Thursday, March 16, 2017

II Corinthians 1

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."  II Corinthians 1:3-4

"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.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."  II Corinthians 1:20-22

Have you ever wondered why life does not always go according to our best laid plans and wishes? Have you ever wondered why God sometimes allows difficult circumstances in our lives?  The main reason there are problems in the world and in our lives is because of sin.  Sin has disrupted God's world and is the ultimate source behind all the problems we experience in this world.  God, however, often uses difficult circumstances in our lives for our good and for His glory.

The first chapter of II Corinthians gives us some clues as to the benefits and reasons for difficult circumstances in our lives as Christians,  Verse three and four of II Corinthians chapter one tells us that God is a compassionate God and that He is our source of comfort.  The Lord is our comfort in difficult times so that we in turn can comfort others with that same comfort we receive from God. Difficult times in our own lives makes us more sensitive to the needs of others.  If we never experienced any difficulties in our lives, we would not be able to comfort others.

Another reason that God allows difficult times in our lives is suggested in II Corinthians 1:9b. When speaking of trials that Paul had experienced in his own life Paul said, "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God."  When all is going smoothly in our lives we have a tendency to become smug and complacent.  We begin to think that we are self-sufficient. Difficult times makes us realize that we must depend on the Lord's strength alone.  God's grace and strength is all-sufficient, and our weakness is the perfect opportunity for His power to be displayed.  Difficult times causes us to "set our hope" on the Lord for our strength and deliverance II Corinthians 1:10b).  The Lord must become our only source of confidence.

Yet another reason for difficult times is our lives is suggested in II Corinthians 1:11.  Difficult times causes us to seek the Lord in prayer in a deeper way.  Difficult times cause us to come to the Lord in prayer for our needs and the needs of others.  This in turn results in us seeing God's awesome answers to prayer in our lives and in the lives of others.

No matter what circumstances come our way we can count on God's precious promises to always be with us.  II Corinthians 1:20-22 tells us, "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.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

We can be sure of God's promises to always be with us!  We belong to the Lord for time and for eternity!  His Holy Spirit is in our hearts guaranteeing us an eternal presence with the Lord! Because of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we can "stand firm" in our faith no matter what the circumstances in our lives.  We can do this, because we know we serve a faithful and all-wise God!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Psalm 34

Psalm thirty-four is a beautiful Psalm.  Psalm thirty-four is filled with beautiful promises from the Lord to His people.  David wrote Psalm thirty-four when he was homeless and still hiding from Saul. Saul was trying to take David's life.  David could have concluded that he had nothing for which to be thankful.  Instead David said in Psalm 34:1, "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips."  Notice David said his praises for the lord would be on his lips at ALL times.  Do we praise the Lord at all times?  Do we praise the Lord when we have financial reverse?  Do we praise the Lord when we experience heartache and sorrow?  Do we praise the Lord when we experience daily irritations and interruptions?

We must remember that God works all things together for our good.  This does not mean that all of life's events are good in themselves.  It does mean, however, that the Lord uses even what we consider the bad circumstances in our lives for our ultimate spiritual good.  Through difficult times in our lives the Lord teaches us patience, perseverance, and dependence on Him rather than in ourselves. We grow spiritually during those times.  So even in difficult times we need to say with David in Psalm 34:3, "Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together."  Praising God in all circumstances is the secret to a life filled with joy.  Praise on our lips and praise in our hearts for the Lord lifts us above our difficulties.

When David was in the midst of a difficult circumstance in his life he sought out the Lord, and the Lord delivered him from all his fears (Psalm 34:4).  God did not deliver David from some of his fears but from ALL his fears.  We also must bring all our fears and worries to the Lord, and we must leave them with the Lord.  We must trust that the Lord will take care of our difficult circumstances in His perfect way.  Psalm 34:5 tells us, "those who look to Him are radiant" with joy.  When we keep our eyes focused on the Lord and on His promises our fears and worries will slip away, and our joy and trust in the Lord will increase.

Psalm 34:6 goes on to tell us that David called to the Lord in his troubles.  David knew that he had no resources in himself.  David knew that he was totally dependent on the Lord.  The Lord heard David's prayers, and He saved him from all his troubles.  The Lord will also save and help us in times of trouble. In fact, Psalm 34:7 promises us that "the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them."  The Lord's protective guidance and help is all around us each and every moment of our lives.  The Lord tells us to to taste and experience His goodness and faithfulness. Blessed and joyful is the person who finds his or her refuge and strength in the Lord alone!

When you or I are feeling overwhelmed with one of life's difficulties we need to trust the Lord, and we need to stand in awe of Him.  A child of God can trust the Lord completely, because Psalm 34:10b reminds us that "those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."  Wow!  What a promise! When our hearts are breaking the Lord hears our prayers.  Psalm 34:17-19 says, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all."

Notice once again the world ALL is used.  The Lord delivers us from ALL our troubles when we approach Him in faith.  He does this in His perfect time and in His perfect way.  Things will not be perfect until we reach our eternal home.  In fact, the Lord promises us that we will have difficulties in this life.  We can trust the Lord, however, to be with us all the way!  He has His perfect plan for our lives, and no ultimate spiritual harm can ever come to a child of God!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Psalm 33

"Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him."  Psalm 33:1

"We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name."  Psalm 33:20-21

Joy should be evident in the life of every child of God.  The Lord has given us so many blessings. Hence, our hearts and lips should burst out in song and praise to the Lord.  Psalm 33:1 says, "Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him."  The Lord has saved us by His grace.  The Lord's love and mercy to us is eternal. and He is always faithful. Therefore "it is is fitting for the upright to praise Him."

Everyday and always our praise for the Lord must be fresh and new.  Psalm 33:3 says, "Sing to Him a new song."  The Lord deserves our continual and daily praise, because as Psalm 33:4 promises, "the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does."

The Lord deserves our praise, because He is awesome in His character.  The Lord also deserves our praise, because He displays power and glory in His creation.  Psalm 33:6 tells us, "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth."  God not only created this awesome universe, but He continues to maintain it in perfect order.  "For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm."  (Psalm 33:9)  Finally, Psalm 33:11 reminds us that the Lord is worthy of our praise; because "the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."  Our God is a faithful God, and His plans will always remain firm and eternal.

Blessed and joyful is the nation or individual who has the Lord as their God, (Psalm 33:12).  He is our only sure foundation and refuge for time and for eternity.  Psalm 33:17 exhorts us that a dependence on the things or powers of this world for our safety and protection is "a vain hope for deliverance."  There is safety and protection for the child of God, however!  That safety and protection is found in the Lord!  Psalm 33:18 blesses us by saying, "The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love."

Thus, we must use our lips and lives to praise our awesome and faithful Lord.  For He alone is our faithful "help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name." (Psalm 33:20b-21)  He alone is our joy and our unfailing source of security and love!  Praise His glorious and awesome name!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I Corinthians 16:5-14

"A great door for effective work has opened to me."  I Corinthians 16:9

In our passage today the Apostle Paul sent word to the Corinthian church that he would be remaining in Ephesus for awhile.  Paul said in I Corinthians 16:8-9. "But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me."  In spite of obstacles and enemies in Ephesus Paul believed God had opened up a door of ministry for him there, and he did not wish to miss that opportunity for ministry and service for his Lord.  Paul knew that if God opened up a door of service, He would also give victory.

God opens ups doors of opportunity for us also.  We must daily pray for the Lord's guidance in our lives.  We must not run ahead of the Lord, and we must not seek to open doors of opportunity by force or our own efforts.  Our own self-efforts will always fail.  We must seek God's leading and timing.  When it becomes clear, however, that the Lord is leading us in a particular direction we must follow the Lord and pursue that open door of service.  We must follow the Lord's guidance with trust and confidence.  We must also trust that the Lord will make our service for Him victorious and productive in spite of unavoidable obstacles along the way.

In our service for the Lord Paul says to us in I Corinthians 16:13-14, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love."  We must be very careful to be on guard against apathy.  We must maintain our passion and excitement for the work of the Lord. We must also be on guard against the devil's philosophies and lifestyles which are all around us in the secular world.  Sometimes the world's philosophies can sound so logical and inviting, if we are not on guard in our spiritual lives.  As children of God we must filter and evaluate everything according to God's Holy Word.  In our service for the Lord we must "stand firm in the faith."  We need to do all that we can to grow in our love relationship with the Lord.  The Lord must become number One in our lives, and He must dominate every area of our lives.

In our service for the Lord we must also be men and women of courage and strength.  It is often difficult to live as children of God in this world.  True courage and strength comes only from a deep personal relationship with our Lord.  True courage and strength develops from relying on the Lord's strength and not on our own devices.  Only when we are finding our strength in the Lord can we become effective servants in His kingdom.

Finally, I Corinthians 16:14 instructs us that in our service to the God we must "do everything in love."  Service for God without love for God and others is worthless.  I Corinthians 13:2b-3 says, "if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

May we not shrink from God's open doors of opportunity for service.  May we serve the Lord and others in love, and may our ministries and lives be squarely based on the Word of God.  May it be our passion to use every "door for effective work" for the Lord's glory!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I Corinthians 9:24-27

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it a slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." I Corinthians 9:24-27

In our race of life we must be passionate about our desire to live for the glory of the Lord.  In our race of life we must be passionate about living holy lives for the Lord.  As children of God we are no longer subject to the consequences of hell for our sins.  Jesus has paid the punishment of our sins on the cross.  The Lord has also lived a perfect life for us that we could not live.  We are now in a positional state of holiness before God.  It must also be our passion, however, to demonstrate practical holiness and to reflect the Lord Jesus in all areas of our lives.  Romans 6:13 tells us that we must not offer our bodies as "instruments of  wickedness."  We must instead offer ourselves to the Lord as "instruments of righteousness" and holiness.

Before we became children of God we had no choice but to sin.  We were not capable of refraining from sin in our lives.  As children of God we once again have the capability to choose not to sin.  We have the capability to choose to be "instruments of righteousness" and holiness for the Lord.  We often still fail and sin, but we now have the desire and power and capability to choose to obey the Lord.  This desire and power comes from the Holy Spirit now living in us.

As redeemed children of God we are now free from the penalty and power of sin, but sin is still present in our lives.  Our minds and hearts desire to obey God, but the sin still remaining in us wishes to take dominance.  So as children of God we are in a spiritual warfare or battle against sin until the day we die or until Jesus returns.

We must not think that practical holiness and victory over sin will come instantly or easily.  I Timothy 4:7 says that in our spiritual warfare against sin we must train ourselves to be godly.  In the days of the ancient Olympics the runners who competed in the races would undergo "strict training" (I Corinthians 9:25).  This is true of our daily struggle and victory over sin also.  Psalm 119:11 reminds us that one way we train ourselves to be godly and holy is by hiding God's Word in our heart.  We must have a disciplined approach to hearing, reading, studying, and memorizing God's Word.

We must also take time to meditate on God's Word.  We must think about God's Word and strive to apply its truths to our individual life's situations and to every area of our lives.  We must strive to bring even our bodies and our physical appetites under the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I Corinthians 9:27 tells us that we must make our bodies "slaves" for God and not slaves of our passions, desires, and weaknesses.

In our attempt at disciplined application of God's Word to our lives we will fail many times.  In spite of this the Lord wants us to keep persevering in our struggles against sin no matter how many times we fail.  In spite of sin and failure I Corinthians 9:25 says that the Lord wants us to run our race of life "in such a way as to get the prize."  Our eternal lives are already secure in Christ.  We must run life's race, however, in a way that it demonstrates that we are truly children of God.  May this be our passion and desire!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Psalm 32

Praise God for His awesome gift of salvation!  Psalm 32:1-2 says, Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit there is no deceit."  Blessed means happy or joyful.  Joyful is the individual whose sins have been forgiven by the Lord!

Experiencing the joy of God's forgiveness, however, depends on us first acknowledging and confessing our sins.  We need to run to the Lord in sorrowful repentance, and then we need to allow His Holy Spirit to shape our lives into something beautiful for God.  When we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge our sins, however, we will suffer consequences.  David was a child of God, but for a time in his life he stubbornly refused to acknowledge a serious sin in his life. Hence, David suffered spiritually, psychologically, and even physically.  David prayed to God in Psalm 32:3-4, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer." We as children of God must be careful that we do not persist in deliberate sin and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge sin in our lives.

When we acknowledge our sins, the Lord receives us with open arms of forgiveness.  David prayed in Psalm 32:5, "Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,'- and you forgave the guilt of my sin."  When we acknowledge our sins the Lord forgives our sins.  He also promises to be with us every step of our lives!  The Lord directs our steps during both the pleasant and difficult circumstances of life.

When David finally acknowledged his sin he once again experienced the Lord's blessings on his life. David prayed in Psalm 32:6-7, "Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to You while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.  You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."

We must acknowledge our sins, and we must also seek the Lord.  Then we will experience the Lord's favor and blessing on our lives. A God who is willing to forgive our sins is also a God whom we can trust.  He is a God to whom we can devote our entire lives.  When "the mighty waters" of chaotic and difficult circumstances arise in our lives we can trust in the Lord's protection and provision for us. He is our "hiding place" and protection.  The Christian goes from victory to victory in his or her life. A Christian in thankfulness can then sing "songs of deliverance."

Experiencing God's victories in our lives is dependent on following God's will for our lives.  God said to David in Psalm 32:8 and says to us today. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you."  God instructs us through His Holy Word, and we must immerse ourselves in His Holy Word every day.  God also directs us through the circumstances that He allows in our lives.  God is slowly shaping us into the people He wants us to become.  He is slowly instructing and teaching us in the way He wants us to go.

We must be submissive and not rebellious to the Lord's leading in our lives, however.  We must be careful that we are not "like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding, but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you." (Psalm 32:9)  Only in total submission to God's will do we experience the Lord's blessing and joy.  Psalm 32:10 says, "Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him."  Let us daily examine our lives for any unconfessed sins.  Let us confess those sins, and turn to the Lord in repentance.  Let us submit to God's will for our lives and experience His protection, blessing, joy, and "unfailing love."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Psalm 27

Psalm 27 was a prayer of David in a time of crisis.  It was a confident assertion that the Lord would help him against his enemies.  It was also a confident prayer to God for help.  King David was secure in the Lord.  We also can be confident in the Lord.  When we face difficult or seemingly insurmountable problems we can run to the Lord.  We can say with David of old, "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)

The Lord is our light or our sense of well-being.  He is the One that guides, directs, and protects. The Lord is our source of all the blessings in our lives.  We need not fear anything or anyone, because the Lord is our stronghold.  Even when chaos and all kinds of fearful events seem to be breaking out all around us, we can be confident in the Lord.

The Lord must not only be our soul's confidence, but He must also be our soul's desire.  David said in Psalm 27:4. "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple."  It should be our consuming passion to grow in our love relationship with the Lord and to grow in our sense of the Lord's presence in our lives.  It should be our consuming passion that we grow in our perception of the Lord's beauty.  It should be our passion to meditate on His Word and to spend time in prayer.  It should be our passion to then enter the world carrying the fragrance of Jesus, because we have spent time lingering in the Lord's presence.

Psalm 27:5 reminds us that if we are lingering in the Lord's presence we will then experience His peace and safety "in the day of trouble."  In those days of trouble the Lord will hide us in His protection and will set us "high upon a rock."  That rock is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!  We as His children will go from victory to victory, and we will be filled with His praises!

The Lord is our light and soul's confidence.  He must further be our soul's desire.  The Lord is also our soul's prayer.  We must always seek the face of our Lord in prayer, because He alone is our helper.  We can not face one day without Him.  The Lord has promised to always be with us. Even if all others would reject us, the Lord will never reject His own.  His arms are always open wide to His children.  We are eternally secure in the Lord!

There is much turmoil in this world.  There is much we could fear, but a child of God need not fear. God's children can experience the Lord's peace.  We experience this peace by asking the Lord to teach us His ways and by walking in the Lord's paths.  Only those who know and seek to obey the Lord can experience His answers to prayer and His victories and peace in their loves.

We also experience the Lord's peace by trusting the Lord and resting our lives in Him.  We experience the Lord's peace by taking our eyes off our problems and the condition in which we find the world and by directing our eyes on the Lord.  We experience the Lord's peace by knowing that the Lord is in control and by waiting on the Lord.

Psalm 27:14 reads, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."  Waiting on the Lord involves not running ahead of the Lord.  It involves not forcing doors open before the Lord's perfect timing.  It involves seeking the Lord's direction, guidance, and help. Waiting on the Lord is a sure confidence that the Lord has every detail of our lives planned, so we need not panic in times of crisis or trial.  Waiting on the Lord means we are resting in the Lord for working out the details of our lives.  Waiting on the Lord means we are concentrating on our love relationship with the Lord and not on our problems.  Waiting on the Lord is being quiet long enough to hear His voice in His Holy Word and in our hearts.  Because Psalm 27:1 assures us that the Lord is our "light" and "salvation," we need to fear nothing.  He is our peace and strength.  Wait on the Lord!