and forth, each following a different path, left, then right, each at a slightly different height, like fish in an aquarium, like children playing on an azure playground. Then, as if hearing a command, they began soaring northward, one after the other, one or two at a time, until the last one faded to a black dot then vanished. I could see them no longer, but as I gazed in that direction, I knew they were there, steadily, continuing their journey, returning to their home.

Dear dear reader, I believe God wants you to know:

He hears your cry in your trial, He wants you to know He has good plans for you, He has not let go of Your hand. He never will loosen His grip on you or forsake you or leave you helpless. He will give you strength and everything else you need to walk through this trial, and you will not even smell like smoke when it is over.

Oh, fellow pilgrim! Just trust and keep His Word in your mind and in your mouth! God hears the cries of the righteous! His mercy and loving-kindness will be upon us in proportion to our waiting and hoping in Him. Wait and hope in the Lord, with confident expectation! He is right there with you and He is working for your good! Our loving, all-mighty, ageless, eternal Father in heaven is loving and kind and compassionate and faithful and merciful and good – all the time!

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When we wobble, God doesn’t! Part 2 of 3

Image result for free Picture of Prayer. Size: 154 x 103. Source: theblazingcenter.comLast week, we considered the first three of the statements below about trials. Did the Bible passages we examined make sense to you? I pray so! If not, James 1:5-8 tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (NIV)

This week, we will examine statements four through seven below.

Wobbliness and wobbly times:

[1] We learn more when our way is wobbly.

[2] Trials (times that make us wobble) are good for us.

[3] Trials teach us things we learn no other way.

[4] Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of Christian maturity.

[5] Trials protect us from the deadly condition of complacency.

[6] We CAN make progress during trials because God equips us with what we need

[7] No matter what happens, we can–like Habakkuk—be confident that God will get us through the trial.

[8] Experience, the best teacher? YES!

[9] Do trials ever end for the believer?

[10] The more we wobble, the less we will.

P.S. Just for you, dear friend!

Image result for Free Picture of Sprout. Size: 152 x 102. Source: www.istockphoto.com[4] Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of maturity. James 1:2-4 says:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, BECAUSE you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work SO THAT you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)” (emphasis added).

Could God be any clearer with us??? We are to think about, or consider, trials as a good thing. God is saying trials are a good thing because they provide a chance to use our faith, which will help us develop the ability to keep going in spite of difficulties. And then, after our need to persevere has done what it needs to do in our character, we will be mature and complete. He is telling us, giving us a kind warning so we can prepare our minds and hearts for a long process. He is also telling us there is a good thing coming at the end of the process, and that gives us hope and strength.

This is one of the passages I memorized as a new believer, and it has floated up into consciousness countless times since then. I admit that at first I approached this truth with a somewhat begrudging attitude, trying but most often failing to have the right attitude. Looking back, though, I can see how God worked good out of each and every trial (Romans 8:28). By His grace I now have a better attitude when a fresh trial comes. No, not a perfect attitude but a greatly improved one!

Image result for FREE Picture Of Three Size Plants. Size: 181 x 110. Source: www.gettyimages.comContinual growth is part of being a Christ follower and it is a refuge, a way of life that keeps us safe. If we strive to keep growing, we will be kept safe. In 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter tells us how to “make our calling and election sure SO THAT we will not stumble or fall (v.10-11.) He assures us that God has already given us everything that we need to live and to be godly and that through God’s promises we can become like Him and overcome the moral decay of the world. In verse 5 through 7, he lists qualities we are to make every effort to obtain: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.” (Notice the similarity to the nine fruits of the spirit in Galations 5:22-23.)

Why should we strive to keep growing? The next verse tells us clearly that by pressing on we will make our Christian lives effective and productive. Verse 8 says “For IF you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice the “increasing measure” concept. That says we have to keep growing and keep growing and keep growing. And just as continually bearing fruit is no trouble for a fruit tree, so will our spiritual fruit bearing be natural. .

Notice also the stern, loving warning in verse 9: “If anyone does not have them” [those qualities in increasing measure]”, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

Image result for Free Clip Art of Pride Before Destruction. Size: 81 x 110. Source: www.christart.comMay God have mercy on each one of us and move us to keep making every effort to grow! That is a stern warning indeed, but do we not sternly warn our children not to play in the street? It is very easy for the enemy to lead a nearsighted or blind person off the path of godliness. God clearly warns us against behaviors that lead to blindness, such as depending on idols. Satan tries to use spiritual pride to tell us we have arrived spiritually and we do not need to keep striving so hard. Danger! Danger! Danger! God warns over and over against pride and complacency.

[5] Trials protect us from the deadly condition of complacency. If we do not keep growing we tend to become complacent. Stop exercising for a week and see how hard it is to get yourself back to the gym! God knows how easily we slip back into old habits, so He speaks through the prophet Amos and warns “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion. . . ” (Amos 6:1, NIV). Peter ends his second letter to believers by telling us to live holy and godly lives and keep growing as we anticipate the return of Christ:

. . . be on your guard SO THAT you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. BUT GROW in the grace and knowledge of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, NIV) (emphasis added)

In Matthew 7:26 Jesus warns that we pursue our own ruin if we do not act on His words. Jesus said “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

Remember the children’s song? “Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, not hearers only. . . “

Ever heard the saying “There are no atheists in foxholes”? When we are in desperate situations, we tend to become more intense in seeking God. Have you heard someone recall a very hard time and say almost wistfully, “But I was never so close to God as I was then.” When God uses trials to get us focused on Him, He is acting in love. He wants us to have a passionate love for Him because loving, revering, worshipping and obeying Him keeps us safe and brings multitudes of blessings.

In the NIV Bible, the last section of that great chapter 12 of Hebrews, verses 14-29, is labeled “Warning Against Refusing God”. Verse 25 says

See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns from heaven?” and Verse 28-29 urge us to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.” (NIV)

Image result for Free Picture of God is a Fire. Size: 178 x 101. Source: www.godisreal.todayIn saying “our God is a consuming fire’, the writer of Hebrews is referring to Exodus 19:12-13 when Israel was warned not to even approach the foot of Mount Sinai, where God had met with Moses, else they would be killed. They were to treat God with reverence and fear and awe AND SO ARE WE TO DO THE SAME TODAY. God has not changed and He will never change (Hebrews 13:8). He is steadfast, enduring, ageless, matchless, and eternal! He is our Rock, our Refuge and our Redeemer, our “King of kings and Lord of lords!” (Revelation 19:16)

If we appropriately remember who God is and who we are, we will strive with all our heart to obey Him. We will not treat Him or anything about Him lightly or half-heartedly, and our love for Him will be fervent. Thus we may avoid the condition of a lukewarm heart. Read Revelations 3:14-22 and see for yourself how much God hates our being lukewarm toward Him. Being lukewarm is a condition from which we must earnestly repent (verse 19). In verse 19, God pleads with those who are lukewarm to open the door of their hearts to Him.

The love and kindness and compassion of our God for us is higher than the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103). When He helps us avoid complacency—no matter the means He uses–He is acting in love, for our good.

[6] We CAN make progress DURING trials because God equips us with what we need to walk through the trials. Trials do not stop our journey with God, and they do not stop our growth. The truth is just the opposite! They are a lovingly planned part of the path of every believer’s life.

Image result for free picture of mountain goatsHe gives exactly what we need. Just as God gives mountain goats specially constructed hoofs and powerful neck and shoulder muscles, Psalm 18:33 promises He will give us what we need to walk on our high places securely.

He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble]; He sets me securely upon my high places.” (AMPC)

Notice also that times of testing and trouble are dangerous. But be encouraged! God’s special provisions equip us to stand firmly and also make progress upon, through and because of the very difficulties themselves. If a mountain stands in our path and there is no way around it, we can go right over the mountain and keep going forward along our desired path, in the same direction, making progress upon the mountain itself.

This powerful verse, verse 33, comes in the middle of Psalm 18, a psalm which gives all of us courage to endure trials with confident hope and expectation. Psalm 18 starts with praise to the LORD for His strength, then David recalls how, when he faced death and destruction, God answered him and fought mightily for him, setting him in a spacious place because God delighted in him. David declared that God had rewarded him according to his righteousness (v. 24) because “To the faithful You show yourself faithful, to the blameless You show yourself blameless. . . . “ (v. 15) David keeps encouraging himself as He describes God’s power and mercy on his behalf, including (in verse 32-36) how God had enabled him to make progress and “stand on the heights”. David concludes with more praise for the God who saves him from his enemies and shows unfailing kindness to him and his descendants forever – that includes you and me!

[7 ] No matter what happens, we can–like Habakkuk—be confident God will get us through the trial. Most of the book of Habakkuk speaks of the coming judgment on God’s people because of their wickedness. (To see how applicable the Bible is to this present world, read the minor prophets and reflect on the apparent victory of evil we now see in the United States and other parts of the world.) Nevertheless, even though judgment would come, Habakkuk concludes with praise to God and a declaration of trust in God. He says:

Image result for Free Picture of Olives and Figs and Grapes. Size: 157 x 104. Source: smittenkitchen.comThough the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18, NIV)

Think about what Habakkuk is saying – though every single thing I usually depend on fails me (figs, grapes, olives, fields, sheep and cattle, which was everything people in those times depended upon) – yet even so, in spite of all of that, I WILL be happy in God and I WILL be joyful in the God who is my Savior.

I think Habakkuk could make that declaration BECAUSE Habakkuk was thinking about the last verse, verse 19:

Image result for Free Picture of Mountain goat feet. Size: 158 x 105. Source: flickr.comThe Lord is my strength, my personal bravery and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering or responsibility]!” (AMPC- notice the ! At the end).

Wow oh wow oh wow! How can we not be encouraged! God will BE our strength, He will BE the bravery we need and He will BE our unbeatable army. He will make our feet as perfectly suited for our personal path as a deer’s feet are suited for mountains. God will cause us to walk. He will not let us stand still and be terrorized. He will cause us to make spiritual progress upon the very trials themselves, whether the trials involve trouble, suffering or responsibility.

Next week, we will finish this brief examination of trials. Think about what you have learned so far from the Bible passages we have examined. Do you feel any differently about daily life? About the occasional long spells of troubles? Are you convinced that, in spite of how they feel, trials are truly good for you?

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When we wobble, God doesn’t! Part 1 of 3

Image result for Free Clip Art of Attitude. Size: 92 x 102. Source: www.clipartpanda.comOur attitude toward trials. Our attitude toward trials and our ability to “make progress upon the dangerous heights of testing and trouble” (Psalm 18:32-33) is of vital importance for the believer. When I began this writing, I intended to make it short; however, God showed me I needed to study and think deeply about this topic. And that is how I uncovered 10 truths that we will explore in this three-part series. Keeping these truths in mind is gradually giving me a better attitude about the difficulties of daily life and the occasional seeming disasters we all face. May God grant us great grace to see trials from His perspective! We will cover the first three points today about times when we wobble.

Wobbliness and wobbly times:
[1] We learn more when our way is wobbly.
[2] Trials (times that make us wobble) are good for us.
[3] Trials teach us things we learn no other way.
[4] Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of Christian maturity.
[5] Trials protect us from the deadly condition of complacency.
[6] We CAN make progress during trials because God equips us with what we need.
[7] No matter what happens, we can–like Habakkuk–be confident that God will get us through the trial.
[8] Experience, the best teacher? YES!
[9] Do trials ever end for the believer?
[10] The more we wobble, the less we will.
P.S. Just for you, dear friend!

Girl On Balance Beam CartoonI wobbled last week. Did you? Our loving heavenly Father has such a sense of humor! While skimming the internet about improving balance, since spiritual balance is the subject of this writing, I saw a video of four young girls walking in rapid tandem across a balance beam. Next came a video of an, uh, older man staggering from side to side as he tried to walk on what looked like a deflated fire hose lying flat on the ground. Guess which one I felt like? Ha.

Growing up with two brothers and a father who coached Little League deepened my natural tomboy tendencies and helped ensure I would be picked early in playground games during elementary school. However, junior high gymnastics taught me much about embarrassment. I had grown several inches that summer, and I watched as my shorter classmates (which was all of them!) did fairly well on the balance beam set a few inches off the ground. However, Coach Bunny Crippen kindly shook her head and smiled as I repeatedly failed to take more than one step without falling off. “That’s okay, Freda. Good job trying!”

Well, I am happy to say I am better at keeping my spiritual balance than I was at walking the balance beam, by the grace of God! Why is that? Because God has lovingly given me lots of practice, and then more practice, like all last week. . .

Teetering, leaning, and wild waving of arms. I sniffed, yet again, blew my nose, yet again, squinted my watery eyes, and stood up to take an allergy pill. I opened my eyes wide in a futile effort to shake off the drowsiness caused by allergies and rolled my shoulders in an effort, also futile, to alleviate the stiffness. I chugged a full glass of home-made ginger tea with the pill, then twisted side to side a few times and reached overhead, one arm at a time, twenty times each side, in an also futile attempt to shrink the roll of just plain fat that had taken up residence at my waist for lo too many months. My loud “Ugh!” startled Lilly, my calico beauty napping next to the computer. “Why does the weight keep going up? I don’t know what else to do. I am trying . . . “

I sat back down, stared into the creamy beige of lukewarm coffee, scratched Lilly’s head, and scrolled up and down, up and down the document, labeling pages and paragraphs. Then came twenty minutes cutting, pasting and reordering paragraphs that had scrambled themselves like so many eggs during the the last two days of editing and re-editing one simple chapter. Finally, the line of thought flowed and I hit save.

Image result for free clip art of frustrated with computerI stared in silence a full sixty seconds, I think, at the pop-up “File Permission Error. . . “ Last week, my son-in-law, my technical support hero, had spent hours fixing that problem, which was far, far beyond my capabilities. “Ohhhhh!” I wailed. The family was out of town this week.

Two hours later, with blood pressure elevated, shoulders even tighter, eyes aching, and head throbbing, I gave up and made notes on paper of the order in which I had arranged paragraphs on the computer file which would NOT SAVE!!!–beautiful, gorgeous paper that never said “file Permission Error” or “Read-Only File”. By then it was time to start dinner, and too late to tidy up the frustration-inducing clutter, which had crept into my little condo like an invasive vine during the last three days of writing angst. It was also too late to take my little evening walk which would have eased emotional as well as physical kinks. And. . .

Image result for Free Picture Of No Good Very Bad. Size: 130 x 100. Source: www.walmart.comWhew and UGH! Sound familiar? I am sure it does, though the details of your “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” week are no doubt different. (For a most excellent book to teach children that we all have bad days, see “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” by Judith Viorst.) But, I learned much from the wobbling, things like the fact that: we learn more when our way is wobbly.

[1] We learn more when our way is wobbly. All last week had been like that one day and as the days wore on, old bad habits had threatened to steal my hard-won peace. Each new and ongoing frustration grabbed my attention more and more, leaving less mental space and energy to keep my mind on God, talk with Him and ponder a passage of the Word as I went about the business of daily life. The day I described above had been the last straw. And that turned out to be a very good thing.

Laughing Baby Floating on AirHa!” I said out loud to the devil as I fixed supper. “You are not going to steal one more hour of my peace. God says He laughs at you and that you are already defeated so I can laugh at what you are trying to do, too. I know Romans 8:28 is true, and Genesis 50:20, and Psalm 94:12-13! I am going to rejoice in this very day and this very hour because God has made it, He is right here with me, and He will never, no never, no never fail me in any way! He is good in all that He does, He rules everything that is and was and is to come, and He adores me! My name is written in the palm of His hand, He sings over me, HE delights in me, and He watches my every step with care, and He is using all of this to teach me, and . . . “

Guess what? Before I knew it, I was truly rejoicing and truly laughing then making an outline of this blog post. So, why, when we are trying our best to love and serve Him, does God let us experience hard things that make us wobble? God answers this question clearly in His Word.

Image result for free picture of father scolding child[2\ Trials—times that make us wobbly–are good for us. God allows trials—things that make us wobble-because He loves us and they are good for us. God lovingly tells us in Proverbs 3:11-12, NIV) “My son, (notice the tenderness here in the words “My son”) do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son He delights in.”

The whole chapter of Hebrews 12 overflows with encouragement and wisdom. Verses 1 through 4 tell us to throw off everything that hinders us from running our race and says that if we “Fix our eyes on Jesus” and think about what he endured from sinful men we “will not grow weary and lose heart.” Because. . .

(v. 4) “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (v. 5) And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: (v. 6) ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son’.

(v. 7) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? (v. 8) If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (v. 9) Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! (v. 10) Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. (v. 11) No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been exercised by it.

Image result for free picture of feet walking a path(12)THEREFORE , strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. (13) ‘Make level paths for your feet’, SO THAT the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (NIV)

Please, please stop and ponder Hebrews 12:4-12 s-l-o-w-l-y. I feel I should underline every word of this passage. Please also take time to read and ponder this life-giving passage in the Amplified Classic version, which you can find at www.biblegateway.com. Getting these truths deep into our spirit is the foundation of a godly attitude toward trials.

These verses state clearly that enduring the discipline of trials leads us to share in His holiness and eventually produces righteousness and peace once we have been trained by those trials. (Hebrews 12:10-12). Did you catch that? Trials train us. It is clear to me that we must continue through the training experience and not bail out. We must persevere SO THAT so we may become mature (James 1:4-8.) As we cooperate with God through trials and let Him produce righteousness and peace in our lives, we are serving Christ and are pleasing to God and approved by men because “ the kingdom of God is . . . a matter of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17-18, NIV)

[3] Trials teach us things we learn no other way. Understanding the truth of Psalm 94:12-13 gives a godly perspective on trials, which is that we are truly blessed when God uses trials to teach us.

Blessed-happy, fortunate, [to be envied]–is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law that You may give him the power to hold himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.” (AMPC)

These verses tell us that God instructs us, by using His law, SO THAT He can give us the power to keep ourselves calm in hard times. Think about that. Could you give, or teach, your toddler the ability to balance himself and walk by himself and get himself up off the ground if you hold him perfectly upright every step he takes and if you put him back on his feet each time he falls down? God has to let us wobble and fall down sometimes, too, so that we learn how to keep our balance, even on rough terrain. And when we do fall, He has to hold back and let us scramble around until we finally push ourselves up and get to a standing position again.

I believe some of our trials come because of mistakes we make as we learn to walk more closely with God and some trials God allows, out of His boundless love, so that we can gain better balancing skill.

Image result for free picture of wobbling babyWe learn by experiencing cause and effect, by experiencing the natural consequences of our actions. How does a toddler learn balance? He learns by experiences with the law of gravity. If a toddler leans too far forward, he wobbles or falls; through that experience, the law of gravity teaches him. When a person steals, he eventually lands in jail. Through that experience, the law of man teaches him. If I let my mind dwell on negatives, I become fearful. Through that experience, the law of God teaches me. We learn how to stay spiritually balanced by experiences with the laws of God, when we get the natural consequences of our right or wrong actions and thoughts. The corrections that come from discipline lead us to life (Proverbs 6:23)

Next week, we will begin by considering the statement “Trials are necessary for the continuing growth that is part of Christian maturity.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Think about it!

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Do you know what happens when you love God? Psalm 91, Pt. 5

Image result for free clip art of CAUSE AND EFFECTThe “if-then” nature of God’s promises. While studying Psalm 91, God has taught me much about the “if-then” nature of His promises. I am very grateful! In all the years I have studied the Bible (and I feel I have only begun understanding how to study this last year) I do not recall being so aware of how often if-then, because, for, therefore, thus, and similar words appear. Perhaps that is because two years mired in the muddy pit of depression imprinted a zeal to understand what God wants me to do so that I can remain safe in “the secret place of the Most High.”

As we conclude our exploration of Psalm 91, let’s review what we learned about the “if-thens”, when we began this study of what is often called “the soldier’s psalm.”

The “if-thens” of Psalm 91. A clear example of how God rewards us for seeking Him is found in Psalm 91. The AMPC has this footnote for Psalm 91: “The rich promises of this whole chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting exactly the conditions of these first two verses.”  Here are the “thens” that follow verses 1 and 2, along with the “becauses” in verses 9 through 16, (using the 1965 Amplified Bible) :

IF I dwell in the secret place AND SAY God is my refuge AND TRUST in Him (verses 1 and 2)

  • THEN God will “deliver me from every trap” (NLT),
  • THEN He will cover me,
  • THEN His “faithful promises will be my armor and protection”,
  • THEN I will not be afraid of anything evil, at any time,
  • THEN “No evil will touch me” (NLT) though people fall all around me. (phrases in parentheses are from the NLT)

. . . the “because” point the way to promises, too . . .

  • BECAUSE I make God my refuge and dwelling place (which repeats verses 1 and 2), “no evil will conquer me”, (NLT) and that is true because “He will order His angels to protect me wherever I go” (NLT)

(and finally, verses 14-16):

  • BECAUSE I love God and trust in His nature, He will rescue me, protect me, answer me, honor me, give me a long life, and show me His salvation, which includes deliverance, as well as redemption from sin through the blood of Jesus.

Image result for free clip art of GODS PROMISESPsalm 91: 14 through 16–eight thundering “I wills! Eight powerful “I will” promises conclude Psalm 91.

14 Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no never] 15. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.

Let’s look at these promises once more, in list form:

(Because he has set his love upon Me, THEREFORE:

  • I will deliver him,
  • I will set him on high,
  • because He knows and understands My name
  • I will answer him when he calls on me,
  • I will be with him in trouble,
  • I will deliver him,
  • I will honor him,
  • I will satisfy him with long life, and
  • I will show him My salvation.

Image result for FREE PICTURE of sun moon and starsWhen we set our love on God. Notice that these eight promises apply to us when we set our love upon God. I see God’s fairness in Verse 14 in that when we set our love on Him, he sets us on high. How do I “set my love” on someone? “To set” means to put something in a specific place or position, like setting a book on the table. I like what Webster’s 1828 online dictionary says, “To put, place, or fix in any situation. God set the sun, moon and stars in the firmament.” That means something is permanently fixed and secured in a particular place. And that is how we are to love God—permanently and unshakably. If we do that, God promises to deliver us, which Webster’s 1828 defines as “to free or to release, as from a restraint; to set at liberty, as from captivity” and also “to rescue or to save.” The enemy of our souls always intends us deadly harm, but we have the promise of Almighty God that He will deliver us IF we meet His conditions.

Image result for FREE PICTURE OF HIGH GROUNDIf we set our love on God, God will deliver us and “set us on high.” It is good to be on high ground during a battle, and we know this life on earth is a battle! “Setting on high” also implies being lifted up from having fallen down or being in a low position. Job 5:9-16 lists a few of the kind things God does, one of which is “The lowly He sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” (V. 11, NIV). God will keep us fixed and secured in a high, or safe, place.

Stand in awe of the Word. I think a word of loving caution is needed here. I do not pretend to know exactly how God works, but I do know He tells us to study His word diligently, 2 Timothy 2:15 clearly instructs us to “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly] handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” That includes understanding the context of a verse upon which you are relying. I have heard and read many instances, as I am sure you have, where a verse is obviously used incorrectly. However, we all need to be on guard against mishandling the Word in subtle ways. I have done this in the past, but by God’s grace, I now work diligently to ensure I handle His Word correctly.

Image result for FREE PICTURE of bibleSearching out context helps prevent such subtle as well as obvious errors. At a minimum, I read a few verses before and after. Preferably, I read the entire chapter and peruse an outline of the book of the Bible in which the verse is located. This does take extra time and effort, but it is a safeguard for us. Below is a link to an excellent article about handling the Word of God correctly at knowableword.com The Dangerous Consequences of Ignoring Context (knowableword.com)

Because we know and understand what God is like. . . “Because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never]. (Psalm 91:14b, AMPC)

The AMPC translation of verse 14-b teaches us what it means to “know and understand” God’s name, which means His nature or what He is like. The phrases in brackets state “has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no never.” So as we personally experience God’s mercy, His love and His kindness, we will be able to truly trust and rely on him because we will know—through our experiencing it—that God will never, no never, no never forsake us. (Now is a good time to meditate afresh on Hebrews 13:5-6 in the AMPC)

Image result for free picture of sick woman in bedI may have heard that someone with whom I have a casual acquaintance (let’s call her Sandy) is a kind person, but when Sandy brings soup and other food and medicine to my house when I have the flu, I know—through personal knowledge and experience—that Sandy is kind.

Perhaps one reason God tells us to consider ourselves blessed when we have trials (James 1) is because trials give us chances to experience God’s love and faithfulness. After we have walked through a few trials and seen God deliver us, we can have the confident hope and expectation of the writer of Lamentations. In the first part of Chapter 3, he remembers all his afflictions, the “wormwood and the gall” (AMPC) but in Verse 21 he remembers something that gives him hope and expectation—which is that “Because of the LORD”s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. (NIV)”

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We will have all we need. The other six “I wills” cover everything we need in this earthly life. If we set our love on God and come to know Him through experiencing His love and mercy, God says:

  • I will answer him when he calls upon Me;
  • I will be with him in trouble;
  • I will deliver him and
  • I will honor him.
  • I will satisfy him with long life,
  • and I will show him My salvation. (Psalm 91:15-16, AMPC) (Besides the theological definition of “deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.” salvation also means “saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc.” (www.dictionary.com).

In these promises I hear God’s thundering voice, but I also hear Him gently, quietly, pleading with us, urging us to set our love on Him, to put Him first. Why? Because He loves us and knows what is good for us. Oh, how great the love of God! Dare we offer Him anything less than total, passionate, faithful love, obedience, and devotion?

Look how Matthew Henry talks about these promises :

Whatever happens, nothing shall hurt the believer; though trouble and affliction befall, it shall come, not for his hurt, but for good, though for the present it be not joyous but grievous. Those who rightly know God, will set their love upon him. They by prayer constantly call upon him. His promise is, that he will in due time deliver the believer out of trouble, and in the mean time be with him in trouble.

The Lord will manage all his worldly concerns, and preserve his life on earth, so long as it shall be good for him. For encouragement in this he looks unto Jesus. He shall live long enough; till he has done the work he was sent into this world for, and is ready for heaven. Who would wish to live a day longer than God has some work to do, either by him or upon him?

Image result for free picture of heavenA man may die young, yet be satisfied with living. But a wicked man is not satisfied even with long life. At length the believer’s conflict ends; he has done for ever with trouble, sin, and temptation.” (from the Matthew Henry commentary on Psalm 91:9-16 at www.biblehub.com

Is it any wonder that so many of us memorize all of Psalm 91? Selah, selah, selah!

 

 

 

Do you know what God will do for you? Psalm 91 – Part 4

Image result for Free Picture of the Most High Your Refuge. Size: 124 x 105. Source: ptbradley.comBecause you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, there shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or calamity come near your tent. For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]. They shall bear you up on their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent shall you trample underfoot.” (Psalm 91:9-13 AMPC)

Image result for Free Picture of Cardinal in Snow. Size: 150 x 110. Source: roadsendnaturalist.wordpress.comI cannot “outgive” God. Can you? Now, that is a rhetorical question if ever there were one! Every time I start writing for you, dear reader, God blesses me far beyond anything I could ask or imagine. And that includes the day I wrote this blog, which was the fourth day of record-breaking cold and snow for Texas and many other states. From my desk, I saw snow lining the wide expanse of bare branches in front of the big double window. Piles of snow that had fallen four days before remained trapped in the forks of the bigger branches. Ice coated the smaller branches not big enough to capture snow. I watched, in wonder, as a cardinal, one of my most favorite birds, perched on a snow covered branch – just like Christmas cards I have loved all my life! Those rare snow-bound days gave extra hours for writing and Bible study and motivated me to make more time—when life returned to normal–to just sit down and search out the meaning of passages, new and old, talking with Holy Spirit, trusting Him to lead as I search His Word. By His grace, I have done that. Truly, Romans 8:28 is true!

Line upon line. . . that concept – again! On that snowy day, as I heard the unfamiliar crunch of snow being shoveled from the sidewalk, thanks to a kind-hearted neighbor, I was looking again at that well-known passage in Isaiah 28–”line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little” . To dig deeply into that passage is a topic for another time, but briefly I see that God says He carefully taught His people that they must depend on Him and nothing else, that He has a “place of rest” for the weary, but they refused to heed His instruction so He will teach them with bitter consequences. Psalm 91 also speaks of that “place of rest”, that secret place of the Most High. Hopefully, we voluntarily seek out the place of rest that God has lovingly prepared, without being pressed there by the harsh consequences of complacency toward God.

Here is what we saw in previous blog posts on Psalm 91, dated Feb. 4, 11, and 25.

  • V 1-4 If we make God our home, and confidently trust Him THEN He will deliver us and cover us, thus enabling us to find true refuge. THEN
  • V 5-9 From our chosen position within that secret place, we will not fear, and we will be protected AND
  • V 9-13 Because we obey and serve God, His angels will protect us and we will do exploits AND
  • V 14-16 Because we love God deeply and serve Him, He will give us a peaceful, victorious, overcoming, satisfying and long life.

Image result for free picture of if thenVerse 9: “Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, there shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or calamity come near your dwelling.” Notice the “Because” that starts the passage from verse 9 through 13. The KJV also uses “because” and the NLT and NIV both use “If/then”, which makes the conditional nature of the promises in verses 9 through 13 even clearer. God says that because we stay close to Him and trust Him, He will protect us from evil (harm in some translations), plague, and calamity.

Image result for free picture of nothing shall harm houWith this verse, as often happens when I try too hard to nail down what a verse means, I sense Holy Spirit saying to reflect on different translations and related verses that He has brought to mind, and then move on. So, I will just make note that in John 16:33 Jesus says He has overcome the world and deprived it of power to harm us. To me, that means that although we will encounter the “troubles, trials, distress, and frustration” Jesus said we would in this fallen world, those things will not do lasting damage or harm. Perhaps that is what God means here. Also, in Luke 10:19, Jesus says to His disciples “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (NIV) Such deep truths to ponder!

So, why does God promise us protection from evil or harm, from plagues and calamities? He says clearly that it is BECAUSE we have made Him our refuge and we dwell, or remain constantly, in the secret place of the Most High. Then, in verse 11 He explains how He will do that.

Verse 11: For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]. (AMPC)

Image result for free picture of protecting angelsThe NLT says “For He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.” Angels are a profound mystery and, obviously, an essential part of all that God does and of spiritual things. (I know that is a woefully inadequate statement.) I know angels are real and that Hebrews 1:14 declares “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” I have never personally seen an angel, but they are mentioned often in the Bible, and that is enough for me! I have friends who have, however, seen angels,  and I have learned something of them in the books “Angel Armies: Releasing the Warriors of Heaven” by Tim Sheets and “Angels, God’s Secret Agents” by Billy Graham.

Notice that God says His angels will protect us “wherever we go.” It is important to recall that Satan tried to tempt Jesus to misapply this verse. Read Luke 4:1-13 to see the temptations Jesus endured before beginning His earthly ministry. In Luke 4:9 to 12, Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12 and urges Jesus to throw Himself down from the highest point of the temple. Jesus answers this temptation with another verse, Deuteronomy 6:16 “Do not put the LORD your God to the test.” It is essential for us to follow this example of Jesus. Yes, God’s angels are watching over us, wherever we go, but if we deliberately do foolish things, we are testing the limits of God’s patience and should not be surprised if disaster falls upon us.

Our ways “of obedience and service”. We are promised God’s protection as we go about obeying and serving God. To me, this verse says that If we are living in disobedience or not serving Him, this does not apply.

We will do exploits. When we follow God whole-heartedly, He protects us and, as verse 13 indicates, we will do great things. What could be greater than defeating the enemy of our souls? Holy Spirit led the writer of Psalm 91 to tell us that, if you meet God’s conditions, “You will tread upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent shall you trample underfoot. (Psalm 91:13, AMPC)” The devil is compared to a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8 and in Genesis 3:14 God cursed the serpent, who had tempted Eve.

Image result for free picture of victoryNotice that the second half of Psalm 91:13 echoes the first half, saying that not only will we walk upon or trample lions and cobras (NLT) but we will crush them under our feet. Remember the destiny God decreed for Satan in Genesis 3:14-15? Because the serpent had deceived Eve, God told the serpent ”Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (NLT)

And Romans 16:20 encourages us that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet.” (NIV) When an animal is crushed, it is rendered powerless and dead, unable to affect the world of the living any longer. We do our part to crush the enemy here on earth in our personal life by living a life of loving obedience to God. And as John Gill commented, we can be encouraged by the fact that in heaven, we will be eternally free from the reach of Satan (from the John Gill commentary at Biblestudytools.com)

Next week we will look at the last four verses of Psalm 91 – which include eight thundering “I will” promises from God.  What a loving Father He is to tell us how to stay safe under His loving wings!

Image result for free picture of gods protection

Do you know you are safe? Psalm 91, Pt. 3

Image result for free picture of girl with 1960s phone God’s good plans for us begin early. “A-n-t-a-g-o-n-i-s-t.” I spoke slowly, waiting until I heard Tammy murmur “Okay” then I continued even more slowly. “The person who opposes the protagonist”. I knew it would take her a while to write the definition. Whereas she wrote slowly, struggling to understand and take notes during the hour Mr. Porter devoted to literature, I wrote fast and also had an aptitude for English and writing. So, Tammy and I had talked an hour each afternoon while I filled in gaps in her notes, genuinely feeling, for once, admired by a classmate.

I wound the phone cord around my fingers as I watched as Mother peel potatoes at the sink, feeling privileged to sprawl on the green corduroy couch in the midst of supper preparations. Knowing she heard each word offended my fifth-grade independence, but a smile softened her features. My difficulty in making friends had begun even then and, reflecting back, I believe she smiled, even though she was doing without my potato-peeling, carrot-scraping, table-setting assistance, because I was talking on the phone with a friend.

In seventh grade, we changed teachers and classrooms for each subject, and I could no longer sustain the accidental friendships, like that with Tammy, that had blossomed from being with the same group of kids all day. No, by then, I considered myself a loner. However, compliments on my writing from Mrs. Loftin, the seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher, watered a heart thirsty for approval and self-esteem, feelings that seldom came from my more socially-adept peers who were busy cementing in-crowd friendships that would endure until and, for some of them, beyond high school .

Mr. Porter, Mrs. Loftin and other beloved teachers imparted good study, writing, and thinking skills as well as a love of learning. Those skills gave me confidence to seek out knowledge on my own which also brought joy and engendered a measure of confidence. That confidence that I could study and write and understand things all by myself sustained me through a painfully shy adolescence and young adulthood, all according to God’s purposes for my individual life, long before I gave Him my heart. (“But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, died for us.” (Romans 5:8, AMPC).

Image result for free picture of teacher in classroomTo each is given. . . “ (I Corinthians 12:7) Now, many years later, it is a pleasure to use those skills in Bible study. Often, when I study and outline a Bible passage, I see Mr. Porter, in the center of his classroom, perched against one of the student desks he had arranged in a what was then a most unconventional circle, or I see Ms. Loftin, silver-framed reading glasses dangling on a a beaded chain around her neck, ever-present sweater buttoned around her slim form, walking along rows of desks, handing out graded papers, our grade and her carefully-considered comments neatly written in red ink above our names.

How good God is to give each of us abilities so that we can find pleasure as we use them for His kingdom! Whatever gifts God has given you (Romans 12:6, I Peter 4:10), I pray you find joy in developing and using them for the Kingdom. As for me and my work for God, as I sit here, reading and re-reading Psalm 91, seeking to understand what God is saying, I am grateful once again for teachers who trained me to outline, to group together similar thoughts so as to grasp and find words for things implied but not stated.

Line upon line, precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10) In the previous two blog posts about this treasured psalm, I said I believe the simplest outline and fundamental message of Psalm 91 is: if we make God our home and confidently trust Him, He will take care of us—no matter what!

While pondering Psalm 91 the last two weeks, in reading the whole psalm over and over, another outline that is instructive for me has emerged.

  • V 1-2–If we make God our home, and confidently trust Him THEN
  • V 3-4–He will deliver us and cover us, thus enabling us to find true refuge. THEN
  • V 5-9–From our chosen position within that secret place:
    > We will not fear (v. 5 and 6) and
    > We will be protected (v. 7 and 8) AND
  • V 9-13–As we obey and serve God, His angels will protect us and we will do exploits. (God repeats and explains the messages of verses 1 through 8 , giving details that reassure us.) AND
  • V 14-16–Because we love God deeply and serve Him, He gives us a peaceful, victorious, overcoming, satisfying and long life.

Two HUGE promises for us from God about being in the secret place. In verses 5 and 6, God gives us two promises about what happens when we dwell habitually in the secret place:

We will not fear, and we will be protected.

Image result for free picture of guardian angelIn the secret place, we will not fear. “You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow (the evil plots and slanders of the wicked) that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor of the destruction and sudden death that surprise and lay waste at noonday.[Then] . . . (verses 5 and 6)

In verses 5 and 6, God reassures us about things that might frighten us at night or by day and He uses the same pattern in verse 6, telling us we will not be afraid of any danger or destruction in darkness or at noonday. I believe that is another way of saying that He is keeping guard over us every moment, night and day. He is with us as He was with Abraham, and in Genesis 28:15 He promised Abraham “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.” (NIV) This promise in the AMPC reads

And behold, I am with you and will keep watch over you with care, take notice of) you wherever you may go and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you.” (AMPC

Notice: Notice God says wherever you go, He says He will watch over you with care, and He will notice you. What little child doesn’t say, “Watch me!” to Mama or Papa as they hang upside down on the monkey bars or ride a bike without training wheels for the first time.

Image result for free picture of god watching over childChildren who are afraid of the dark are comforted by the presence of their parents and often want Mama or Papa to lie down in bed with them and snuggled them close. They may know Papa is in the other room, but sometimes they need to be in his arms and to feel him next to them. Although we know God will protect us, sometimes we need extra awareness of that truth. God gives that to us here when He repeats His promises. Just knowing Papa will come if he cries out helps a child who is afraid of the dark settle down and go to sleep. Even so, just knowing that we have a place in God where fear will stop helps us calm down.

Life in this world overflows with potential woes and worries, like sickness, disease and hurt from others. However, if we love and obey God, He will work it all out for our good (Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20) and it will not harm us (John 16:33). When beset by fresh troubles, I am finding it powerful to repeat to myself, “God will keep me safe in the secret place as I seek Him. I will be at peace and will be protected from anything and everything.”

Image result for free picture of secret placeIn the secret place, we will be protected. “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Only a spectator shall you be [yourself inaccessible in the secret place of the Most High] as you witness the reward of the wicked.” (verses 7 and 8)

If a place is secret, it means that the place is hidden from view, that it is inaccessible to others, and other people cannot find it. In the spiritual realm that must mean that the enemy of our souls cannot find where we are and cannot hurt us when we are in the secret place. It would be like a fawn, camouflaged by its coloring and the spots on its back, lying still Image result for free picture of fawn hidingand motionless, watching danger pass right by.

Two other psalms talk about God keeping us save in the shelter we create in our hearts when we are aware of His presence. Psalm 27:5 says, “For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His shelter; in the secret place of His tent will He hide me; He will set me high upon a rock.” (AMPC) Reading the entire psalm shows that the author, David, is dwelling in the secret place and he makes that his priority (verse 4)because he knows God will keep him “safe in His dwelling”. And where is God’s dwelling? That place in our hearts that we talked about in earlier blogs about Psalm 91.

And Psalm 31:20 explains “In the secret place of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men; You keep them secretly in Your pavilion from the strife of tongues.‘(AMPC) In Psalm 31, David is writing from the secret place. Notice he says “In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge. . . “ (Psalm 31:1, NIV) Throughout the psalm, David is asking for God’s mercy and talking with God about his troubles but David also repeatedly reassures his own soul that God IS his refuge and source of strength (verse 3), that God has not handed him over to his enemies (verse 8), that God has stored up abundant goodness for those who fear Him (verse 19), and that God will hide such a one and keep that one safe “in the shelter of His presence (verse 20). David ends this song of trust in God by recalling a time when God heard him in a seemingly impossible situation (verse 22). David concludes by affirming that “the LORD preserves the faithful.” (verse 23)

Keep seeking the One who loves you so! Beloved, if we run to the secret place and pour out our hearts to God, we will find peace and safety and fresh hope. The secret is dwelling in the secret place.

Keep seeking God! Keep pressing in and pressing on! As Paul said in Philippians 2:12-14, keep working out your own salvation, with deep reverence for God, knowing it is God who is working in you. And follow Paul’s example in Philippians 3:13-14–forget your past and “press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ is calling us upward.” The rewards of pursuing God are far greater than we can imagine! God urges us on when He says:

Image result for free picture eye hsa not seen verse. . . as the Scripture says, What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him, who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed]. Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny]. (I Corinthians 2:9-10, AMPC)

Please reread this verse and notice how God describes the ones for whom He has prepared those things. He says those things we humans cannot even imagine are prepared for   those who love Him, who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed.”  May we truly love our indescribable Lord that way!

HE STILL REIGNS!!!

Image result for free picture of god reignsGOD STILL REIGNS!! I sat motionless, eyes closed, feeling the power of Holy Spirit in the thundering crescendo of instruments and voices raised in exultant praise.

He sits high above the mountains, King of kings and Lord is He, and all power is His forever! He still reigns! An empty tomb is there to prove, death could never hold our King. He still reigns, He still reigns!”

I first heard “He Still Reigns!” thirty plus years ago, when still a fairly new Christ follower. Just thinking about the truths in that song has stirred my soul ever since. Thirty or so years ago, the enemy was busy seeking to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) anything and anyone he could. Today, however, his efforts are even more obvious because God is revealing and thwarting the plans of the evil one and those who serve him. Today, I pray this message encourages and strengthens you and brings you the comfort with which God has comforted me (2 Corinthians 1:4), which is that blessed assurance that I am His and He is mine and HE STILL REIGNS!

Consider this:

  • The world, our nation, and many individuals are now in battles where it seems that evil has won.
  • But the battles will last only for a while.
    God will get Himself glory through and because of what is happening.
  • God remains in complete control.
  • God’s plans and purposes will be fulfilled in every way, in the world, our nation, and our individual lives.
  • God will enable us to stand our ground and fight, with confident expectation of victory and with His joy in our hearts.
  • God so often delivers at the last moment.

Three stories of last-moment deliverance by God. Let’s search for understanding in three Bible stories where God delivered His children from seemingly impossible situations, at the last moment. Because of those situations, God got Himself honor and glory and the enemy was made to know that God is the LORD. (Exodus 14:18). These stories are:

  1. Exodus 14 — The parting of the Red Sea
  2. Daniel 3 — Three Hebrews in the fiery furnace
  3. Daniel 6 — Daniel in the den of lions

Image result for free picture of red sea deliveranceExodus 14: The parting of the Red Sea. Read Exodus 13:17 through Exodus 14:31 to get an overview. Then consider the following observations. (Unless indicated otherwise, quotations are from the NIV.)

Ex. 13:17 God knew the Israelites might return to Egypt if they faced war with the Philistines, so God led them toward the Red Sea. He knew they needed a demonstration of His power on their behalf.

Ex 13:21-22 God led them by day and by night and never stopped leading them for a moment.

Ex 14:2-4 God told Moses, His leader, that Israel was to encamp by the Red Sea so that Pharaoh would think they were wandering around in confusion. God would harden Pharaoh’s heart to pursue them which would result in glory for God so that the Egyptians would know He is God. (Think about it – Egypt did not pursue them again, though Israel traveled in a nearby dessert for 40 years. God did indeed make Egypt learn that He IS God.)

Ex 14:5-12 Israel was at first “marching out boldly” (v. 8) but when Pharaoh approached “they were terrified and cried out to the Lord and turned on Moses (v. 10)

Image result for Free Picture Of American Flag Flying. Size: 157 x 110. Source: www.freestockphotos.bizLet me say here: How many have turned against our President, Donald John Trump—from whom the 2020 election was stolen–because it looks like evil won and is about to destroy our nation?

Ex 14:13 Moses told the people “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see a gain. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Image result for free picture of pillar of cloud and fireEx 14: 19- The angel of God moved behind the Israelites, and the pillar of cloud (which means this event began during the day) also moved behind them and “throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.” (Emphasis added)

Notice: God protects His people while He is preparing their deliverance. I believe this is where our nation and our world is at this moment. Verse 21 says “and all that night, the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”

Notice: Going through the Red Sea happened at night and all during the process of Israel walking through the divided waters, many many of them were still close to the Egyptians, waiting on the dangerous side, with only God’s pillar of cloud and fire keeping them safe. It took a while for deliverance from evil and into freedom to be complete. And during that time, all the Israelites who could not fit into the dry passage through the sea, had to stand still and wait and stay on God’s side. Had they turned back toward Egypt, rather than waiting on God’s process of deliverance to be completed, they would have become captives again.

Notice also: The deliverance through the Red Sea took most of the night. Verse 24 says “During the last watch of the night” God confused the Egyptian army, wheels came off their chariots and the Egyptians understood that God was fighting for Israel and against them.

This is just my  interpretation but perhaps the Egyptian army was getting close to the last of the Israelites who were walking to freedom. God could have had the Israelites walk faster or the Egyptians move slower, but maybe He wanted the Israelites to look into the midst of the Red Sea and observe what He was doing to their enemies. Maybe He wanted His children to have a picture to carry in their memory of mighty Pharaoh becoming terrified. Maybe He wanted them to see that even when the enemy was so very close, that He was still in control.

Image result for free picture of red sea deliveranceReturning to the text, in verse 26, God told Moses to again stretch out his hand over the sea and at daybreak, the sea went back into is place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. Not one of them survived.” (emphasis added.) “And Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant. (30b, 31)

Notice: God planned the entire event. He was in control the entire time. Because of the enemy’s efforts to destroy God’s people, God got Himself glory, and in so doing taught His people to fear Him and trust Him. Because of what happened, God destroyed Egypt’s entire army and put the fear of God into that wicked nation.

Daniel 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Image result for Free Picture of Nebuchadnezzar and idol. Size: 79 x 101. Source: www.pinterest.comDan 3:3-6 During the time when Israel was taken captive into Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar commanded everyone to bow down and worship a nine-foot tall idol he had made. He threatened that anyone who did not would be thrown into a burning furnace.

Dan 3:7 Most of the people complied.

Dan 3:8-12 Some men brought malicious accusations against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, reporting to King Nebuchadnezzar that these three did not serve Babylonian gods nor did they comply with his order to worship the idol Nebuchadnezzar had made.

Dan 3:13-15 The king was furious and gave the three a chance to comply, else they would be thrown into the furnace.

Notice: The enemy was threatening them with what looked like certain death if they did not turn away from God. The enemy of our souls wants the worship that is due God and will do anything he can to turn us away from God.

Dan 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied “If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up!”

Dan 3:19-23 The king was so enraged that he had the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, had the three tied up and had them thrown into the furnace. It was so hot that the flame killed the strong men who handled Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Flying American Flag PoleNotice: The enemy threatens and does all in his power to make the situation even worse. Consider our nation and our world this very day. Is not the enemy doing all in his power to destroy our President Donald John Trump—from whom the 2020 election was stolen–as well as everyone who is standing for righteousness and truth?

Dan 3:24-26 For a while, the three Hebrews were in the furnace; HOWEVER, when the King looked in, he saw a fourth man with them and they were walking around!

Notice: The three Hebrews had to actually go into the furnace and stay there for a while. BUT. . . God Himself was with them, in the furnace, and the king saw God.

Image result for Free Picture of Four Men in The Furnace. Size: 184 x 110. Source: fim-carol.blogspot.comDan 3:27 After the king told the three Hebrews to come out of the furnace and the king and all his rulers saw the “the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed; neither were their garments scored or changed in color or condition, nor had even the smell of smoke clung to them.” (AMPC)

Dan 3:28-30 The king said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who believed in, trusted in, and relied on Him! And they set aside the king’s command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” (See also Romans 12:1-3, which instructs us to be living sacrifices and to be transformed by renewing our minds so that we can understand God’s will.) Then the king threatened death to anyone in his kingdom who spoke against the God of the three Hebrews.

Daniel 6: Daniel in the den of lions.

The Bible tells of another time during the Babylonian captivity when God got Himself glory because someone stood strong in the midst of great trial for a while, until God worked deliverance.

Dan 6:1-9 “Daniel so distinguished himself . . .by his exceptional qualities”. . . that King Darius planned to “set him over the whole kingdom”. (Verses in this passage are from the NIV.) The other government officials, realizing they could not find any corruption in Daniel unless it concerned the law of Daniel’s God, persuaded King Darius to decree that no one could pray to any god or man but King Darius for thirty days, else they would be thrown to the lions.

Image result for free picture of american flag flying

Notice: Daniel was highly successful but government officials did all they could to destroy him. Does that not sound like what has happened recently to our President, Donald John Trump—from whom the 2020 election was stolen? He was doing a superb work as President, but then some powerful people attacked him (actually, they have attacked him relentlessly since he announced his candidacy for President.)

Take heart, friend! GOD IS NOT FINISHED WITH PRESIDENT DONALD JOHN TRUMP, AND GOD IS NOT FINISHED WITH AMERICA!!!

Dan 6:10 Upon hearing the decree, Daniel went home, opened his windows to Jerusalem and prayed, “just as he had done before.” Observe that Daniel continued living the righteous life as had been his habit. We need to develop solid spiritual habits before disaster strikes. If you are not doing so, get busy friend!

Dan 6:11-17 Daniel’s enemies reported Daniel’s actions to King Darius who was “greatly distressed. . . and made every effort . . . to save him.” However, as the enemies of Daniel reminded the king, no decree or edict of the king could be changed, so Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. King Darius said to Daniel, “May your God whom you serve continually rescue you!”

Dan 6:18-21 After a sleepless, tormented night, King Darius “hurried to the lions’ den.”

Notice: Daniel was in the apparent grasp of the enemy for a while – the entire night.

King Darius called out to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your Glod, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” The phrase “Whom you serve continually” appears in verses 16 and again here in verse 20, urging us, I believe, to strive to be like Daniel so that everyone knows we serve God continually.

Image result for free picture of daniel in the lions denDan 6:21-23 Observe that, even in this situation, Daniel is respectful. Daniel says, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” (NIV). The king was overjoyed and had Daniel set free, and the Scriptures tell us “No wound was found on him, because he had trusted in His God.” (v. 23b)

Dan 6:22-24 The men who had falsely accused Daniel were themselves and their families thrown into the lions’ den and were devoured before they reached the floor of the den. This last piece of information is included, I have heard many pastors state, to show that the lions were starved and would indeed have devoured Daniel but for the angel of God’s protection.

Dan 6:25 God gets Himself glory because of the hard situation in which Daniel was placed for a while. King Darius orders all in his kingdom to “fear and reverence the God of Daniel” for, or BECAUSE, King Darius states ”He is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; he performs signs and wonder in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (NIV)

Daniel 6:28. “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”

These three Bible stories encourage us to stand strong. Reread them and talk them over with God. See what Holy Spirit tells you.

Image result for free picture of the throne of godGod still reigns. God is in the process of getting Himself glory now, in the very midst of what seems hopeless. God delivered the Israelites, the three Hebrews, and Daniel, and He will deliver us! Read I Peter 1:1-12. Notice that verse 5 says ,”And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” (NLT) Rejoice, fellow believer! We have the hope of eternal life, and we have God protecting us this very moment.

The song “He still reigns!I have walked with God for 39 years. Our awesome God has never, no never, no never failed me in any way whatsoever, in any degree, not for one moment! (Hebrews 13:5-6). Our God sits in heaven and laughs at the wicked (Psalm 2), “But what joy for all who take refuge in Him!” (Palm 2:12c)

Now, today, in my home, I worship God as I listen to “He Still Reigns”, and my spirit and all that is within me rejoices and exults in Him. I feel the power of the One who speaks and mountains move, I hear the sound of the One who roars and lays bare the depths of the ocean, and I am in the presence of the One who created and sustains the universe and all that exists, the One who loves us, our soon-coming King, our King of kings and our Lord of Lords! Find a video of this powerfully anointed song, like the one at the link below, and be strengthened. Give our God the glory due His name! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fESjsMgzYTE

This old world’s in such confusion, hearts are failing everywhere, and sometimes it seems that God just doesn’t care. But don’t you fear! He holds our future. Let all heaven and earth proclaim He still reigns, He still reigns! An empty tomb is there to prove, death could never hold our King. He still reigns, He still reigns!” (Verse 2 from “He Still Reigns!”)

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Are you under His feathers? Psalm 91, Pt. 2

Image result for free picture of shadow of the almightyMore about the secret place. In studying the first two verses of Psalm 91, we learned that all the rich promises of this psalm are contingent upon our fulfilling the conditions in those first two verses, which are dwelling in “the secret place of the Most High” and trusting God, with confidence, to take care of us.

Surprised afresh by even more truth.  I had my little outline ready for the next few verses of Psalm 91, intending to look at the “thens” or the effects of dwelling in the secret place, which we do by habitually loving, obeying Him, and trusting  Him.  But in getting my three Bibles opened to Psalm 91, in the NLT I saw something powerful:  most of this psalm is simply reassurances of God’s love.

His promises make an outline. For me, this entire psalm is about God’s compassionate, merciful, Father heart. It is about His craving to help us know His Father heart better and– in the strength that comes from that knowledge–to live the abundant life, with the confidence and the constant comfort found in His presence.  I say that because in this psalm, He is teaching us, in detail, how He will take care of us and He is promising. Notice how often He repeats “He will” and “I will”.

His promise to take care of us is the foundation of this psalm, the truth He keeps repeating in different ways. God’s promises are one way to outline this psalm, one way to structure our understanding of His central message here:

If we love and obey Him, He WILL take care of us.

Each verse (except 1, 2 and 9) describes what God will do for us. Verses 1 and 2 describe our part, but verses 3 through 16 describe what God will do in response.  So, a simple outline is:

  1. 1-4 — Our obedience and God’s response (summarized)
  2. 5-8 — Details about how God will respond — the “He wills”
  3. 9-16 – A restatement of verses 1-2, the exploits we will achieve, and seven thundering “I will” promises.

Image result for free picture of father comforting childSafe in God’s father arms.  In these promises can’t you hear Him pleading to come into His arms, into the secret place of His presence? Can’t you hear Him promising and reassuring, like a parent reassures a frightened or fretful little child? “There, there now. Everything is all right. It is all okay. Daddy is right here. I will help you. You are safe. . .”

And all the while, that Daddy’s strong, father arms are holding that little child close to his chest, enveloping her in the warmth and strength of his own body. You cannot hold a child close without that child feeling comfort simply from contact with your body. The very essence of your physical presence, your strength and power and superior size, brings comfort, just as the warmth of a mother hen’s body, the softness of her feathers, and the soothing darkness under her wings comfort a little chick.

Why so many promises? God could have ended this psalm with verse 4, because verses 1 through 4 give the entire message. However, I believe He continued expounding upon His message because He knew hearing the details of how He will protect us would bring comfort. Father God knew how many millions of His children through the ages would need to hear each of these words. He knew we sometimes need to hear “You are safe” more than once and in more than one way.

To continue with the previous example, when you cradle a frightened or hurt child in your arms, you keep murmuring reassurances, over and over, you instinctively rock them back and forth, and you do all that until the child is calm and at rest in your arms. You do not just say “It is all right” once then put the child on his feet—because you know that child needs to hear your voice and your words until calm returns. You know that child needs time in a safe place, time for heart rate and breathing to slow, and time for human touch to perform its God-ordained work.  Just like that child, we need to stay in His presence, quiet and still, for  a while.

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I believe (and this is a thought I approach with utmost reverence and respect) that somehow, in the spiritual realm, God comforts us when we are in His presence by giving us something of the essence of His Very Self. Somehow, when we come into contact with Him, our human spirit and our soul actually touch and are touched by Him and in that touching, He imparts part of Himself, a bit of the essence of Who He is, just as a loving human father imparts something of his physical being to the child he cradles in his arms. We receive that from Him when we stop what we are doing and focus our whole attention on Him.

NOTE: After I had written the first draft of this blog post, I found similar thoughts in “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ”, a book written by Jeanne Guyon in the latter part of the seventeenth century. How kind God is to us when we seek Him!

Image result for free picture of god is loveGod could have made the Bible very short. He could have stated each command and principle one time and given only one brief illustration or story. But, no, like the Perfect Rabbi He is, He repeats things over and over and over, in a multitude of ways. He knows we sometimes need many words from our Heavenly Father, many reassurances, much cuddling, and much time in the secret place of His arms. So, He repeats truth by placing it in numerous places throughout the Bible and in some places, such as the psalms, He repeats a truth over and over, within just a few sentences, like in Psalm 91 when he repeats “I will. . . I will. . . I will. . . “.

Our seeking Him blesses Him.  I personally believe that the main reason God tells us, repeatedly, to turn to Him and trust Him is because it benefits us and keeps us safe. Putting the other first is part of true love (I Corinthians 13) and sacrificial love is part of God’s nature (John 3:16).

I think it must also be that the act of giving us comfort and reassurances blesses God. It must be good and pleasant for God when we seek Him out for comfort, when He is the one we turn to when we hurt or are afraid or when a bully, like the enemy of our souls, has threatened harm. It must be a delight to His Father heart, like the surge of relief when you successfully kiss away the hurt of a boo-boo.

Because of the nature of love—and we know that God IS love—giving comfort blesses the One who gives it. God would never do anything from selfish motives but it is somehow built into the nature of things, the way that love works, that it is good for God when we turn to Him for our needs. Somehow, when we let God meet our needs, we do a good thing for Him. That is a jewel to ponder for the rest of this earthly life!

So, with that thought and keeping in mind what verses 1 and 2 teach, let’s examine verses 3 and 4.

Image result for free picture of fowlers snareVerse 3: “For [then] He will deliver you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” (AMPC)

Notice the “For [then]” at the start of verse 3. To reiterate, all the promises in this psalm depend upon our doing our part, as God explains in verses 1 and 2.

“He will deliver you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” God delivers us from the traps of the enemy in two ways: from getting caught in the trap and freeing us after we have stepped into it. I was blessed to see that this was part of the sermon outline Charles Spurgeon used on this verse (The Snare of the Fowler by C. H. Spurgeon (blueletterbible.org))   The seven insights below are from that sermon by Pastor Spurgeon. I urge you to look up the entire sermon at the link given above.

  1. In Psalm 91:3, Satan is depicted as attacking not with persecution and as a roaring lion (I Peter 5:8) but as a snake, an adder, . . . “creeping silently along the path, endeavoring to bite our heel with his poisoned fangs, and weaken the power of grace and ruin the life of godliness within us.”
  2. The fowler (Satan) has numerous kinds of snares, suited for each bird.
  3. The fowler carefully conceals his trap. The non-believer rushes into sin whereas believers are “taken by secrecy.” As Spurgeon says, if the devil knocked on our door “with his horns visible” we would not let him in, but we too often welcome him in when he comes dressed as a gentleman.
  4. “The fowler’s snare is frequently associated with pleasures, profit, and advantage.” Satan makes sin look like fun and look like it will be good for us.
  5. Image result for free picture of a decoy duck and a real duckSometimes the fowler uses the force of an example, a “decoy duck”. The enemy does not send an outright sinner to lead us astray. Rather he “. . . makes use of a man who is pretendedly religious, and who looks to be of the same quality as yourself, and therefore entices you astray. . .” Then if that man goes astray, I am easily trapped in the same snare. “Be careful of your companions. . . follow them no further than they follow Christ. Let your course be entirely independent of everyone else.”
  6. Image result for free picture of a falcon on the wristAlso, Spurgeon notes that sometimes when the fowler cannot “take his bird by deceit and craft, he will send his hawk into the air to bring down his prey. He will go “a hawking after his prey.”
  7. Finally, sometimes the fowler uses all his tactics at once so that the “bird is beset on every side.”

And from the deadly pestilence (AMPC) or “deadly disease” (NIV).  Even without being a historian, I know that in Bible times all types of disease, including many types of plagues, were more common. It is easy to see why Holy Spirit moved on the psalmist to include this promise, is it not? Even though we live in a fallen world, surrounded by temptations and sin, sickness, and death, as we seek God, He delivers us and gives us victory and the peace that comes from God and which is part of God Himself. Take heart, fellow pilgrim! In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)! His Word guides us into experiencing part of, while here on earth, the greatest blessing of eternal life—being in the presence of God Himself.  Selah, oh, selah!

Verse 4. [Then] He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler.” (AMPC)  (NIV says shield and rampart.)

Then He will cover you with His pinions.” The first four verses suggest a process, steps we can take with God. (1) We make God our home and (2) trust in Him with confidence, (3)  then He delivers us from Satan’s snares, (4) then He “covers us with His pinions” . And, (5) from that place under His outstretched wings, we are empowered to truly trust and find refuge.

Notice that in Verse 2 we say “God is my refuge” and we trust in Him, but Verse 4 says then we shall trust and find refuge.  To find refuge means we have to look for it. We have to take action. To put it another way. . .

See the source imageI think it is like God, using the metaphor of a bird, stretches out His wings over us and the outermost edges of his wings, His pinions, overshadow us. Remember, verse one says we are under the shadow of the Almighty. Then, like a tiny chick snuggling in as close as possible to the mother hen’s body, once we are safe in the shadow of His presence, if we keep snuggling in closer to Him, then we will find the refuge we seek.

It is like a fuzzy little chick running to its mother when danger approaches. That chick is not safe until the running its little feet are doing positions it under her pinions—the feathers she is stretching out to protect him. And that chick is not truly safe until he snuggles in close to mother hen’s body where, even if the attacker continues to pursue, the chick will be safe while the mother hen defends against  the attacker. I have never raised chickens but I am sure a mother hen will fight to her death to protect a chick under her wings.

In my opinion, because God is so merciful and compassionate and loving, He overshadows and protects us when we love and serve Him, but when we press in even closer, He gives us deeper trust and peace. A child who runs to her father when she is afraid benefits greatly just from his nearness but she benefits from the full measure of his love and fierce desire to comfort her only when she has flung herself on him  and wound her arms around his neck.

“His truth and faithfulness are a shield and a buckler.” I believe this sentence suggests two ways that God shields us. (1) God protects us because of His nature—He is by nature faithful to His children and His covenant with them–and (2) He also protects us by giving us the ability to remember His nature.

When we have had experiences where God delivered us, we begin to understand His character, and then we can trust Him because He is always, always, always faithful.  This is what Psalm 9:10 promises:

“And they who know Your name [who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy] will lean on and confidently put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You [on the authority of God’s Word and the right of their necessity.] (AMPC)

A little girl playing in the back yard who has run into her father’s arms to get away from the over-excited puppy chasing her feels safe because her father has kept her safe before. She has known only love and comfort in His arms. I am sure beyond all doubt, dear friend, that you have found the same each and every time you have been aware of being in God’s presence, in His arms.

When I read the last half of verse four, another verse that talks about God shielding us comes to mind:

Image result for free picture of shield and bucklerThe Lord is my Strength and my [impenetrable] Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him.” (Psalm 28:7, AMPC)

Other verses that speak of God being our impenetrable shield include Psalm 19:14, 28:7, 29:11. 46:1, 62:7, and 68:28. Pondering these verses and their context is a comfort.

A shield is a piece of defensive armor, and a buckler, according to some sources, is a small shield carried in the left hand and used to deflect blows from an enemy. Other sources say a buckler was a shield that completely covered the body. Regardless, the truth is that God’s protection is complete. He is all-powerful. (Job 42:2, Luke 1:37, and Jeremiah 32:17). And Psalm125:2 encourages us “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people both now and forevermore.” (NIV)

When we exercise our faith in God, we are lifting up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16) and it will “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (NIV).

Our heavenly Father is exceedingly loving and compassionate and “earnestly imprints on His heart” that we are frail, weak humans. (Psalm 103) We do not have to have perfect faith.  We just have to try to trust and to run in His direction. If we do, then we will find His strong, loving arms outstretched to us, to scoop us close, and ever closer, under His feathers – until we can truly trust. May it ever be so, oh, our Father!

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Are you dwelling in the secret place of the Most High? – Psalm 91, Pt. 1

Image result for Free Picture of Home Sweet Home. Size: 162 x 102. Source: www.publicdomainpictures.net“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.

“The secret place of the Most High.” Hmm. . . I pondered, as I took a sip of half-caf, lowered the volume of the gentle piano music streaming on the computer, and leaned back in my chair. “Dwell” means to live permanently, to make someplace your home by living, eating, sleeping, and finding shelter. And what exactly is the secret place? I think I know but. . .

Do you have your own arsenal of Scripture? Psalm 91 is part of my arsenal of Scripture, the verses I deliberately keep fresh in my mind through repeated meditation and which I use every day when something threatens to steal my peace or my feeling of security in Jesus. I discovered this group of verses in the spring of 2019, when deep healing of life-long depression began. Many things, including Bible reading and study, prayer, Christian counseling, and medicine, all had helped greatly.

However, deep healing of the root causes of sorrow and discouragement did not happen until God helped me give His Word its proper place in my daily life and in my heart. Only when God taught me to diligently study His law, His precepts, instructions, and teachings and to meditate, to ponder and study them, by day and by night, (Psalm 1:1, AMPC), only then was I able to keep my emotions stable and to walk in victory. Only then could I trade my ashes for beauty, my mourning for joy, and my spirit of despair for a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

Image result for Free Picture of Tangled Roots. Size: 174 x 110. Source: denisepass.comPeace and security in the secret place. The biggest causes of depression for me–the ugly roots that caused death and decay– were fear and insecurity. Two years ago while memorizing Psalm 91, I realized that the powerful promises of Psalm 91 were dependent on what I did, like dwelling, trusting, making God my refuge, and loving Him. Part of the reason the Word helps me so much, I think, is that verses like this give me something to “do” and the confidence that if I do my part, God will certainly do His. For example, keeping Psalm 91 in mind, I did the best I could to stay in God’s presence all day long and as I did so, even though I was mired in the mud of negative feelings at the start, I kept reminding myself that God would do His part and that no foe could withstand His mighty power (Psalm 91:1, AMPC). That brought a small, but ever-increasing measure of peace and security.

I felt little difference at first but by day by day, week by week, my faith in God’s promises grew as I saw Him deliver me one hour, one situation at a time. When we do our best to obey God, God does good things for us. Hebrews 11:6 in the NIV tells us “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He reward those who earnestly seek Him.”

Image result for free picture of promiseThe “thens” of Psalm 91. A clear example of how God rewards us for seeking Him is found in Psalm 91. The AMPC has this footnote for Psalm 91: “The rich promises of this whole chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting exactly the conditions of these first two verses.”  Before we examine verses 1 and 2, let’s look into those rich promises. The “thens” that follow verses 1 and 2, along with the “becauses” in verses 9 through 16, (using the 1965 Amplified Bible) highlight those promises, as follows:

IF I dwell in the secret place AND SAY God is my refuge AND TRUST in Him (verses 1 and 2)

  • THEN God will “deliver me from every trap” (NLT),
  • THEN He will cover me,
  • THEN His “faithful promises will be my armor and protection”,
  • THEN I will not be afraid of anything evil, at any time,
  • THEN “No evil will touch me” (NLT) though people fall all around me. (phrases in parentheses are from the NLT)

. . . the “because” point the way to promises, too . . .

  • BECAUSE I make God my refuge and dwelling place (which repeats verses 1 and 2), “no evil will conquer me”, (NLT) and that is true because “He will order His angels to protect me wherever I go” (NLT)

and finally. . .

  • BECAUSE I love God and trust in His nature, He will rescue me, protect me, answer me, honor me, give me a long life, and show me His salvation, which includes deliverance, as well as redemption from sin through the blood of Jesus.

So, let’s begin pondering this beloved psalm, often called the soldier’s psalm. Let’s explore what those essential first two verses instruct us to do.

Verse 1: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].

Dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. In considering what “dwelling” meant, I turned to John 14, a passage that speaks of dwelling. In John 14, Jesus promised to send Holy Spirit—“Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart) because it does not see Him, nor know and recognize Him. . .“–but Whom the disciples would recognize because the Comforter lived with them and would be in them (meaning after Jesus ascended to heaven and Holy Spirit came).

Jesus promised that after His resurrection, His disciples would know, for themselves, that “I am in My Father, and you [are] in Me, and I [am] in you.” (v. 20). Jesus said that if they really loved Him, they would obey Him and He would show Himself to them and let them clearly see Him and He would make Himself real to them. That promise also applies to us, His current-day disciples.

Image result for Free Clip Art of Moving In. Size: 168 x 204. Source: www.clipartpanda.comWhen asked how He would reveal Himself to us and make Himself real to us—and not the world– Jesus answered that if someone loves Him, that person will obey His Word and Jesus and the Father will “come to him and make Our home (abode, special dwelling place) with him.” (John 14:23, AMPC).  Jesus reiterated that if we really love Him, we will obey His teachings.

So, our love and obedience causes God to dwell, or live, in us and our love and obedience causes us to live in God and God in us. And His abiding in us is how He makes Himself real to us. So that means that He does not show, reveal or manifest Himself to the world—to those who do not love or obey Him. People who do not love and obey God do not think He is real.

His dwelling in us is hidden from the world. It is a secret, like the secret mentioned in Psalm 25:14: “The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.”

God’s hidden, or secret, companionship, God’s friendship, is promised to those who fear, revere and worship Him, which includes obeying His commands. As we just read In John 14, Jesus promised to make His home with those who love Him and do what He says.  So where is this home? Jesus promised to make His home with “each” of us, so that implies to me that the “home” is in our individual hearts.

Child Whispering to Grand ParentI think this helps describe that “secret place of the Most High” of Psalm 91. It is a secret place, where no one else can see, a place created when we love and obey God. When we deeply love someone, we tell them they “have a place in our hearts”, right? So, that phrase must apply here. We give God a place in our hearts when we love Him and respond to Him, and He makes His home with us. He is always with us. We are His dwelling place.  I think that must be like a cousin would make your residence his home if he moved in and became part of the routine of your family, if he had his own seat at the table and his own bed, and other members of your household included him in their daily activities. That cousin would be making your residence his home.

“the Most High. I think Scripture uses “Most High” here to remind us of this attribute of God, that He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” and that He is above, and in control of, every being that exists. “Most High”, or ‘El’Elyhon is saying that “God is the very highest of all spiritual begins to which humans give the title ‘god’. (https://namesforgod.net)

Image result for free picture of anchor on a ship“shall remain stable and fixed”. The NIV and the NLT say that the one who dwells in the secret place shall “find rest”. I love the idea of finding rest in His presence, but remaining stable and fixed spoke more powerfully to me in the months when I was fighting desperately for emotional stability. “Stable and fixed” implies something is anchored in place securely and is unlikely to overturn or be changed.  There is that security theme again!

“under the shadow of the Almighty.” “God Almighty” is from the Hebrew El Shaddai, meaning “God, the All-powerful One”. (www.compellingtruth.org).  It comforts me to ponder the fact that this God, this Holy One Who is protecting me, is the most powerful Being that exists. He is THE Highest. and if I am in His shadow, that means He is above me, covering me, and because He is The Highest, He is covering me, shading me, from all things because He is above all things and He is All-powerful.

“whose power no foe can withstand.” How reassuring to hear that no enemy can stand against my God! “Withstand” means “to oppose or resist” (Webster’s 1828 online dictionary). Withstand also means to hold out against, or to stand one’s ground, as in the case of a battle. It also means to remain undamaged by, as when some structures withstand hurricane-force winds. I smile each time I repeat that phrase—“whose power no foe can withstand.”

I smile because, when I look closely, I see that it is the foe who will be unable to withstand, it is the foe who will be unable to hold out, it is the foe who will be damaged by the power of God Almighty, which means God Almighty is fighting my enemies for me! God is the One attacking. The foe is the one trying to not give ground and not be damaged and destroyed. Almighty God is going to move the enemy back, God Almighty is going to damage the enemy! The enemy will not be able to resist God Almighty! This verse did not say that God Most High can withstand all the power of the foe, although that is more than true. That would imply that the Most High was in a defensive position. No, to me it means that although God protecting us is a defensive action, from our human perspective, when God defends us He always gains ground against the enemy and defeats the enemy! God never, no never, no never fails!

Verse  2: “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.

Image result for free picture of children buiding a fort“I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God.” Picture two nine-year-old boys building a fort in the woods bordering their back yard. They cannot lift a heavy log they want to use. One boy says, “Wait til my Dad gets home. He will move it for us. He can pick up anything!”

The boy says that because, in that boy’s experience, his Dad can lift anything the boy has needed. If I have sought refuge in God before, I know, by experience, that He keeps me safe and shelters me from danger. If I have experienced the security of being safe and unharmed in the Fortress of His love while the enemy warred against me, I too will say “the Lord is my refuge, my Fortress.”

This is another wording of the truth expressed in verse 14 of Psalm 91 and in Psalm 9:10, which is that those who are familiar with the character of  God, through experience with His character, will trust in Him.

“They who know Your name (have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy and) will lean on and confidently trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You [on the authority of the Word and the right of their necessity.] (AMPC)

If I have seen, through experience, that He shows Himself strong on my behalf when I call upon Him (2 Chronicles 16:9), then I can say, with confidence, “The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer, my God, my keen and firm Strength in Whom I will trust and take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my High Tower” (Psalm 18:2, AMPC). Then I will love Him “fervently and devotedly” and He will be my strength (Psalm 18:1, AMPC)

“on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.”  To lean, as a verb, means “to incline, deviate, or bend from a vertical position; to cast one’s weight to one side for support.  MacMillan’s dictionary also says it means to “to tend to choose or support something.” Decades ago, when I first made Jesus the King of my heart, I memorized Proverbs 3:5-6 and made it the guiding principle of my life. Although my meditation back then was not as deep as it is now, I clearly remember the first time I experienced that inner knowing that Holy Spirit had touched my mind with fresh understanding. As I was Image result for free picture of little girl sleepingreflecting on those two verses, having my evening devotions after tucking my daughter into bed, I realized that leaning on God, rather than my own understanding, meant to lean or depend on Him so much that if He did not come through I would fall, just like if I truly leaned on a crutch or a cane I would fall if the crutch or cane broke.

Experiences of God’s mercy are what empowers us to trust God with confidence, but we have to incline our heart, and our actions, toward Him and we have to walk, or live our lives, holding to Him and letting Him take the weight of our burdens and needs. Actually leaning on a crutch or cane requires me to lean forward, grasp it and take a step on my weak foot with the crutch bearing much of the weight. If I step out letting my weak foot support my weight, I am not really leaning. And I am further harming my own weak foot – and my own silly self.

Image result for free picture of check bookI remember taking a quivering breath as I wrote out my tithe check that first time so long ago. There would not be enough money left to pay bills and buy groceries for my precious little one and me if God did not do something miraculous with finances.  I had several tremulous days until I saw God steadily supply our needs, week after week, with specials on the foods we regularly ate, a unexpected reimbursement from insurance, invitations to dinner, and on and on and on. God did do miracles that month and every time I have needed a financial miracle–for the last forty years. We-can-depend-on-God! He-IS-faithful!

Confidence in God—and the matchless peace it brings—is built by acting in faith. I have a wonderful quote written on a post-it note, scotch-taped to the cubby above my desk: “We live by believing, not by seeing.”

We become confident that God will keep us “stable and fixed” in His presence as we actually try to do that. And wobbly first attempts to find His presence must be exceedingly precious in God’s eyes. How does a mother or father feel when their baby boy takes his first step? And when that baby says “Papa” and reaches upward, what does Papa do?

Faith grows in the furnace, in the fire, and in the flood. The next time a situation or your feelings seem overwhelming, act in faith, while you are still feeling overwhelmed. That is worth repeating: Faith grows in the furnace, in the fire, and in the flood. While you are closed in, it is hot, and you feel you are suffocating, make the effort to get alone with your heavenly Father for a few minutes. Remind your soul of His good qualities and of all the times He has taken care of you. Read the promises in Psalm 91 and rest in the peace of knowing that He will fulfill those promises for little old you if you make Him your dwelling place, by loving and obeying Him.

If you love Him and obey Him, He IS your dwelling place. He DOES live in you, and you DO live in Him. Your feelings and thought arrows from the enemy might lie to you, but if you are doing your part in one of the promises of God, God IS doing His part to fulfill that promise in your life. Let the truth of those promises from Jesus comfort you as the warm embrace of a father soothes a fearful, restless child.  Find your rest in His presence, in just being with Him.

Next time, we will look into what God promises those who make Him their Refuge and their Fortress, those who lift up their hearts to Him and call on His name, those who run into His arms, like a little child crying “Abba! Father”! (Romans 8:15)

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