Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Psalm 71

"For You have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth." Psalm 71:5

"But for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more."  Psalm 71:14

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with a new and major crisis in your life today?  Do you feel overwhelmed with just the accumulation of small daily problems and responsibilities you face today?  The Lord wants us to come to Him in prayer with all our needs.  The Lord is our only true resource for all our needs.

In Psalm 71 David, the psalmist, prayed for help in his old age.  His enemies were threatening him, and his strength was declining.  David prayed in Psalm 71:3, "Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress."  In spite of David's appeal for help from God in this Psalm, David was also expressing his trust and confidence in the Lord.  God had been David's refuge and help in the past, and David knew God would be his refuge in the present crisis.  In Psalm 71:5-6 David continued to express his confidence and trust in prayer.  David said, "For You have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.  From birth I have relied on You; You brought me forth from my mother's womb.  I will ever praise You."

The longer we serve the Lord the more clearly we see the Lord's continual faithfulness to us in past problems.  Then we also begin to grow in our trust in Him to sustain us in the midst of our present problems and needs!  We need to contemplate the Lord's faithfulness in the past; so that we can proceed in faith, trust, and peace in facing today's challenges and problems.  Our constant prayer must be that no matter what circumstances the Lord allows in our lives we will continue to say to Him, "I will ever praise You."  May our lives be filled with praise for the Lord every moment both in pleasant times and in difficult times.  This is possible, if we are truly trusting that the Lord is leading and guiding our lives in faithfulness.

In Psalm 71:9 David went on to pray to the Lord.  David prayed, "Do not cast me away when I am old; do nor forsake me when my strength is gone."  David was facing a new major crisis in his life.  In this new crisis in his life David needed a sense of the Lord's presence even as he was growing older.  David then went on to say in prayer in Psalm 71:14, "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more."  David knew with an absolute certainty that God had been with him in the past.  David also knew that the Lord would be with him in the present crisis in his life!  Notice that David was also praising God in the middle of his crisis!  We must do the same.

We can praise the Lord in all circumstances, however, only if we are trusting in God's complete faithfulness and guidance.  David said in Psalm 71:19-20, "Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, You have done great things.  Who, O God, is like You?  Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter.  You will restore my life again."  Then in Psalm 71:23 David prayed, "My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You-I, whom You have redeemed."

Because of the Lord's past faithfulness to us, we can trust Him for today's challenges and problems.  We can also trust Him for the future challenges and problems we will face.  We can do this with a joyful heart and with a heart full of praise, because our God is a faithful God!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jeremiah 29:11-14

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,' declares the Lord."  Jeremiah 29:11-14

The words of Jeremiah 29-11-14 were originally penned to God's Old Testament people who had been taken into exile, but they are still relevant to God's people today.  God's plan for us is to prosper us and not to harm us.  He always works for our spiritual good, and no ultimate spiritual harm will ever come to a child of God!

Our definition of success and prosperity may not always match the Lord's definition, but His way and will for us is always best.  True success and prosperity is found in seeking to please and honor the Lord with the resources, opportunities, and blessings that He has given us.  True success is found in trusting the Lord's leading and direction in our lives.

God may allow difficult circumstances in our lives as well as times of relative calm, but we can be certain that His plans for us are always for our best and are not meant to harm us.  His plans according to Jeremiah 29:11b are to give us "hope and a future."  When everything around us seems to be falling apart, the Lord already has it all figured out!  The Lord already has a plan in mind for our lives from all eternity!  Every step and event in our lives has been planned by the Lord and is known by the Lord.  Why should we fear anything?  The Lord allows these difficult times to help get our eyes off ourselves and more focused on Him.  His plans in even difficult times are meant to give us "hope and a future."

In order to have the assurance of the Lord's presence in our lives, however, we must always call upon Him in prayer.  We must seek a relationship with the Lord with all of our hearts.  It must be our passion to serve and please Him.  The Lord must be most important in our lives.  Our lives in what we consider good times and in times which we consider difficult times must be centered on our growing love relationship with the Lord.  We must also find our strength in the Lord alone.

This is the path and secret to joy and success in the Lord.  Life will continue to contain uncertainties and times of difficulty.  The Lord, however, is our certain future; if we seek Him with all our hearts.  People and things will fail.  The Lord will never fail.  He will bring us from victory to victory!  Praise His name!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jeremiah 18:1-6

"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand."  Jeremiah 18:6

God often teaches us spiritual truths in the Bible through the use of parables or living pictures.  In our Scripture passage today God gave the prophet, Jeremiah, a living picture.  God did this to help Jeremiah understand an important spiritual truth.  God told Jeremiah in Jeremiah 18:2, "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message."

In Jeremiah's day one could not go down to the local retail store to buy a bowl, vase, or pot.  One had to go to the potter's house.  The potter would start with a lump of clay.  The potter would then put the lump of clay on a potter's wheel; and with the touch of his hands he would form the clay into a beautiful vase, bowl, or pot of some kind.

Sometimes the potter made something that did not please him, or the vessel "was marred in his hands" (Jeremiah 18:4).  This may have happened because some impurities had not been removed, or perhaps a piece of unwanted material in the clay would not yield to the work that was being done on the potter's wheel.  If this happened, the potter would smash the pot and remake it over and over until it was a vessel pleasing to him.

The Lord God is the Potter in our lives, and we are the clay in His hands.  He is in sovereign control of our lives, and He controls all the events of our lives.  When spiritual impurities come into our lives the Lord God recreates and molds our lives to be more in tune with His will.  All the events of our lives are used to make us more like Jesus.

God especially uses problems, difficulties, and trials in our lives to mold us into the kind of people who truly reflect the Lord Jesus.  The Lord wants to bring us ever closer to the center of His will.  Difficulties teach us to not rely on our own self-effort and devices.  Difficult times in our lives teach us to rely and trust only on the Lord.  Difficulties in our lives also help to remove the impurities of sin from our lives, and they help us to grow in our love relationship with the Lord.  All the events of our lives, including difficult times, are meant to shape us into beautiful vessels for the Lord.

Our prayer to God should be that He will make us into beautiful vessels of purpose for Him.  When we fail and allow spiritual impurities into our lives we need to pray that the Lord will take us back to His Potter's wheel.  We need to pray that the Lord will then reshape us and form us into something more beautiful for Him.  From the beautiful fragments of our lives the Lord can make us beautiful vessels for Him!

We must not fight against or question the Lord's molding of our lives.  We need to pray that each touch of His hand in our lives will help us to become whom He wants us to become.  The Lord knows just the right amount of pressure to put on our lives.  We must remain thankful for how He is working and leading in our lives!  We must persevere in our willingness to submit to the Lord's will.  We must be submissive to the Lord even in trials and difficult times in our lives.  The Lord has promised to be with us all the way.

We must also ask the Lord for the filling of the Holy Spirit's power and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We must yearn for the Lord to control our lives completely every hour and every day!  There is a song that expresses this well.  The words to this song need to be our prayer each day.  "Lord, You're the Potter.  I am the clay.  Mold me and make me in Your own way.  Take me and break me, Savior, I pray, into a vessel of honor today."                                                                             

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Jeremiah 17:5-17

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; it's leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  Jeremiah 17:7-8

There is much anxiety and emptiness in the hearts and minds of most people in this world.  For the Christian there should always be a sense of peace and resting in the Lord.  For even Christians, however, worry sometimes creeps into our lives.  Worry is sin.  Worry occurs in our lives, because we are trusting in something or someone other than God.  Worry means we are making someone or something else in our lives more important than the Lord.

Sinful worry involves having our roots or foundations in life in something other than the Lord.  Sinful worry involves putting our trust and hope in things other than the Lord.  Jeremiah 17:5 says, "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord."  If we put anything before the Lord we will be like a dried up "bush in the wastelands" according to Jeremiah 17:6.  Such lives are meaningless.

What makes you and I anxious?  What makes us worry?  What are our hearts set on?  What we worry about may be a clue as to what is becoming more important to us than the Lord in our lives.  Many things can be "good" things in themselves, but even "good" things must not be more important to us than the Lord.  Is our jobs or careers more important to us than the Lord?  What about our families?  What about our reputations or what people think of us?

Even when we think we are doing the Lord's work we must be very careful that people's perceptions of us does not become more important to us than the Lord.  We need to be emptied of ourselves and filled with the Lord.  If we are chasing after anything other than the Lord's will, we will not even notice the blessings and prosperity that do come to us.  We will still be discontent.  Jeremiah 17:6 says it will be as if we are living "in the parched places of the desert."

What a contrast there will be in our lives, if we are truly resting and trusting in the Lord!  Jeremiah 17:7-8 says "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream."  Blessed and joyful are we, if we trust in the Lord and find our total fulfillment in Him!  Blessed are we, if we trust Him and have our confidence in Him alone.  He will fill us with His living spiritual waters.  He will give us all we need for time and eternity.  In our natural state we are born in sin, and we are like a tree which is a "bush in the wastelands."  But the Lord Jesus through His wonderful salvation and work in our lives transplants us by living waters of His Holy Spirit!  We become rooted in Him!

Such a tree or life in Christ according to Jeremiah 17:8b "does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  Such a life in Christ does not fear and wilt in times of difficulty and challenge.  Such a life continues to trust and rest in the Lord even in the difficult times in life and continues to bear spiritual fruit.  Such a life finds his or her joy and confidence in the Lord alone and puts the Lord first in his or her life.  May we be deeply rooted in the Lord.  He alone is our "spring of living water." (Jeremiah 17:13b)  He alone is our "refuge in the day of disaster." (Jeremiah 17:17b).  He alone must be the Lord of our lives!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Psalm 62

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken."  Psalm 62:5-6

In this Psalm King David found Himself threatened by people who wished to dethrone him and do him harm.  In this dangerous situation David turned to the Lord.  David said in Psalm 62:1, "My soul find rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him."  David found his rest, confidence, help, and peace in the Lord alone.

We too can find our confidence and help in the Lord alone.  If we put our confidence in anything or anyone but the Lord, we will often be disappointed.  We, however, can go to the Lord at any time and anyplace; and He will be our help and strength.  Hence, the Lord is also our source of peace and repose in this world of turmoil.  In Psalm 62:2 David says, "He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken."  Like David the Lord is our rock or foundation.  We can trust the Lord at all times.  He is our sure foundation even when it seems as  if our world is crumbling and falling down around us.  The Lord is our salvation.  He is our Savior from sins.  He also saves us from many unseen perils and pitfalls each and every day.  The Lord is our fortress or protection.  Hence, not matter what is going on in our lives; we need "never be shaken."

In spite of all his troubles David had learned the secret of waiting and resting in the Lord.  So often when we face a crisis in our lives we try to work out the adverse situation or circumstances by our own devices.  Sometimes we will also run to other people for help.  Often we go to the Lord only as a last resort.  We need to follow David's example and go to the Lord first.  We must find rest in the Lord alone.  David said in Psalm 62:5-6, "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken."

Notice in these verses David was once again repeating and acknowledging what he has already said in verses one and two of Psalm 62.  Rest and peace for David's soul could be found in the Lord God alone.  The Lord was His only hope for time and eternity.  The Lord alone was David's rock, salvation, and fortress.  We too must find our rest, peace, protection, and help in the Lord alone.  Then we can say with David, "I will not be shaken."  No matter what the situation we can trust the Lord and rest in Him in quiet submission.  Our well-being for time and for eternity depends on the Lord God alone.  He is our sure foundation and refuge.

We have the absolute assurance of the Lord's protecting presence in our lives at all times.  Hence, David said in Psalm 62:8, "Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge."  The Lord will never fail us.  Hence, we must go to Him alone with our every need; and we must "pour out" our heart's needs and desires to Him.  The Lord understands our needs and sympathizes with us better than anyone else is able to do.  Psalm 62:9 reminds us that human beings are "but a breath."  Resorting to our own devices, especially sinful ones, to get us through a crisis will prove to be of no avail.  But our God is our refuge and help.  We serve a faithful God.  We also serve a loving and powerful God!  If we trust in the Lord, He will direct our paths!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Philippians 4

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7

We often think of Philippians chapter four as a chapter on joy.  In this chapter we also learn how we can have peace, a sense of security in Christ, and how we can "stand firm in the Lord" (Philippians 4:1b).  We are commanded in Philippians 4:4 to "Rejoice in the Lord always."  This verse is not only telling us we are able to have joy in Christ, but that we must rejoice in the Lord.  We are not to rejoice only on the days when everything is going smoothly, but we must also rejoice on the days which are difficult and full of trouble and challenges. True joy in the Lord does not depend on our circumstances but comes from the Lord.  Paul wrote the book of Philippians in prison.  He rejoiced in the Lord in spite of his trials and unpleasant circumstances.  He had joy because of His relationship with the Lord.  That must be our source of joy also.

Joy is first found in right praying.  Joy and peace are not found in counterproductive worry.  Worry accomplishes nothing except for depressing our spirit and in some cases causing physical ailments in our bodies.  When we begin to worry we need to immediately cast our worries and anxieties on the Lord in prayer.  We need to commit all our concerns to the Lord, and then leave them with the Lord.

It is so easy to pray to the Lord, and then walk away from prayer still worrying.  God commands us not to do that, but instead we are to leave all our worries in His hands.  Worry and trust do not go together.  When we bring our worries to the Lord we must also approach Him with a thankful heart.  We must not forget to thank Him for all His past and present blessings.  If we do that Philippians 4:7 says that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Joy and peace come from right praying, and they also come from right thinking.  In verse eight of chapter four of Philippians we are told to think of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  Joy and peace further comes from right practice.  Philippians 4:9 says, "Whatever you have learned or received---put it into practice.  And the God or peace will be with you."  Obedience to God's Word always produces joy and peace.

Joy and peace come from right praying, right thinking, right acting, and finally from contentment in all circumstances.  We need to be content whatever our circumstances, and we need to be content wherever God has placed us in this life.  Paul was in in prison when he wrote the book of Philippians.  In spite of this fact, Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11b, "I have learned to be content  whatever the circumstances."  Can we say the same?

Surrendering to God's will and resting in Him is the only way to true joy and and peace.  We might think that this is easier said than done.  The truth is we can do nothing in ourselves.  Paul says in Philippians 4:13, however, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."  The Lord gives us the strength to rest all our worries in Him.  He gives us the strength to face all of life's problems.  Finally, the Lord promises to be with us and meet our needs.  Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  He has promised to meet all and not just some of our needs.  He has promised to meet all our needs out of His glorious and limitless riches.  What joy!  What peace!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Philippians 3

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him."  Philippians 3:7-9

Businesses have to consider their profits and losses, if they are going to be able to stay in business.  Even families and individuals have to mange their finances.  Consideration of profits and losses is even more crucial in our spiritual lives, however.  We need to ask ourselves what or whom is most important to us in our lives and what is worth little or nothing.

In verses four through six of Philippians chapter three the apostle Paul listed all the things that were important to him in the past.  These were things that were important to Paul before he knew the Lord Jesus as His Savior, Lord, and friend.  What Paul had considered important in the past, however, Paul now considered worthless.  Paul concluded that there is no joy outside of knowing and serving the Lord.  Paul said in Philippians 3:7-9, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him."  Paul went on to say in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection."

So often we foolishly place value on the things of this world.  We each need to ask ourselves, "What is more important to me?  Is it money?  Is it possessions?  Is it pleasure?  Is it my career?"  There is nothing that this world has to offer that can begin to compare to the joy of knowing the Lord.  In comparison to knowing the Lord Jesus everything else in our lives is pure "rubbish."  Philippians 3:9 reminds us that  absolutely nothing can compare to the joy of gaining our Lord Jesus Christ and being "found in Him"  Absolutely nothing is more important than knowing "Christ and the power of His resurrection." (Philippians 3:10)  Our supreme goal in life must be to grow in our love relationship with the Lord.  Our supreme gaol in life must be to grow in our understanding of the wonders of His person.

There is no true joy outside of the Lord.  In Philippians 3:1 Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord!"  Paul did not say to rejoice in people and possessions, but he said, "Rejoice in the Lord!"  The Lord is all that really matters for time and for eternity.  The Lord Jesus is the only source of salvation.  Depending on our own resources and works will never earn us salvation.  Our salvation is completely of grace and a gift of God.  The Lord and a relationship with Him is also the only thing that gives purpose and joy in life.  Knowing the Lord and living for Him is the only thing that is really important.

We must passionately desire to know and serve our Lord better every day.  We must put everything out of our lives that would detract us from that goal.  Paul said in Philippians 3:12, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me."  Our past with all its successes and failures and even joys and sorrows must be our main focus. Rather, we must focus on our growing relationship with the Lord.  We must focus on growing in holiness and on growing in our service to the Lord.  Paul said in Philippians 3:13b-14, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."   May nothing detract us from our relationship with the Lord and from living for Him.  May Christ and His glory be our consuming passion and goal!