Category Archives: HOPE

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!”)

Image result for free picture of jesus returning on white horse

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.

Image result for free picture of the presence of god

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!

Image result for free picture of child running into fathers arms

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)

Image result for Free Picture of child Running into father's Arms. Size: 147 x 105. Source: www.youworkforthem.com

Are you truly seeking?

Image result for Free Picture of Dictionary. Size: 173 x 108. Source: www.itechcode.comTo seek – ‘to try to locate or discover” (www.thefreedictionary.com)

“1 Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are the undefiled (the upright, truly sincere, and blameless) in the way [of the revealed will of God], who walk (order their conduct and conversation) in the law of the Lord (the whole of God’s revealed will).

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are they who keep His testimonies, and who seek, inquire for and of Him and crave Him with the whole heart. (emphasis added)

Yes, they do no unrighteousness [no willful wandering from His precepts]; they walk in His ways.”  (Psalm 119:1-3, AMPC)

My conclusion after an initial exploration of what seeking God means is that truly seeking God takes time and diligent, focused effort. Here are the questions I explored and some conclusions I reached as I searched the Word.

Why do we seek God? Three of the many reasons are: He tells us to, it pleases Him, and we need the safety and blessings seeking Him brings.

God is looking for those who seek Him. How tender is the thought that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe looks over the whole earth for people who seek Him! “The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. “ (Psalm 14:2, NIV).

God eagerly longs to be gracious to us and show us mercy and loving-kindness (Isaiah 30:18.) when we put Him first, when we turn away from all “. . . idols—false gods [from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life.. .”]  (1 John 5:21, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of father and childGod keeps our human frailties in His mind with intense seriousness.  In Psalm 103, David describes God’s blessings and His mercy and loving-kindness toward our sins and iniquities. Just like a father, God loves and pities those who fear Him because He knows how we are made: “He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.” (verse 13-14). Think about that. He imprints–on His heart–the fact of our weakness.  How often do you put your hand over your heart when you are deeply touched? Have you not, in deep sorrow for a loved one, felt actual physical pain in your chest? It must somehow be that God’s love for us actually affects His heart. Dear fellow believer, all I can say is “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:6, NIV)

Because God knows how we are formed and what we need, He tells us to “Seek the kingdom of God above all else and live righteously” (Matthew 6:33,NLT) and we will have all that we need.  Part of seeking the kingdom of God first is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV)  It is wise to do this, to seek God—whole-heartedly. Psalm 14:2 in the Amplified tells me that we are wise and understanding when we seek God above all else.

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, dealt wisely, and sought after God, inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him [of vital necessity].

What does God mean by seek? To seek means to try to find someone or something. Webster’s 1828 Online Dictionary defines seek as “to go in search or quest of” and “to search for by going from place to place.” That implies effort, movement, and making progress toward something. We must make the effort to step out from our current position and then we must keep moving along, following the path that our pursuit creates. How often does the Word tell us to take action? We are told to put on God’s armor (Ephesians 6:11), to lay aside sin (James 1:21), and to trust God (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 34:8). How often does the Word show us that following God is a process, that it is a journey along a path? 2 Peter 1:3-11 exhorts us to “make our calling and election sure”, to keep growing and work hard to add to our faith one godly quality after another. God describes the path of the righteous person in Proverbs 4:18 (NIV): “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter than the full light of day.”

Image result for free picture of parable of lost coinsOther facets of seeking. When you do a word search for “seek, inquire and require”, you find words like crave (2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 105:4) and yearn (Ezra 7:10, Psalm 84:2). And in everyday English, synonyms for seek include explore, pursue, follow, and to look high and low (like the Luke 15 parables of the lost sheep and the lost coins).

Clearly, when God says seek Him, He does not mean thinking about Him for an hour on Sunday and five minutes once in a while during the week.

Are you truly seeking the Lord? Do you desperately require Him, like the person in Psalm 77:2?

Why is “Inquire and require” associated with the word seek in the Bible? I am finding that the more I study the Word, the more I want to study the Word. One fruitful method is pursuing the explanatory words and phrases in the Amplified Bible, which include ideas speakers of the original language would have understood implicitly. For example, when I noticed that “inquire and require” appeared often after the word “seek”, I entered “seek, inquire and require” into the search window in BibleGateway.com.

I found that there are two ways to inquire– to “inquire of and for the Lord.” God caused King Artaxrexes to give Ezra all that he asked BECAUSE “. . . Ezra had prepared and set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord [to inquire for it and of it, to require and yearn for it] and to do and teach Israel its statutes and its ordinances. (Ezra 7:10, AMPC).

To inquire of someone is to ask a question of that person. To inquire for someone is to ask to see that person. So, we ask God questions (we ask of God) and we ask to see Him (we ask for Him, for His presence.)

To require God means He is our vital necessity, something necessary for life itself. This was how David instructed Solomon to love God when he was commissioning Solomon to build the temple.

 And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father [have personal knowledge of Him, be acquainted with, and understand Him; appreciate, heed, and cherish Him] and serve Him with a blameless heart and a willing mind. For the Lord searches all hearts and minds and understands all the wanderings of the thoughts. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him as your first and vital necessity] you will find Him; but [a]if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever

Stop and notice how David told Solomon to approach God. David told Solomon to get to know God personally, to understand Him (which requires a lot of interaction), and to recognize His worth, to obey Him and to cherish Him. David told Solomon to do that BECAUSE God understands every single thought and BECAUSE if Solomon loved God that way, then he would be blessed.

And notice that this is how King Asa began his reign. Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God (2 Chronicles 14:2, NIV), he removed idols from the land “ and in verse 4 “commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers [to inquire of and for Him and crave Him as a vital necessity] (emphasais added), and to obey the law and the commandment.”

When something is vital to our survival, like air and water and food, we pursue that above all else. Is God your vital necessity?

Image result for Free Picture Of Diamond. Size: 156 x 102. Source: www.pixelstalk.netWe can seek God with confidence based on our needs and the authority of the Word. One chain of thought always leads to another when you plunge into the Word. What an unavoidable blessing! In pondering the previous verses, I saw a diamond of a promise in Psalm 9:10—that after I have personally experienced God’s mercy, I will be able to trust Him with confidence because I know He never forsakes me when I rely on His Word for my needs.

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].”

These two concepts—our needs and the authority of God’s Word—are paired in these other verses given below. These verses show me that God will take care of me, will supply my needs and deliver me, when I have a need and when I approach Him on the authority of His Word.

“The authority of God’s Word” is an extremely broad and deep topic about which I have only a partial understanding. Here, in the verses below, I believe it means that we are living in the authority of God’s Word when we are doing our utmost to believe and do what He has told us to.  So this means to me that I must obey and seek God with all my heart for His Word to operate, with authority, in my life.

Read these verses below and be amazed at what that blessed way of life includes.

Psalm 27:8– You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word].

Psalm 34:4I sought (inquired of) the Lord and required Him [of necessity and on the authority of His Word], and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. (I especially love this verse because it says God delivered the psalm writer from ALL his fears!)

Psalm 34:10–The young lions lack food and suffer hunger, but they who seek (inquire of and require) the Lord [by right of their need and on the authority of His Word], none of them shall lack any beneficial thing.

Lamentations 3:25–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].

Notice that Lamentations 3:25 comes after Jeremiah has recalled his great afflictions and then in verses 22 through 24 Jeremiah turns to remembering the reason he has hope:

  1. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
    23. They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
    24. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
        therefore I will wait for him.”

Dear friend, I, too, say that God is my portion. He is more than sufficient. He is all I need and more, just like a heaped-up plate at a sumptuous banquet. I am satisfied with Him, so I will truly seek Him, and I will wait for Him – with confident expectation!

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Can you truly trust?

Image result for free picture of open bible on tableMy most used Bible. For most of December 2020, my 1964 Amplified Bible, which my beloved earthly father carried to church each Sunday, sat on the little table next to the rocker by the window, left open each day to the two pages displaying Psalm 32:4 through Psalm 35:3.  Cracked edges around the cordovan faux leather cover, loosening binding, and spotty yellow glimmers on page edges that once were gilded tell its age. This is my most used Bible, the one I read morning, night and in between, the one that has the markings most meaningful to me, markings made in the first hours of my day when seeking God for strength to do what I could not do, and markings made in the last waking hours of my day when thanking God for His faithfulness and, by faith, finding His peace for a troubled heart. For most of December, I read these two pages several times each day, gleaning fresh strength and comfort every single time.  Why?

How has your life been lately, dear friend? December 2020, and much of 2020 itself, has included vexing trials for many, many people, for many valid reasons, including me. In addition to the holiday blues, effects of the covid-19 panic, and the APPARENT AND TEMPORARY victory of evil in our nation and our world, I had a new personal challenge. And the new personal challenge, on top of the other accumulated stress, overwhelmed me. But through it all, through this whole month and a half of dark valleys, I have found fresh solace in the truths of God’s Word, especially truths I learned from Psalm 33:18-22 – that trust leads to joy, and joy leads to peace, the deep peace that comes from conscious awareness of His presence, that peace we cannot explain (Philippians 4:7).

Cause and effect . . .  obedience and blessing. During this past month or so, in the midst of cheery Christmas songs and happily decorated houses, in the midst of suggestions for New Year’s resolutions, I have fought hard not to worry and to have faith. And I have been pondering what it means to really trust God.

One truth about trusting God became clear as I studied verses 1 through 7 of Psalm 21–God keeps us in peace because we keep our thoughts on Him and because we trust Him. In verse 1 David finds joy in God’s strength because God has blessed him and given David His presence. And that happened because David had trusted, relied on, and been confident in the Lord. In cause-and-effect order, this chain of truth might be stated:

  • (verse 7) David trusted, relied on and was confident in the Lord. So,

BECAUSE OF THAT

  • he was blessing others and he was exceedingly glad with the joy of God’s presence (verse 6), and

BECAUSE OF THAT

  • David was rejoicing and feeling strong in God (verse 1),

Image result for Free Cause and Effect Anchor ChartsThe fruit of trust. This chain of thought reinforces the truth of another verse that I repeat many times each day, the blessed promise in Isaiah 26:3–God keeps us in peace because we keep our thoughts on Him and because we trust Him.

I know what it means to keep my thoughts focused on someone or something, but what does God mean by trust? The Bible shows that trust means “to commit, lean, and hope confidently.”  The clarifying phrases in the Amplified Bible (those words set off with parentheses, brackets, and dashes+) show what people speaking Hebrew or Greek would have understood was meant in the original writing. Thus when Isaiah 26:4 says “So trust in the Lord— commit yourself to Him, lean on him, hope confidently in Him. . . “,  that is where I see that trusting in God means to:  commit myself to Him, to lean on Him, and to hope confidently in Him.

The words “commit, lean, and hope confidently” clarify that trust requires action. It requires commitment, and it requires leaning on and hoping confidently in God.  I may have faith that a chair will support my weight, but I trust that chair when I actually sit in it.

Trust, joy, and the peace of His Presence. During these difficult last few weeks, I have tried hard to trust God, “. . . with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV). Why? To stay out of the pit of depression! I am working on a book about it and I wanted to be able to say that I stayed in victory after God had shown me what to do. And that was so for about a year and a half, by His grace! However, this past few weeks I kept stepping into the snare of worry and the symptoms of depression began popping up. What kept me moving forward, though I was slogging through muddy emotions, was the truths of God’s Word, and one passage in particular.

Image result for free picture of cup of coffee in handsOne morning in early December, sitting in the rocker by the window, chilled hands cuddling a cup of half-caf, I discovered Psalm 33:18-22, another passage about trust. Since that morning, my favorite Bible has been open to that passage. The truths it contains have been my anchor through many desperate moments lately. What do these verses mean to me, and to you?

Psalm 33:18. Behold, the Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him [who revere and worship Him with awe], who wait for Him and hope in His mercy and loving-kindness. When the despicable, toothless lion of fear roars, just reading the words that “God is watching me” calms the fear and stops the worry. It gets my thoughts off of whatever caused the worry and turns my attention to the fact that God–is–here. As I keep my mind fixed on that truth by continuing to think about it, by meditating on it, I start feeling God’s peace. Then, like an undercurrent, comes the thought “Surely God IS with me right now, right here, because I do treat Him with reverence and respect, I do love and adore Him, and I do hold Him in awe. So this verse applies to me, little old weak me, right here and right now!”

How many times in the Word does God begin His messages to His loved ones by reassuring them that He is right there with them? Everything is harder to deal with when we feel alone. The Word tells us in many places that we are never alone, that God is always with us and will always, always, always be with us, no matter what.  And what is one reason why is He watching over us?

Verse 19: “To deliver them from death and to keep them alive in famine.”  This “death” God is watching over us to save us from is not just physical death but also “the effect of wickedness and sinfulness upon the natural human heart and soul in the sight of God.” (p. 134, Wilson’s Dictionary of Bible Types, 1957, Eerdmans Printing, Grand Rapids.)  God watches over us so that He can set us free and deliver us from the effects of sin. That means He watches over me so that He can set me from the consequences of my wrong thinkings as well as my wrong doings.

That reassures me that even when I get bogged down in stinking thinking, even when I lose my self-control, even when my outer life looks like a neglected mess, that He is going to set me free from the effects of living in this fallen world, those things of the flesh that I cannot control no matter how hard I try because I am not perfect. And as far as my physical needs, God promises I will have more than enough. That promise is true even though the world might be in a time of lack or famine.

Image result for free picture of child waiting by doorVerse 20. Our inner selves wait [earnestly] for the Lord; He is our Help and our Shield. To me, this says that I can wait intensely, with all my heart, for the Lord. Picture a five-year-old, waiting at the door for Papa to return because Papa promised a trip for ice-cream when he came home. Like that little child waiting for a delightful promise that he knows will be fulfilled, when I am troubled or in trouble, I can stand by, I can wait. And while I wait there, like a child by the front door at 5:15, I can intentionally focus my thoughts and my feelings on the Lord. I can wait earnestly, knowing that my Father is coming and will do what He has promised me.

“He is our help and shield.” I can wait patiently, like that little child, because I know God will help me, and I know He will shield me. God helps me, which means He makes my life easier. God is also my shield.  A shield is something that protects you from harm, which includes danger and unpleasant experiences. God knows the enemy’s plans, and He reassures me in John 16:33 that He will protect me from harm.

Image result for free picture of biblical shieldA shield protects a person by absorbing the impact of a weapon and preventing the weapon from penetrating to reach the one who is being shielded. Lately, Holy Spirit has been highlighting verses for me on how impenetrable God is. With God as my shield, my protection is absolute, complete, total, utter and not diminished in any way. And I find great comfort in Psalm 29:11 “The Lord will give [unyielding and impenetrable] strength to his people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” (AMPC)

God Himself, Who IS our impenetrable shield, will give us that same impenetrable strength, which includes strength that is impenetrable to temptation, like my tendency to worry and slide toward discouragement and depression. Impervious is similar to impenetrable, so See the source imagevisualize water running off a duck’s back or water running down a concrete driveway. The strength God gives us is unaffected by temptation, untouched by circumstance and situation, deaf to the enemy’s lies and roars, closed to evil, and unmoved by trials, hardships, distress, and sufferings! If we are a child of the King of the world, we have His royal blood flowing in our veins and we have His strength—that mighty, invincible, all-powerful strength of God Himself–working in us.

Spend some time feasting on verses about the impenetrable strength of God. Look up these verses in the Amplified Bible: Psalm 19:14; Psalm 28:7; Psalm 29:11; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 62:7; and Psalm 68:28.  Selah, selah, selah!

 Verse 21: For in Him does our heart rejoice, because we have trusted (relied on and been confident) in His holy name. Notice that the “for” connects verse 21 with verse 20.  We are empowered to wait earnestly and confidently for Him, knowing He will help us and shield us, because of verse 21. And verse 21 explains another power-packed promise, another blessed chain of cause and effect. I can wait confidently for God BECAUSE my heart finds joy in Him and I have joy in Him BECAUSE I have relied on and been confident of His name, Notice the same pattern that is in Psalm 21:1-7? When we trust, rely on and are confident in the Lord, God gives us His presence, we bless others, we are glad and we feel strong in the Lord.

7 Attributes of GodNotice also that we trust in His holy name, which means His nature or His attributes. No one can adequately describe what God is like but He clearly tells us some of His qualities in the Word. God is all-knowing, all powerful, everywhere present, unchangeable, holy, and merciful, just to name a few of the facets of this Divine Being Who adores us and lavishes all good things on us when we walk uprightly with Him. (Psalm 84:11)

No wonder I am happy when I am depending on this Wonderful One! No wonder that I feel strong when I think about His strength! No wonder I feel loved when I think about His love!

Verse 22: Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You. I interpret this verse as an extremely loving nudge from God, to motivate me to do what is right and what will protect my heart. I interpret it as saying that God’s mercy and loving-kindness will be poured out on me in proportion to how much I wait for and hope in God. That makes me want to wait and hope in Him, with every fiber of my being, even if it seems impossibly hard.

And as I search the Scriptures, I see this cause and effect in other places, such as Psalm 37:39-40.  Verse 39 says to me that God rescues us and sets us free from harm when we are consistently righteous, when we do our best to stay in right standing with Him, and that He shelters us and keeps us safe during the difficulties we experience. Verse 40 explains why–“And the Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked, and saves them because (emphasis added) they trust and take refuge in Him.”  You can see the active aspect of trust here because “taking refuge” means to go to a place of shelter.

Image result for free picture of chairTrusting is hard but. . . Trusting is indeed hard. Fortunately, the more I know about God, the stronger my trust will be. Knowing that God is strong enough to take care of me helps me to actually lean my feelings, my heart, on Him, just like knowing about a chair helps me actually sit in it and let the chair, not my own legs, support my weight.

And how do I learn more about God, enough to truly trust Him? By studying and meditating on His Word. Romans 10:17 says, “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (KJV) We can increase our faith when we accurately perceive the nature of God as we listen to teaching about the Messiah and the freedom from sin that His blood makes available to us.

 If I truly trust. . . If I truly trust that He will deliver me from all my troubles (Psalm 54:7), I can pray and ponder on the Word as I do the tasks of daily life, this one day, knowing that He is watching me, that He is right here with me, and He will deliver me from death, which includes all negative feelings. And I can wait, with confidence, helped and shielded by “The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship of the Lord. . . “ (Psalm 25:14), while He does the things I cannot do.

Safely nestled in the Rock of His presence, I can tell my soul that:

  •  We are blessed when He trains us to keep ourselves calm. (Psalm 94:12)
  • Everything will turn out for our good (Romans 8:28)
  • God IS in control. Period. Absolutely. Completely. (Psalm 115:3; Colossians 1:16; Matthew 19:26 and many, many more)
  • Nothing surprises Him. Nothing.
    • He has ordained each one of our days (Psalm 139:16-17) and
    • God IS “. . . the Alpha and the Omega,
      • the First and the Last
        • (the Before all and the End of all). (Revelations 22:13, AMPC)
  • He is looking, right now, over the entire earth to strengthen His believing children.

 “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen the hearts of those who are fully committed to Him. . . “  (2 Chronicles 16:9, AMPC)

 WE—CAN—TRUST—GOD!!

Hallelujah!

See the source imageSelah! Selah! Selah!!!

 

Look! The Lord my God is near!

Image result for free picture of fall leaves on sidewalk“Look! The LORD my God is near. . . “ I untwisted my scarf, snugged it more closely around my neck and kept walking.  The cool air felt good on my cheeks but stung my nose and bare fingers. Brown leaves tumbled over each other, scratching along the sidewalk in the intermittent breeze.

“Lord, help me have the right attitude about exercise. Help me not complain about needing to do so much walking and stretching and everything else. Help me just be grateful, Lord! Help me not be afraid about health. Help me overlook the discomfort. This body is Yours anyway, not mine! I will choose to rejoice in You and all You have done.  .  . ”

Image result for free picture of music notesI continued walking and began humming one of the 14 Christmas carols I had rephrased a year ago. To the tune of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” I began:

[Verse 1] Look! The Lord my God is near, He will keep me safe from fear.

Though the enemy roar, God is king forevermore.

I submit to God’s great hand. He will lift me up to stand.

Casting all my care on Him, on His love I can depend.

Look! The Lord my God is near, He will keep me safe from fear!

Image result for free picture of walking with Jesus “I can keep my heart controlled. . . “ As I walked, one of my stand-by verses floated into mind. “Thank You, Lord, for Your promise in Isaiah 26:3, that “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on you, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”  So, Lord, because I know Your wonderful promise in verse 3, I am committing myself to You, I am leaning on You, and I am hoping confidently in You and I know You will strengthen me, for You alone are my source of strength (from Isaiah 26:4, AMPC).

[Verse 2] I can keep my heart controlled. God Himself indwells my soul.

I’m alert, and I watch out for the devil prowls about.

I resist him, I stand strong, though the trial might feel long.

In my weakness, He gives grace, so I rise and run my race!

I can keep my self controlled. God Himself indwells my soul!

My God covers me with peace. All my fears and worries cease!  What are you struggling with right now? Dear friend, I do not know what might trouble you most right now. But I do know that in this Christmas season of 2020 the visible world overflows with the “tribulation and trials and distress and frustration” Jesus spoke of in John 16:33 (AMPC)

Your personal world might look overwhelming, too. Whatever you are facing, I pray that God pours out His mercy and loving-kindness upon you and your situation. I pray that He leads you to comforting passages in His Word.

Image result for free picture of meditating on the wordI wrote these rephrased lyrics to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” a year ago, when God was comforting and disciplining and instructing me, out of His law, so that He could grant me the power to keep myself calm and to find peace in hard times. (Psalm 95:12-13). At that time, I was learning the habit of constant meditation on the Word and His presence, which has consistently kept me far from the pit of depression. God is still training me and making me better equipped, through each trial. And He has done it through meditating on His Word.

[Verse 3] My God covers me with peace. All my fears and worries cease!

He will keep me in His rest as I think on what is best.

In my weakness, He is strong. He will keep me from all wrong.

I will walk with Him in love. I will keep my mind above.

My God covers me with peace. All my fears and worries cease!

Image result for free picture of gods hand on earth“God Himself has full control. He Who rules earth rules my soul!” The small e-book “Carols for Consecration” (see the “Books and More” tab on this website) was written in the late fall of last year while I was desperately meditating on Scriptures about peace and security, while God was comforting and instructing me. “Carols for Consecration” contains 14 rephrased lyrics to beloved Christmas carols. The rephrased lyrics are filled with Biblical truths upon which I was meditating. A list of those verses is included in the book.

I pray Holy Spirit uses these rephrased lyrics to imprint His truths more deeply upon your heart. May Holy Spirit help you and me, more than ever, find delight in and desire the law of the Lord,

so that we habitually study and ponder His teachings and instructions,

so that we will be like a tree firmly planted and tended by streams of water, ready to bring forth fruit in its season (adapted from Psalm 1).

May we both declare, and know with certainty, that . . .

[Verse 4] God Himself has full control. He who rules earth rules my soul!

He will give me grace to fight. We will win o’er darkest night!

Nothing that attacks me stands, for He holds me in His hand!

God is faithful. He will save!  This the banner that I wave!

God Himself has full control. He who rules earth rules my soul!

In this season, when we celebrate Jesus, our reason for living, let us “make a joyful noise to the Lord, serve Him with gladness and come before Him with singing (Psalm 100:1a, 2, KJV). Our God is good! Life is indeed hard, but our God, the God who made heaven and earth, our God is, INDEED, good!   Let us “give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever! (Psalm 118:1,AMPC)

  • May we “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:19a, NIV)
  • May we “sing and make music from our hearts to the LORD (Ephesians 5:19b, NIV), “for He is good!”

 

Image result for free picture of victorian carolers

Our never, never, never failing God

“. . . be satisfied with what you have for He, (God) Himself, has said:

I will not, in any way,  

fail you, 

nor give you up, 

nor leave you without support.

[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not]

in any degree

leave you helpless,

nor forsake you,

nor let you down [relax My hold on you]

Assuredly not!

So,  we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say:

The LORD is my helper.

I will not be seized with alarm.

[I will not fear

or dread

or be terrified] 

What  can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6 AMPC) (Emphasis added to words in bold and underlined)

“Nana, can we play outside afta’ you exacise?” I smiled down at my grandson and gently stroked the back of his head.“ Of course, darlin’.” 

Image result for free picture of daycare roomPondering the Word. I watched him put his Garfield water bottle and hoodie into one of the red and yellow cubbies lining one wall of the playroom, then walk over to the table where the childcare worker was tracing little hands onto white paper plates. I smiled. I knew what Ansel would proudly give me in an hour and a half when I finished my “exacise”. 

“Thank You, Father, thank You, thank You, thank You that I live close to my grandsons. Thank You for the privilege of helping care for them.” 

I walked down the hall and into the kitchen area, filled my own, non-Garfield, water bottle and added an energy/vitamin powder. The familiarity of the kitchen and lounge area of the big, window-walled YMCA enveloped me. A twenty-something woman sat in one of the cushy chairs near the silenced TV, yellow baby blanket draped from shoulder to lap, caressing little feet in tiny lace-topped socks as she talked to another mom opening snack boxes of grapes and cheese for the two toddlers staring at the Cookie Monster.

I nodded and smiled at the retired couple sitting at one of the four countertop-height tables. As usual, he was reading the paper and she was working the crossword, several copies of which were  set out each morning for the many seniors who frequented the YMCA, some of us by choice and others of us, like me, to combat arthritis and keep some body parts from further loss of function.

After putting my gym bag and water bottle into their usual spot in the corner by the rack of weights, I spread a mat on the floor, sat down cross-legged and put the stack of hand-written papers on the floor so I could look at them while I stretched my quads. For the next twenty minutes of stretching, I looked at the top paper in the stack, moving it from one side to the other as I twisted and turned, repositioning legs, arms and torso, reading one phrase, doing one stretch then glancing at the paper again to be sure I had that phrase right, then moving on to the next phrase as I held the next stretch for fifteen or so seconds.

Two weeks earlier, I had started studying, desperately, Bible verses about peace, my area of greatest need. Heeding the sound teaching of Joyce Meyer and Derek Prince to take the Word of God like the medicine it is and to meditate constantly on verses in my areas of need, I had used a rickety card table as my desk, perusing the Word as if for a test.  I copied the verses in longhand so I could carry them everywhere and use them as the sword and shield they actually are, to fight back against fear and other negative feelings.

Image result for free picture of a hand writing on paperAs I copied the verses, I put groups of phrases that went together, on a separate line, anything to help me deeply understand what God was saying and to ensure God’s imprinted Word came to mind when negative feelings surged. That little stack of handwritten verses had become my lifeline and that morning, while Ansel played and I stretched, lifted weights and then bicycled, I thought about what God was saying in Hebrews 13:5-6. 

The context of Hebrews 13:5-6.  Hebrews 13 opens with instructions about loving each other, practicing hospitality, and the surety of God’s judgement on adultery. Verse 5 begins with the warning to not love money, but rather to be satisfied with what you have because God would never fail or abandon us and that, because of that, we can confidently say “God is my helper, so I will not fear. What can people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, NLT) . By God’s grace, thirty-plus years of experiencing His faithfulness had molded a trusting heart, and years of consistent effort to be thankful had molded a grateful heart. However, I was now desperately pondering God’s faithfulness to provide for my biggest need, which was emotional. I glanced at the page as I leaned sideways, arms overhead.

“. . . be satisfied with what you have for He, (God) Himself, has said: . . . “ “So, satisfied means content, which brings to mind a cud-chewing, peaceful, cow, one that has ceased grazing and is not fretting about the next mouthful of grass, simply enjoying what she now has.  So, I reflected as I leaned to the other side, to be content emotionally I should relax where I am right now and stop searching.  I inhaled deeply. And I can do that because God, God Himself, the Amplified version says, is making the rest of promises I have copied down. God Himself, the One Who created and sustains the entire universe, is here with me, He Himself.  I repeated those words several times — “God Himself”. 

“I will not, in any way, fail you nor give you up, nor leave you without support . . . “ “Father, those three beautiful words, “in any way”, cover everything. How reassuring! And You have, in every way, taken care of me and Sharon for so many years. And not just materially. You sent godly men to be father figures for her, kind-hearted people to initiate friendships in my years of painful shyness, the energy to finish school and get a good job, and a wonderful husband for Sharon. And then You brought me here to Austin when she had Ansel’s older brother. 

            I paused as I flipped on my back for crunches.  “Lord, I am certain that the words ‘in any way’ include healing my heart of depression and fear and teaching me to stay in peace, though that seems impossible right now. I choose to believe that, Lord.  no matter my feelings.”

Image result for free picture of support            . . . fail me, nor give me up, nor leave me without support.  My margin note from Webster’s 1828 dictionary defined fail as “to become deficient, to decay or decline or to be entirely exhausted” (http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/fail).  “Well Lord, You are the exact opposite. You are all-sufficient, never-ending, ever the same, and without limits. Failing is impossible for You, and You say You will never fail me.

            And regarding giving up, that sounds like giving someone up to an enemy, and I know You would never do that, because the enemy of my soul is Your enemy. I need to ponder on that some more, but the promise of never leaving me without support brought hope and comfort the first time I saw it. You know, Lord, how often ‘I can’t do this!” comes to mind. In just the three days I’ve been pondering this verse You have already done something because now, as soon as that thought comes, this truth of Yours overrides the lie, and I think of You right beside me, helping me. Then I do not feel so alone or scared. I know that in You, with Your support, in any way I need it, I can do anything You want me to (Phillippians 4:13) and that includes sitting down with the bills, getting the car fixed, and hanging on to Your Word until depression is only a memory.  

[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not. I held the papers in my hand as I did leg extensions. “Bible teachers and preachers consistently say pay close attention when You repeat something three times, Lord. Thank You for focusing my attention on that. It speaks of the fierceness and determination of Your love for us. And it strengthens all of these promises.”

Image result for free picture of degrees of a circle“in any degree” I know that degree can mean part of something or how much of something is present. It is also a term in geometry, like the smallest parts of an angle or circle. And Your Word has lots of references about how You encircle us or surround us or compass us about. That is another way of saying You have us completely covered.

. . . leave you helpless, nor forsake you, nor let you down [relax My hold on you]. “ Lord, that is so comforting! You know how often I feel helpless and like everyone has given up on me. You know how dreadfully alone I feel sometimes. Help me hear, with my heart, how intensely You are saying in these verses that You will take care of every single aspect of every single thing I need.

“Assuredly not!” I put the papers on the floor by the biceps machine as I read the next phrase and thought: As if He had not already made it clear, with this “Assuredly not!”, God is reinforcing, like rebar undergirding concrete, everything He said before. He is saying that He will DEFINITELY take care of me.

Image result for free picture of gift“So, we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say: The LORD is my helper. . .”  Hmm, that “so” is there because it connects these thoughts, meaning that everything in the previous verse, I am empowered to take comfort. And I notice the word “take.” God offers it, but I must take it. That is a choice. So, because of everything else God has just said, I can be comforted and encouraged . I can know God will help with whatever I am doing and I can have confidence to say boldly. . .

I will not be seized with alarm. [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What  can man do to me?”     I pondered that phrase and the whole passage during the next thirty minutes on the recumbent bicycle. Then, I put my verses in my gym bag and walked toward the Child Watch room, pondering the phrase “seized with alarm.” “Lord, that is what the fear feels like. It feels like someone has grabbed me. So, maybe that means if I give in to fear, if I think about the problems instead of You, the enemy uses fear to grab and control my heart. Help me think about that, Lord.”

Image result for free picture of children on playgroundGod Himself. .  . I signed Ansel out then followed his eager feet down the hall to the playground. With him seated on the bench next to me, swinging his legs, I opened the package of cream-cheese and chives crackers and made a circle of the six crackers on the napkin in his lap. He leaned against my left shoulder, I opened my baggie of grapes, and we had our usual snack as we watched other children run up the ramps and giggle on the see-saw.  Grandfather oaks interlocked thick branches overhead, grackles flew under the shaded canopy  from one tree to another, and butterflies zigzagged above the tall grass at the distant edge of the play area, all as familiar to me as my own bedroom.

“And to Ansel”, I reflected. “He is at ease here with me. Although he cannot verbalize it yet, he feels safe and he is fully immersed in the moment. He is not afraid of anything here, he is not dreading anything, and if something does scare him, I will not let his fear turn to terror because I will take care of whatever has troubled his little heart.  I will not let anything happen to him. I have the power to do that. He is safe and content because I have never, never, no never, failed him in any way. Assuredly not! And don’t I tell him over and over “I love you, I love you, I love you”? And don’t I show it a thousand ways?”

Image result for free picture of grandmother and child on park benchA soft breeze whispered in my ear and I turned to the side to be sure the paper plate was securely nestled in the top of my open gym bag, safe from any gust of wind. I placed my hand over the little hand print traced in the center, encircled by paper flowers with white glue bulging around the edges.

“Yes, Lord, and don’t You tell me You love me in a thousand different ways? And don’t You take care of me a thousand different ways? I will be content, Father, right here where I am, with You, with You Yourself. That is more than my mind can comprehend, Father. Thank You! Help me have more faith, faith like a little child.”  

Image result for free picture of childs hand in fathers hand

 

 

Complete and constant peace IF . . .

Image result for Free Picture Of Doctor's OfficeIn the midst of daily life, Holy Spirit speaks. Bzmmmmm. The floor-to-ceiling glaring-white machine rotated itself, and me, 45 degrees so the technician could record a different view of the heart. I closed my eyes again and took a long, slow breath, careful to stay still.

“Ten more minutes or so strapped into this device,” I thought. “Harumph! Help me have a good attitude, Lord!”

“Thank You for training me to meditate on Your Word. It helps in every situation! So, let’s start at the beginning of my verses again, with Isaiah 26:3-4.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because He commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.” (AMPC).

Hmm . . .  “ the mind [both its inclination and its character]”. . .  I opened my eyes and managed not to jerk upright only with effort.

“Lord, what does character of mind mean? I have repeated this passage how many times and I only now see this? I believe that “inclination of the mind” means what your thoughts are focused upon and that was my subconscious thought while meditating on this verse these many months, but what does “character of mind” mean?

Clear guidance. I was reviewing the first of the verses and passages I had memorized on my way to victory over depression last year. For the last three days, after completing the blog post for the week, I had wondered which of the many topics floating in my mind to start on for next week. I was wondering, that is, in brief snatches of time during the work of daily life, which now included extra time invested in health and thus, less time to write, some of the “troubles, trials, distresses and frustration” which Jesus said His followers would experience. I was indeed frustrated!

Image result for free picture of notes handwrittenSo many things I wanted to write! I desperately wanted to finish the book about depression but other topics, including blog posts on each verse I had memorized, had fluttered overhead like birds zipping across the high ceiling of a big building. Some writers, like me, have difficulty picking and completing one topic. But I recognized when Holy Spirit was getting my attention, like now, in the middle of the stress test. He was saying write about Isaiah 26:3-4. Now.

Complete and constant peace is possible. So, dear friend and fellow pilgrim, here we are, you and me, exploring God’s truth in Isaiah 26:3-4, the first weapon in my “spiritual arsenal”, that list of verses that opened the dungeon doors of depression and fear for me.

It helps me think deeply about the Word to put new thoughts on a new line and sometimes to put each word on a new line.  Many months ago, as I pondered Isaiah 26:3-4, I wrote it in long-hand like this.

“You will guard him and keep him in

perfect and constant peace

whose mind [both its inclination and its character]

is stayed on You,

 because                                                                 

He commits himself to You,

leans on You,

and hopes confidently in You.

So trust in the Lord—

commit yourself to Him,

lean on Him,

hope confidently in Him—forever;

for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.” (AMPC).

Let’s look at each phrase and see what God might be saying. Remember, this is the Amplified version of the Bible, which has phrases other translations do not include. These phrases give the fuller, or amplified, meaning of words that modern-day readers do not understand but which speakers of that time would have automatically known was what the words meant. I find it extremely helpful to study and meditate using the Amplified. For a more detailed explanation as to why, please see the blog post “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security”, October 1, 2020.

Isaiah 26:3-4. Two years ago, when I desperately needed peace, I studied verses about peace. I had not purposely memorized Bible verses for a long time and those hidden in my heart years earlier, including this one, had faded.  I liked the essence of this verse that remained in memory, the concept that God keeps us in peace if we fix our minds on Him. So, I began studying this verse in more detail, through meditating on the clarifying phrases in the Amplified.

Image result for free Picture of Guard In Bible TimesGuarding and keeping. “You will guard and keep. . . “ The first thing I noticed was that the verse said God would guard and keep our minds in peace, whereas the NIV, only said God would keep.  It was reassuring to ponder that God would not only keep us in peace if we kept our minds fixed on Him, but He would guard us as well. To guard something or someone, is to protect or shield them from harm by keeping potential danger away. So that must mean God will not allow anything to damage my peace when my mind is focused on Him.

“Complete and constant peace”. The next phrase shows two aspects of the peace God promises:  it will be complete, or perfect, and it will be constant. Complete peace would mean freedom from worry about any aspect of one’s life. One aspect of peace is freedom from struggle and fighting, and phrases similar to “He was given peace from his enemies round about” appear often in the Bible. So, if the nation of Israel was given peace on all sides, then maybe God is saying we will be free from attacks of worry, or fear or irritation any such thing, on all sides of our life, in each aspect of life, including health, family, friends, finances, our world, etc. That would be complete peace.

Image result for free picture of clockAnd, I reflected, constant means constant, sixty minutes each hour, twenty-four hours each day, seven days each week, and so forth until we see our loving Father face to face and, finally, no longer have to battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. That must mean there is a way to stay in peace all the time, so that means no dread at any time–no  dreading hard mornings or exercise or the job or house cleaning, or anything! And that verse “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30). Life, life from God, the good life He planned for human beings, is a peaceful life, with us enjoying every day and staying in God’s presence every day.

Inclination of mind. You will guard and keep in complete and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is fixed on You.”  As I pondered “inclination of mind”, I thought about focusing and I thought about the psalm when the psalm writer asks God to incline His to him. To incline your ear to someone, you focus all your hearing powers on that person’s voice. And I know the earth is inclined, or tilted toward or focused, at a precise angle toward the sun and that angle causes the seasons of the earth. To me, that means our thoughts, our mind, is focused or pointed toward God. And that means I am to be consciously thinking about God—His innumerable good qualities, His love and power and goodness and strength, His loving ways, His faithfulness, and the things He has done for mankind and for me in particular. That leads to light and life and all good things.

Image result for free picture of earth tilted toward sunAnd I think that principle operates in my life only in those minutes and hours when my mind is focused or inclined, toward God, thinking about Him as the earth is inclined, tilted toward, the sun. If I incline my mind away from God, then my thoughts will start darkening.

The character of the mind.  “Hmm. . . Lord, I know we develop character by repeating actions over and over and over, like that truism most people credit to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

So, just as our character, our “mental and moral qualities”, is shaped by what we repeatedly do and think, so is the quality or nature, the quality or character of our mind, shaped by what we repeatedly think and do?

Lord, I know that thinking on the Word all day long remakes our heart, but is the doing of that meditating, the habit of meditating, does that habit in itself also change the nature of the mind and how it works? Is that like if someone develops the habit of being patient by choosing, time after time, to wait quietly and calmly and then eventually they develop a patient character so that their  automatic  reaction to frustrating situations is to consciously stay calm?

I know that getting Your truths deep into my heart healed depression, but were You also changing how my mind actually works? Now, when problems arise Your Word immediately pops into consciousness. However,  before You trained me in the habit of constant meditation on Your word, my mind consistently thought negative thoughts and my heart constantly felt negative emotions, not only when problems came.

Image result for free picture of calendar That is such an encouraging thought, to know that You have already changed at the fundamental, most basic level, how I think and act, that You have already begun forming a stronger, more Christ-like character of mind. That is encouraging because I know it took months of persistence on my part, but the change did happen. So I know that, as I continue to persist, these occasional flare-ups will become less and less as You continue to give me a stronger character of mind, Lord! Thank You!

“Fixed on Him.” And “fixed on You” would mean to always have You on my mind, as that old song says, so that not only do I consciously, deliberately think about You but also in the moments when my mind is not occupied with some task or some other thinking, there You are! It’s like being in love or being a new parent or being preoccupied with an enjoyable project. So, it is a choice but it is also automatic because of deep, all-consuming love, attraction, and pleasure.

Image result for Free Picture Of Cause and Effect. . . because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in YouThank you, Lord, for showing me to ponder cause and effect links in Your Word, like here, and to study entire verses and passages.  I see that You keep us in peace when we keep our minds fixed on You because we commit to You, lean on You, and hope confidently in You. I had always quoted just the first part “You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You” (NIV) and forgotten the second part of the sentence. So I see that peace requires a trusting heart as well as a mind fixed on You. How had I overlooked that all those years?

So, trust in the Lord – commit yourself to Him, lean upon Him, and hope confidently in Him — forever.  That word “so” is another connecting word, meaning “therefore” or “for this reason”. That “So” after verse 3 means that “because of verse 3, do verse 4.” Clearly, You are saying that trust is essential in this process of having peace.

And, as I look at verses 3 and 4 together, I see another example of how Your Word defines itself. In verse 3, You say You will keep us in peace as we keep our minds on You and commit, lean, and hope confidently in You. Then verse 4 says “So trust. . .”  The Amplified version sets the next three phrases off by dashes, which signifies “additional phases of meaning included in the original word, phrase, or clause of the original language” (from the preface to The Amplified Bible, Zondervan, 1965.) So trust means to “commit ourselves to You, lean upon You, and hope confidently in You.” That shows me that the kind of trust You require is not some half-hearted thought or mindless repetition of a verse.

Rather, Your kind of trusting requires purposeful, focused thought and mental effort. You require trust like Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it (as a verb) meaning “to place confidence in; to rely on”.  The definitions of trust as a noun give even more clarity:  “confidence; reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship or other sound principle of another person.” And perhaps Noah Webster also defined trust as “confident opinion of any event” and “credit given without examination” because he was mindful of how You meant it in Your Word. Your Word is used often in Mr. Webster’s 1828 dictionary!

Image result for free picture of picnicSo, trusting You means committing to You, leaning, and hoping confidently on You. If I really trust the weather report (and wouldn’t I be a rare bird!) I will schedule a family reunion at an outdoor park, with no alternate location identified. Furthermore, I will bake beans, make potato salad, and ice cupcakes with confidence. I would thus commit to, lean upon and hope confidently in the weather report. So, if I really trust You I will go about my life with confidence and NOT WORRY! Oh, help me, Lord!

And You say we are to trust You that way for ever.  Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “ever” as “at all times; always; continually; eternally.” That leaves no exceptions, does it Lord?

“. . . because the Lord God is an everlasting Rock – the Rock of Ages.” And here is another connecting word. We are to trust You like that because You are our Rock. I had seen Scripture use rock as a metaphor for the Lord many times, which I knew from a footnote (I forget where) that says rock means a source of strength. And sure enough, that is how Webster’s 1828 defines rock: “defense; means of safety; protection; strength; asylum; and a firm or immovable foundation.”  In looking into this, I saw that the website for R. C. Sproul clarifies that the meaning for this metaphor is multifaceted and that it “. . . tells us of the Lord’s stable, unchanging nature (Deuteronomy 32:4)” as well as “His strength and ability to safeguard His people, much as stone fortifications provide an excellent refuge from the elements and other dangers.”  https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/rock-ages/.

And Father, six days after starting this piece of writing, I see another truth: we are to trust You like You said so because doing so strengthens us. Phew! I need strengthening today, Lord, especially so thank You for  fresh insight today. That is related to the thought that just as meditating continually on Your Word has made big changes in the character of my mind so will keeping my mind on You make me stronger. That is so encouraging, Lord.  You really do know just how to encourage us and You know when we need it most. You are such a loving and good Father, Lord. Thank You for loving us like You do, with such understanding and such tender mercies!”

So, dear friend, in conclusion, when considering the whole chain of thought in Isaiah 26:3-4, I see that because our God is our Defender and our impenetrable place of refuge, He will surely guard us and keep us in complete and constant peace IF we keep our minds fixed on Him AND trust in Him, in the full, original meaning of those words. That is a guarantee from God, who cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29) and whose promises are always yes.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV).

Image result for Free Picture of Rock of Ages CleftOur Rock of Ages. Writing this has made me more aware of the fact that it is God who does the work here. Certainly, I have to “try” my best, but the bottom line, the reason we are to keep our minds fixed on Him and fully trust Him is because He will defend and protect us. That takes the emphasis off me and my fickle frailties as I visualize seeking refuge from a storm in the hollow of a huge mountain, as Augustus Toplady, writer of that great hymn “Rock of Ages” actually did.

The fiercest wind, snow or rain cannot penetrate into the cleft of a great mountain. That mountain, and that small, sheltered place within the side of the mountain, will be untouched by any storm. The mountain, and that small hollowed out place, stand firm. All I have to do is choose to walk into that place and stay there.

Rain through Bedroom WindowAs a native Floridian, I know the snug feeling of being safe inside while hurricane force wind howls and rain flings itself against buildings. In the storms of my life and each ordinary day of my life, I can let my mind be battered and pounded, or I can choose to step into peace, into the everlasting, almighty, merciful, and ever-loving arms of my Heavenly Father, as I fix my mind on Him and trust (lean, rely, and hope confidently in) Him. And in doing that, I can know He will give me strength for whatever I need. It will be His strength, not my own weak strength, and it will make His strength complete. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

And, I am thinking it must give God a special joy when we turn to Him with trusting hearts and let Him take care of us and bear our burdens, just like a loving parent is gratified when they can carry a tired child and snuggle them close in their loving arms.  Oh, my Father! Let it ever be so! Amen.

Father Carrying Children

Fretting is forgetting

Fretting is forgetting, eyes off what He has done—
the victories He has given, the battles He has won.
My peace is in the knowing, eyes fixed on Him not me—
heart pondering His power.
In trusting, I am free.

See the source image

A personal note. My dear friend, I am sharing how I have stumbled and how God put me back on the right path. My prayer is that it encourages you to receive more of God’s goodness and grace and to better understand His deep, abiding passion for all of us.

Since God healed deep depression and fear, I have stayed in victory for many months. However, deep emotional struggles tangled up the last few days, and feelings have gradually worsened for weeks. One morning, I reviewed the past month, searching for what had gone wrong. A  month ago when reviewing  the nearly complete manuscript about overcoming depression, I had been living daily life consciously with God, being productive, and free from thoughts, feelings and reactions caused by depression and fear. And I was writing almost daily, my work for God and my joy.

I moved away, not God. So, on that first truly cold day here in Austin, I sat in the rocker with the window cracked two inches, relishing the truly cold air and the predawn darkness outside the window, re-reading my journaling notes back to when I had felt so close to God and joyful and excited about each day.  I have heard, more than once, that when you feel distant from God, it is you who moved, not God. So, I knew that because I no longer felt close to God meant that I had moved away, not Him.

So, I prayed and began taking notes as I reviewed the month.

Fretting is forgetting, eyes off what He has done. I had by grace been walking in the light (Psalm 56:13), BUT when several physical problems intensified simultaneously (asthma, feet issues, joints, heart concerns, etc.) I spent precious time and energy doing the best I could with each problem, which included prayer, going to doctors, refining my diet, adding more stretches and exercise as well as rest, etc. That was where my eyes turned off God and toward the problems, thus, toward darkness.

Image result for free picture of a dark pathThe path of fretting leads to darkness. Although I know better, I began fretting, focusing on problems, rather than God’s promises. We can focus on only one thing, so in turning my focus away from light, and toward my problems, I was heading toward the darkness with its deadly snares of discouragement, fear, and despair.  And I kept on in that direction, unaware that my pathway was growing darker, my vision growing dimmer. God lovingly warns us in Psalm 37:8 b:  “. . . Do not fret– it leads only to evil.” (NIV)

The victories He has given, the battles He has won.  Even though the book I was finishing described the many victories God had given over depression, I was not thinking about them myself and thanking God for them afresh, which would have kept my attention on God’s power and my heart filled with light.

Image result for free picture of poisonWithout God’s power and victories in mind, we often start thinking our current situation is impossible. We begin losing hope and subconsciously begin doubting God and His power and His love for us. Eventually we can even start to doubt His goodness and fall for the same lie Satan told Eve in Genesis 3:4-5. Satan told Eve that God was withholding good from her and Adam, that He was not giving them the best.  Those kinds of evil thoughts can flow subconsciously, in our hearts, beyond our awareness because, as Jeremiah 17:9 cautions, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

Psalm 105 to 107: the wisdom of often remembering what God has done.  Psalm 105, 106, and 107 clearly tell us it is wise to consciously, intentionally  recall what God has done. These three psalms show the wisdom of regularly observing and heeding the Lord’s “goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men.” The key idea that links these psalms is Psalm 107:43:

“Whoso is wise [if there be any truly wise] will observe and heed these things; and they will diligently consider the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord. (AMPC).”  

“These things” are God’s goodness and loving-kindness and “His wonderful works for the children of men”, some of which are recounted in Psalm 105 and 106.

Psalm 105 opens with “O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the people” (KJV) Verses 1 through 5 tell us five things to do: thank the Lord, sing to Him, glory in His holy name, look to Him and His strength, and remember “the wonders He has done.”  In the rest of Psalm 105 God reminds Israel, and us, of how faithful He was to them, beginning with Abraham all the way through their history to when He gave them the promised land in order that “they might observe His statutes and keep His laws (hearing, receiving, loving and obeying them].” (AMPC) In other words, He created a people of His own and put them in the wonderful land He had prepared so that they could love and follow Him. He does the same thing when He matures us, taking us on a journey to a position of right-standing with Him, so that we can enjoy the fulfillment of His promises.

Image result for free picture of red seaPsalm 106 starts with praise for God and His merciful doings and then confesses that “our fathers in Egypt understood not nor appreciated your miracles; they did not [earnestly] remember the multitude of Your mercies, nor imprint Your loving-kindness [on their hearts], but they were rebellious and provoked the Lord at the sea, even at the Red Sea (v. 7, AMPC) Then we read that “nevertheless, He saved them for His name’s sake [to prove the righteousness of the divine character], that He might make His mighty power to be known.”   And we read how He saved them over and over when they kept rebelling all throughout their wilderness journey. Read for yourself and see how merciful God was with them, “nevertheless” hearing their cry and how

He [earnestly] remembered for their sake His covenant, and relented their sentence of evil—according to the abundance of His mercy and loving-kindness [when they cried out to Him]” v. 45, AMPC)

They forgot what God had done and turned away over and over and over but every time God rescued them when they called out to Him.

Psalm 107. Then read Psalm 107, which opens with “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” (AMPC). Notice that the idea of thanking the Lord for his goodness and mercy and loving-kindness is repeated four times as a lament, in verses 8, 15, 21, and 31. The psalmist is deeply grieved that people are not doing that. He laments –“Oh, that men would praise [and confess to] the Lord His goodness and loving-kindness, and His wonderful works to the children of men!”  Psalm 107 concludes with verse 43, which tells us it is truly wise to “observe and heed these things” and “diligently consider the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord.”

God is clearly telling us what to do—we are to “Give thanks to the LORD because He is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1, 136:1, NIV) And, as with all that He does, it is for our good. Selah and selah and selah, oh my soul!

Image result for free picture of gods loveBesides Psalm 107, another psalm, Psalm 136, also opens with “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” The phrase “His mercy and loving-kindness endures forever” is repeated in all 26 verses of Psalm 136, after statements about His great wonders from the time of creation to His current bountiful provision for Israel. God wants us to remember that “His love endures forever” (NIV)

So, dear friend, I lament . . . If only I had remembered to remember His countless gifts to me personally and His eternal loving nature, I would have recalled the battles He had fought for me and the victories we had won as He trained me to keep myself calm in times of adversity (Psalm 94:13). I would not have kept fretting about my problems and looking to my own strength. I could have stayed out of the snares of discouragement and despair that bound me up in self-focus.

My peace is in the knowing, eyes fixed on Him not me. In hindsight, I can see where I failed in my part of the blessed promise in Isaiah 26:3

“ You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”  (AMPC)

My heart remained committed to Him but I was leaning on my own understanding–my mind not fixed on Him– as I tried to figure out solutions to the problems. I was trapped in the snare of fretting and worry because it made me feel in control. I had stopped hoping confidently in God. How the enemy must love it when he manages to steal our hope and our conscious confidence in God!

. . . heart pondering His power. . . in trusting, I am free. When my mind is on God, either through talking with Him or pondering on His Word, I am free from hurt from the world, my flesh, and the devil. Keeping my mind on God and the truths of His Word keeps me trusting, believing, and waiting with confident expectation.

Image result for free picture of chainThere is a deep mystery and connection for me between the words trust, faith, hope, confidence and expectation and what it produces in the life of God’s believing children. I see a faint glimmer of how it works. It is cause and effect, like the links of a chain. I believe the mechanism of its operation, the way it works, is summarized in “We live by faith, not by sight.” or as I heard paraphrased recently, “We live by believing not by seeing.”

To me, that means we have to reach out, into the unseen and eternal spiritual realm (2 Corinthians 4:18) and when we do, our faith (which is trust, hope, and belief) is doing our part and then God responds. I know our faith pleases God, because He says we have to believe in Him and have to believe that He will reward our diligent seeking of Him.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

The way of faith in Psalm 91. In Psalm 91, I see this same cause and effect between our faith and the rewards of being consciously aware of God’s presence, which includes peace.

When I do my part and dwell in the secret place of the Most High (verse 1) and

When I say the Lord “. . . is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Hm I lean and rely and in him, I [confidently] trust!

THEN He delivers me from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.

THEN He will cover me with His pinions,

and while I am there, under the covering of His wings—and His wings are spread over me, covering me, BECAUSEI reached out in faith to Him—I shall (which means definitely) be enabled to trust and find the refuge I seek.

And His truth and faithfulness will THEN be my shield and my protection.

This Is the main idea of the poem that started this writing, this idea that when I remember what God has done, I can put my faith—my active, reaching out trust—in Him. THEN, in the act of trusting itself, I am at peace.

Like firmly embedded nails, during my emotional stumbling, our loving Shepherd has deeply rooted more of His wisdom about trusting into my heart (Ecclesiastes 12:11). And I am grateful.

Image result for free pictukre of child on stairsHis discipline is so, so loving.  The depth of God’s love—the little we can understand of its fathomless depths—is astounding. “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10b, NIV).  I get a small understanding of this when I recall a story I heard long ago. As a woman tearfully watched her young son, who had a pronounced limp, struggle to get his tricycle up the stairs and onto the porch, her friend asked why she did not help. The loving mother replied, “If I help him now, he will never learn to do things for himself.”

Think about how much God loves us, but also consider His wisdom. He knows we have to learn basic disciplines of the Christian faith, that we must remain faithful to His teachings (John 8:31), that we must keep growing and developing (2 Peter 1:3-10) and pressing on toward maturity (Philippians 3:12-21). So, God lovingly sends circumstances that force us to grow. He lovingly prunes us (John 15:2) so we will bear even more fruit. And He trains us to cleanse ourselves from ignoble purposes, so that we may be “instruments for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

When I am in painful struggles, I may wonder, at least subconsciously, as perhaps that precious little boy did, why God does not remove the problem when it would be so easy for Him to do so. But, I can choose, by faith, to remember that God is working for my good, in all things (Romans 8:28). I can also choose to say I am blessed because “Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct,  Lord, and teach out of Your law, that (emphasis added)  You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked. “Psalm 94:12-13, AMPC)

Image result for free pictukre of heartThe blessings of this trial – a renewed heart and renewed commitment. God used this latest turbulent time, of my own making, to show I needed a specific plan to keep walking in victory and to stay out of the pit of depression and fear. By His grace, I had developed some excellent spiritual disciplines during that season of intense healing, but I needed some “insurance” that I would maintain those disciplines as well as some other habits that guard against discouragement and depression. Failing in some of these areas is, I believe, what opened the door to discouragement this last time. So, I am confessing and repenting of those sins, as I have already done with a close friend, knowing He will cleanse me from them. (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9, NASB).

I believe God clearly showed me the need for a specific plan to stay out of the pit. I am earnest about this agreement with God, but I am not calling it a vow. Failing to keep vows is sin. It is disrespectful to God and foolish. We are to stand in awe of God in all things. Regarding vows, He tells us clearly:

“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore, fear God. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, NIV).

Image result for free pictukre of waling with godStaying in His presence, feasting on His Word, serving Him with love. I am setting my heart to be as careful as I can in maintaining the spiritual habits I personally need as well as certain other habits. I am recommitting to love the Lord in this way with “all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  My plan is to:

  • Maintain the daily devotional times of Bible study and prayer He has shown are needed for me personally,
  • The best I can to either talk with God or be meditating on the Word, (Psalm 1), all day, from rising up to lying down, and
  • Do whatever my hand finds to do with all my might and to do it willingly, as for the Lord (Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:23).

Confident joy! We can be confident that God is with us when we seek to follow Him more closely, and that He will help us and give us strength.  He says in Isaiah 48:10

“Fear 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 and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC)

We can also be confident because we know that growing in Him is in accordance with His will.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.” (I John 5:14-15, NIV)

How blessed we are that God shows us clearly how to live, patiently teaching over and over what we need to know, whether our walk with Him has been long or short! How blessed we are that His presence fills us with joy and the promise of eternal pleasures with Him!

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. “(Psalm 16:11, NIV)

Selah, and selah, and selah, oh my soul!

Image result for Walking in God's Plan

 

God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security

Image result for free picture of swords, guns and shieldsOverview:

  • God’s weapons for spiritual warfare.
  • Why these particular verses?
  • Why in this particular order?
  • How to use the key word sentences.
  • Why meditate?
  • Why memorize?
  • Why the AMPC?
  • God’s Word has power to change your heart and your life.
  • How does God’s Word change your heart?
  • As God’s truth increases in your heart, lies and darkness decrease.
  • A word of encouragement about meditating and memorizing.
  • God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security – List of Verses

God’s weapons for spiritual warfare. The power of God’s Word– the power of Truth–restored my mind after a long season of severe depression. According to Webster’s online dictionary, https://webster-dictionary.org/definition/arsenal, an arsenal is a “military structure where arms and ammunition and other military equipment are stored and training is given in the use of arms.”

God’s Word contains every truth a child of God needs for victory in this world, and His Word trains us how to use those truths. His Word is a weapon, and it is also a place of training. His Word is an arsenal.

Diligently studying His Word equips you to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV) The Word teaches you how to put on and use the pieces of spiritual armor God has prepared for us that include truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and “the sword the Spirit wields, which is the Word God.” (Ephesians 6:17, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of peaceWhy these particular verses? The verses given here are a fundamental part of the arsenal of God’s Word because they will help you fight for peace and for confidence that God loves you and will always take care of you. We all need peace, every day, and we all need confidence that God is with us and will take care of us.  These verses will help build that peace and that confidence. I discovered these verses as I searched the Word for healing from depression and for courage to face my everyday life.

Why in this particular order? When I began studying the Word for myself in my areas of personal need, I started studying verses about fear. However, I soon discovered that studying about peace helped more. While I studied, I selected the verse that seemed most comforting and meditated on that verse, phrase by phrase, all day long, until I nearly memorized it, which often took days. When I realized I was memorizing almost by accident as I meditated, I decided to try a bit harder and intentionally memorize the verses.

So, while memorizing the current verse, I kept studying, searching for Scriptures in my areas of need. Once I had a verse memorized, I went on to the next Scripture I had found during study time. Soon, I had a long chain of Scriptures I could play in my mind when negative thoughts and feelings threatened to steal my peace. But I forgot them when I did not have my list with me or when I could not take time to read it, for example, when driving.  What to do?

Image result for free picture of person holding listHow to use the key word sentences.  As I kept trying to remember the list of verses, I saw that the key word or thought in each verse formed a sentence.  Look at the sample below. The left column gives the Scripture reference, and the right column gives the key word or thought of that Scripture. If you read straight down the right column, you will see that the key words form sentences, which are themselves comforting truths. For example, “Peace never fails to return to the secret place.” That thought reassures us that we can always find peace when we stay in the secret place.

Sample of How to Use Key Word Sentences

Scripture Key Word Sentences
Isaiah 26:3 Peace
Hebrews 13:5 never fails
Isaiah 30:15 to return
Psalm 91 to the secret place.

By the way, I did not deliberately put these verses in this order. Holy Spirit did that, by “accident” as I searched the Word! He is our perfect Teacher.

The last page of this article contains the list of verses that I call “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security.” It fits on one page, which will be helpful. A printable version of this page is on the “Books and More” tab of this website. You will see four sets of verses. Please do not be intimidated!  Take it one verse at a time, at your own pace. Although I suggest you for sure do the first two sets, you do not have to do them all. You might find Holy Spirit leading you to a different chain of Scriptures or adding to these. Let Him lead you. He knows exactly what you need. (Psalm 139)

Why meditate? We know we are to think about and meditate on God’s Word all day, every day. God tells us to meditate, in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1, Proverbs 4:20-23, and Philippians 4:8. Meditation is good for us  and can be health to our bodies if we are diligent with it. (Proverbs 4:23). Thinking about God’s Word throughout the day helps keep us far from sin and close to Him in our thoughts and actions. Hearing, and believing, God’s Word will change the way we think, feel, and live.

Image result for free picture of flaming arrowsWhy memorize? As described earlier, as you meditate on a verse or passage, you are more than halfway to memorizing it anyway. Having what God’s Word says about life’s situations available in your memory is powerful. I compare God’s Word in your mind to having a huge body guard with you 24/7. If you have planted the Word in your mind, then Holy Spirit, like the perfect Guardian and Protector He is, will bring the Scripture you need to your conscious mind in each situation you face. The Word keeps the enemy out of your mind. He may shoot flaming arrows of thoughts, but even the worst of his “lie arrows” bounce off the shield of Truth and do you no harm.

As I described above, if you take one verse a day phrase by phrase, going over each phrase many times during that day, you will nearly have it memorized. If it is not fixed in memory during that day, focus on that verse another day. Memorizing God’s Word weaves it into the fabric of our very being so that it guides our actions. A child who has been told often enough to “Say thank you” finally starts doing so automatically. Hiding God’s Word in our heart works the same way. It helps keep us acting as God wants. Hiding His Word in our heart keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11).

Why the Amplified translation of the Bible? Here is the description of the Amplified translation from www.lockman.org, the publisher.

“The Amplified Bible is a Literal Equivalent translation that, by using synonyms and definitions, both explains and expands the meaning of words in the text by placing amplification in parentheses, brackets, and after key words. This unique system of translation allows the reader to more completely and clearly grasp the meaning as it was understood in the original languages. Additionally, amplifications may provide further theological, historical, and other details for a better understanding of the text.”

Image result for free picture of dog with a boneTo meditate means to ponder, consider, to roll something over and over in your mind, and to work at it like a dog works at a bone or a cow chews her cud.  Compare the translations of Isaiah 26:3-4 below.

  • NIV – “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast in You because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”
  • NKJ – “You will keep in perfect peace Whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever. For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”
  • NLT – “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You. Trust in the Lord always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal rock.”
  • AMPC – “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord – commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of Ages.”

Picture of All Punctuation MarksYou will see that the Amplified has more words than most other translations.  These “extra” words—those set off in dashes, braces, brackets and parentheses –are shades of meaning that the original readers of the Bible would have automatically understood when they heard that word or phrase. Slowly, carefully reading these phrases in the Amplified is one way to meditate. It slows the mind down and guides the thought process. If I meditate on Isaiah 26:3 in the NIV or the NKJ, for example, I will come up with my own ideas about what “perfect peace” and a “steadfast mind” and “trust” mean, but the “extra” words in the Amplified are, I believe, the first thoughts we should  dwell on as we meditate on a verse or passage because they are, I believe, levels of meaning that God intended when He inspired the writers of Scripture.

So, using the Amplified has two clear benefits for meditation. First, it will force you to slow down and spend more time as you meditate. Second, it will help your meditation uncover more completely, in my opinion, what God is saying in His Word.

One clear example is the word trust in Isaiah 26:3-4. Isaiah 26:3 tells us to trust in the Lord and verse 4 defines trust in the clarifying words of the Amplified, the words between dashes. Verse 4 says “So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever. . .”  That means to me that when I see God use the word trust, He means “to commit myself to Him, to lean on Him, and to hope confidently in Him.”  Using my own thoughts, I did not think of those three layers of meaning.

I suggest you try using the Amplified translation to memorize. If, after a sincere effort, you are not blessed then use a translation such as the New King James or New International. I also recommend using the Amplified Classic edition. Later editions leave out some of the amplifying phrases.

God’s Word has power to change your heart and your life. The power of God’s Word will “fix” your heart no matter if your problem is addiction, anger, self-control, loneliness, depression, or fear. Then, as your heart changes, your life will change.

Image result for free picture of a judgeHebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is alive and full of power, and that it “judges the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (NIV) One thing that phrase means to me is that God’s Word in my mind enables me to discern, or to judge, whether thoughts and feelings in my heart are good or bad, true or false, beneficial or detrimental, holy or corrupted, whether they are from God or from the devil, and whether they lead toward life or lead toward death.

When I was deeply depressed and cowered down by fear, most of my thoughts were negative. The enemy and my own downtrodden heart generated thoughts and feelings of hopelessness and discouragement, day after day. Only when I began studying the Word for myself in my areas of need and then consciously kept those verses in my mind minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, did the healing begin.

The verses in “Your Basic Arsenal” are listed in the order in which I studied and then memorized them during that season. What I needed most when I first began was peace, so I kept repeating God’s promise to keep me in peace if I kept my mind fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).  The truth of that Word made the lies in my heart flee, little by little. The light of truth chases the darkness of lies away, just as dawn chases the darkness of night away (Proverbs 4:18).

How does God’s Word change your heart? Here is one example of how the Word changes hearts. Whispering SilhouetteIsaiah 26:3 is true. It is a fact that God will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts are fixed on Him. (NLT) But the enemy tries to make us believe things that are not true. He tries to make us believe his lies, just as he did with Adam and Eve. I became and stayed depressed because, although I knew a lot of the Word, the enemy shot lying thought arrows into my heart, thoughts like “I will always feel bad and stay depressed. God cannot heal me. I am too messed up. I have wasted too much time. I have disappointed God, and He is mad at me.” If you hear something often enough, you can start to believe it, even if it is not true.

But because God’s Word is “alive and full of power,” it is active, it operates in our hearts, it energizes our hearts, and it is effective in our hearts. (Hebrews 4:12, AMPC). As soon as I heard even one short statement of truth (for example, God will never fail me in any way), the light that comes from that truth drove away some of the darkness–immediately. As I kept repeating that truth and thinking about it, pondering what exactly it meant, more light came into my mind and then my feelings.

As I searched the Bible for verses about peace, God led me first to Isaiah 26:3 and Hebrews 13:5. I started trying to keep the truths in those verses in my mind, by reading them repeatedly, then by repeating them over and over all day long, day after day, and thinking about them phrase by phrase, thinking about what each phrase meant, what each word in the phrases meant.

Image result for free picture of dawnAs God’s truth increases in your heart, lies and darkness decrease. When we meditate on God’s truth, truth and light start to take up more space in our thoughts than lies, so that truth becomes dominant, or foremost.  That is like changing undrinkable salt water by adding more fresh water until it becomes drinkable. Really, it is more like a desalinization plant because the salt, or lie, is actually removed, not just diluted!

I believe that is one reason God tells us, many times, to think about His Word all day long. As we keep His Word in our mind, hour by hour, day by day, we begin to think about life and situations like God thinks about them because we have more of the truth about life and those situations in our hearts. We start to walk in truth, to live in truth, to think like God and to act in a godly way.

As we keep diligently studying the Word, building up our library of knowledge about life as it really is, as God explains it in His Word, we grow up spiritually and grow stronger, and we fall for Satan’s lies far less often.

A word of encouragement about meditating and memorizing. You do not have to actually memorize the verses, although it will benefit you more to do so. You will find that if you ponder, think about, and puzzle over what each phrase means, you will nearly have it memorized without even trying. If you have an especially  hard time memorizing I urge you to give it your best effort, with prayer, for at least a week, with just one verse. If you really feel you cannot memorize, then do work faithfully to at least develop the habit of meditating on a specific verse or two each day, hour by hour intentionally rolling it over in your mind.

Image result for free picture of workbootsI heard a story about a man who worked as a laborer, with no way to pause and read the Word of God during the long hours he labored with his hands and back. But that man deeply loved God and the Word, so he memorized what he could of one verse each morning and meditated on that all day. The pastor who told the story said that man had a deeper understanding of God’s Word than many of the formally educated pastors and theologians he knew. The point, to me, is:  try the best you can, with all your heart, to study the Word and God will make your efforts succeed. Study Psalm 1 and selah – pause to think about what it says!

Remember the table below “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security” is available as a printable Word document on the Books and More tab at www.wordsofhopeandhealing.com.

“Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:3, NIV)

Gods Arsenal for Peace and Security

Scripture Reference Key Thought – Memory Cue
Section One  
Isaiah 26:3 1. Peace
Hebrews 13:5 2. never fails
Isaiah 30:15 3. to return
Psalm 91 4. to the secret place.
Section Two
Lamentations 3:25-26 5.  God is good,
Genesis 28:15 6. He is near, so
Psalm 27:14 7. I can wait,
Isaiah 41:10 8. and not fear,
Psalm 94:12-15 9. And keep myself calm!
Section Three
John 16:33 10. I can be of good cheer!
Psalm 18:30-36 11. (because) God is perfect.
Psalm 1 12. I can think about Him all day.
Psalm 107 13. And I can thank Him.
Section Four
II Chronicles 15:2 14.  I will find Him
Philippians 4 15. as I rejoice, and
Psalm 103 16. and praise Him.
2  Chronicles 16:9 17. He longs to strengthen me.
See the “Books and More” page at www.wordsofhopeandhealing.com for a printable Word document of this table.