Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Psalm 46

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

"'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth'.  The Lord almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."  Psalm 46:10-11

In life we face many challenges and problems and sometimes deep trials, but God has promised us in Psalm 46:1 to be "our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." He will be my "refuge and strength" and your "refuge and strength."  We can have fearless trust in Him no matter what upheavals are occurring in our lives and no matter what catastrophic events are happening all around us!   Psalm 42:2-3 reminds us that we need not feat even if "the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

We can trust the Lord even if all we hold dear is taken from us, because He is our powerful "refuge and strength!"  He is our constant help and strength in all kinds of problems and in the deepest of trials!  He gives us just what we need of His strength day by day and moment by moment.  The Lord has been our help in the past, and He will be our help and strength in the future!  When we can't see our way out of a problem situation in our lives, the Lord already has a plan in place for our lives!  We can trust Him.  His will and timing are always best.

Sometimes the Lord allows trials in our lives to get our attention and to help us grow spiritually. Sometimes trials are given to us to help us grow more dependent on the Lord and to help us grow in our love for Him.  Even in trials the Lord is smiling down on us, protecting us, and seeing us to victory!  He sustains us, protects us, and pours His blessings on us sometimes especially in difficult times in our lives,  Even in the difficult times in our lives we can be full of the Lord's joy, because no ultimate spiritual harm will ever come to a child of God!

Psalm 46:4 reminds us that our Lord is the "Most High" who dwells within us!  Nations rise and fall because of the Lord's power and control.  This same powerful God is our fortress and our protection! So all we have to do is rest in His care and not fear.  He says to us in Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."  The Almighty Lord of the universe is with us eternally!

We must put aside the voices of the world and of self-reliance, and we must trust in Him to meet our every need.  We must trust the Lord to lead us through even very difficult times.  We need to grow in our love for Him.  We need to truly rest in the Lord and listen for His still small voice of direction for our lives!  The longer this devotional writer walks with the Lord the more she sees His faithfulness in her life.  His grace is always sufficient.  His victory is always sure, and His promises are always reliable!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

ll Chronicles 14-16

"Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, 'Lord, there is no one like You to help the powerless against the mighty.  Help us, O Lord, our God, for we rely on You."  ll Chronicles 14:11

"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."  ll Chronicles 16:9

In the beginning of King Asa's reign Asa displayed a deep desire to serve God in obedience and truth. ll Chronicles 14:2 tells us that Asa sought with all his heart to do "what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God." Asa sought to bring God's people back to God, and he removed many of the idols that were prevalent in the land.  Because of this God's people experienced God's blessings. Asa said at on point during this time, "The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought Him and He has given us rest on every side (ll Chronicles 14:7b)"

But then one day God's people were attacked by an enemy from another country.  This enemy's army greatly outnumbered King Asa's army.  King Asa knew he was helpless against such an army without God's help,so he prayed to the Lord for help.  Asa prayed in ll Chronicles 14:11, "Lord, there is no one like You to help the powerless against the mighty.  Help me, O Lord our God, for we rely on You, and in Your name we have come against this vast army.  O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You."

Asa knew that He was powerless in himself, but he also knew that with the Lord on his side a great victory could be won.  Asa depended on the Lord and proceeded in the Lord's strength. Because of his trust and reliance on the Lord, Asa won a great victory that day.  When seemingly insurmountable difficulties arise in our lives we also must turn to the Lord.  God is the all powerful God who can bring all His resources to our aid.  The Lord is the only One who can and will bring victory to us in our deepest and darkest times.  Like Asa we must say to the Lord, "we rely on You."  We must trust and rest in the Lord alone.

For many years Asa continued to be filled with a zeal for serving the Lord and doing the Lord's will. Then a time came, however, when King Asa and God's people were threatened by another country. This time King Asa did not go to the Lord in prayer for help.  King Asa relied on another country for help.  King Asa made a treaty with a pagan king from a pagan land that did not even acknowledge the Lord.  King Asa put his trust in a worldly king rather than in the Lord.  King Asa forgot to go to the Lord for his only source of help.

This should be a warning to us also.  We must always rely on the Lord alone in a time of need and crisis.  We must not panic and run ahead of the Lord.  We must not rely on our own devices or on human resources.  We must rest in trust in the Lord our God.  He will bring His sure victory in His perfect timing, if we rely on Him.  ll Chronicles 16:9 says, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."

Because King Asa relied on human resources that day the army who fought against him escaped, and King Asa did not win a victory that day.  Sadly, King Asa became bitter and angry until his death and did not continue to rely on the Lord.  We must rely and rest in the Lord alone for all our needs.  There is no other source of help, strength, protection, and love than from the Lord.  The Lord has to be the one to whom we run with all our needs.  He alone will "strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."  If we are truly committed to the Lord, He will prove Himself strong on our behalf in every need.  We then will go from victory to victory in the Lord!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I Chronicles 16

"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.  Remember the wonders He has done."  I Chronicles 16:11-12

"Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.  For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise." I Chronicles 16:24-25

What a joyful day it was for God's Old Testament people!  They were bringing the ark of God, the symbol of the Lord's presence among them to the Royal City.  The Levites carried the ark with poles on their shoulders.  There was rejoicing among the people.  There was singing and and the playing of musical instruments.  There was much giving of praise and thanks to the Lord on that joyous day.

King David then gave his musicians a Psalm of praise and thanks to the Lord.  This Psalm of King David is recorded in I Chronicles 16:8-36.  It is a Psalm of praise that we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ today can also commit to the Lord.  In the following paragraphs the writer of this devotional will take great liberty in seeking to paraphrase this Psalm of David in order to apply it to your and my lives.

Never stop giving thanks to our awesome Lord.  His arms are always open to us, so never fail to call upon our faithful God.  Make known to those around you His salvation and what He has done in your lives.  Continually sing praise to the Lord.  Delight yourselves in the name of the Lord. Seek the Lord and His will continually.  Find your joy and strength for living in the Lord alone.  Do not search for your happiness in the things of the world.  You will not find it there.

Remember and never forget the wonders and great things the Lord has done in you lives.  Don't forget the times the Lord has answered prayers and rescued you out of seemingly impossible situations.  He is the Lord, our faithful God.  His faithfulness never ceases.  The Lord's faithfulness was present in the generations of our ancestors who loved the Lord.  The Lord's faithfulness is present in our lives today.  His faithfulness will also continue in our children's and grandchildren's lives who serve Him.  The Lord is a faithful God!

In light of the Lord's great faithfulness let us continually sing praise to Him.  Let us tell others of His salvation and blessings in our lives.  For the Lord is great and abundantly worthy of our praise!  He is an awesome and majestic God!  He alone is God.  He alone is the source of our strength and joy. Give to the Lord the glory and praise which He deserves.  Bring your offerings to the Lord.  Bring you tithes and money, but more importantly offer yourselves in sacrifice to Him. Worship the Lord for His splendor and His holiness.

The Lord created the world and maintains the world.  May even the heavens, the earth, the seas, and the forests bring praise to the Lord's name!  The Lord above reigns!  He is Lord of Lords! Give thanks to your Lord, for He is abundant in His goodness!  His love is eternal.

When in trouble cry out to the Lord to save you.  Then when He answers your prayers give thanks to your holy and faithful God.  Delight yourselves in praising the Lord!  Praise be to our Lord, the God of His chosen people from generation to generation.  The Lord is our everlasting God.  May all God's people say, "Amen!  Praise the Lord! (I Chronicles 16:36b)


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Galatians 5:22-26

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. gentleness and self-control."  Galatians 5:22-23

God expects His children to be spiritual fruit bearers.  John 15:8 tells us, "This is my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."  As children of God our lives must match the professions that come from our mouths.  Our salvation is all of grace and has nothing to do with ourselves.  We are saved for a purpose, however.  That purpose is to bring glory to the Lord.

One way that we bring glory to the Lord is by exhibiting the Christ-like characteristics of the fruit of the Holy Spirit  in our lives.  Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  Others need to see Christ living in us through the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us.  There is a song whose words state, "They will know we are Christians by our love."  We need to show the fruit of sacrificial love to others.  Others also need to know we are Christians by our joy, peace, and patience in all circumstances.

Others further need to be able to see and know we are Christians by our kindness and goodness. Kindness and goodness are closely associated with patience.  If we are patient with other people and their shortcomings, we will also display the fruit of the Spirit of goodness and kindness. Kindness is exhibited in a care and concern for others.  It involves going out of our way to treat others the way we would like to be treated.  Goodness involves a willingness to help others. Goodness also involves a willingness to avoid evil and to follow God's paths.

Next, others need to see and know we are Christians by our faithfulness and our gentleness.  A faithful person is obedient to the Lord in all things.  A faithful person remains true and obedient to the Lord even when going through difficult times in his or her life.  A faithful person can be counted on to keep the promises and commitments that he or she has made to his or her fellow human beings. The fruit of the Spirit of gentleness should also be found in the lives of the children of God. Gentleness does not entail weakness.  Gentleness is God's power in us under His control.  Gentleness involves humility.  Gentleness involves a kind, considerate, and gracious spirit towards others.

Finally, others need to see and know we are Christians by the fruit of the Spirit of self-control. Self-control involves being willing to stop oneself from acting impulsively  and selfishly.  Self-control involves being willing to stop oneself from engaging in behaviors which are not good for oneself, not good for others, or not pleasing to the Lord.

The world believes greatness is found in personal power, position, talent, and wealth.  Our God tells us that those things are not important.  What matters is that we are living for the Lord's glory and that we are exhibiting Christ-like attitudes in our lives.  May we increasingly exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives of "joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  May others truly see Christ living in us.

Galatians 5:25 says, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."  Living Spirit directed and fruit-bearing lives involves allowing the Holy Spirit to direct and lead us in all things throughout every moment  of the day. Living Spirit directed and fruit-bearing lives involves choosing each day to start anew and fresh in the Spirit's power.  It also involves maintaining that dependence on the Holy Spirit's power throughout the day.  We as children of God still have sin present in out lives, but it should be our consuming passion to increasingly live Spirit directed and fruit-bearing lives!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Galatians 5:16-26

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  Galatians 5:22-23

The Holy Spirit first came on Christ's church at Pentecost.  We read about this exciting event in Acts chapter two.  Pentecost was a wonderful and spectacular event in the life of the early church.  The Holy Spirit does not come into the hearts of believers today with tongues of fire and a rushing wind, as it did on this one occasion. In spite of this, the Holy Spirit is in the heart of every child of God today also.    

It was the Holy Spirit who convinced us of our sins and caused us to have the ability and the desire to believe.  It was the Holy Spirit who caused us to repent of our sins and to turn to the Lord for forgiveness.  As children of God the Holy Spirit now reminds us of what we have learned from reading God's Word.  The Holy Spirit is the One who helps us to apply God's Word to our daily lives. 

The Holy Spirit lives in our hearts as believers and gives us the power and desire to live for the Lord Jesus.  If we are true children of God we must also grow in our spiritual lives.  We must more and more begin to display Christlike attitudes in our lives.  Galatians 5:16 reminds us that we must "live by the Spirit" and "not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."  We must get rid of anything impure and selfish.  We must rid ourselves of hatred, jealousy, and divisiveness.  In its place we must show the fruit of the the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit which should be increasingly evident in our lives are listed in Galatians 5:22:23.  That passage says to us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  Love, the first fruit of the Spirit mentioned in this Scripture passage, involves unselfishly putting the good of others first.  True love is willing to sacrifice for others and does not think only about one's own needs and desires.  

Joy as well as love and all the other fruit of the Spirit comes only from the Lord.  When the Lord changes our hearts He gives us a deep down joy that is not dependent on what we consider favorable circumstances.  This joy comes from the presence of Jesus Christ in our hearts.  It is a joy which we can possess even in times of great difficulty in our lives, because we know and trust the Lord.

Peace is yet another fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Peace is a calmness that we as children of God can experience in even the worst of circumstances.  We can experience peace, because we know the Lord is walking right beside us.  We can experience peace, because we know that He is in control of every detail of our lives.  Peace also comes from walking in God's ways.  If we are out of fellowship with the Lord  and walking in our own stubborn ways, we can not experience peace.

Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that is not often evident in our fast-paced society.  We tend to want things right now, and we do not like waiting.  God wants us, however, to follow His perfect leading and to depend on His perfect timing for the events of our lives.  We must learn to trust that the Lord knows what is best for us and that He knows when it is best for us.  Patience is waiting for God to lead us without grumbling.  The fruit of the Holy Spirit of patience also shows itself in our relationships with others.  Patience involves long-suffering and patience with the wrongs others commit against us.  We can only demonstrate patience in our dealings with others, if our hearts are filled with the love of the Lord.  

May it be our passion to truly show the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  May we show His love to others, His joy and peace in all circumstances, and His patience in our lives!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Galatians 2

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing."
Galatians 2:20-21

In the book of Galatians we learn the precious truth that our eternal salvation rests in grace alone. Our salvation entirely rests in our faith in Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice for our sins on the cross.  In the book of Galatians the apostle Paul was fighting against legalistic teachers who were falsely teaching the Galatian church that they had to return to the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament times. By teaching this the legalistic teachers were in effect saying that Christ alone was insufficient for salvation.

Paul admonished the Galatian church that these ceremonial practices of the past had merely been pointing to the coming of the Savior.  These ceremonial laws were no longer necessary. Jesus had fulfilled the law's requirement.  Jesus had paid the total penalty for sin.  So too, our salvation as believers today rests in grace and faith alone.  Praise God that this is true!  If our salvation rested even in part on our own merit, we would be in dire straits!  The law and our sins no longer have power to condemn us to a Christless eternity.  All of our sins have been washed away by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross!

Because of God'g grace we now are new creatures in Christ!  Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."  Because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross we now belong to Him.  As His children you and I have relinquished our lives to Christ. We are no longer in sin's grasp or in the devil's grip.  II Corinthians 1:22 promises us that the Lord has "set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."  Instead of living in Satan's realm we now have relinquished that life for an exchanged life in Christ.  "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

Galatians 2:20b goes on to say, "The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  As followers of Jesus Christ our new lives in Him are characterized by a walk of faith.  Our new lives in Christ are trusting lives.  In our new lives in Christ we can come to the Lord with all our needs and trust that He will always be with us. In our new lives in Christ we can trust that the Lord will always be our source of comfort and our friend. In our new lives in Christ we can trust that He will always guide and protect us. In our new lives in Christ we know we have a Savior who loved us so much that He was willing to give Himself on the cross to pay for our sins.

Finally, in our lives in Christ we are confident that Christ's sacrifice for our sins was sufficient. We need not and can not add anything to salvation's requirements.  It was all taken care of by our Savior! As His children we now can relinquish our old lives of sin and live new lives in Christ. We can do this; because Jesus Christ lives in us, giving us power to live for Him.  Christ died on the cross for us, and He lives within us.  Hence, we now can live lives of trust and faith in Him! Praise His name!


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Psalm 42

We all have a passion for certain things in our lives.  We all have priority list for what we feel is most important in this life. We all have certain goals for which we strive and which consume our energies. The psalmist in Psalm 42 had a deep longing and passion for God.  His very heart was longing and crying out for the Lord.  What is most important to us in our lives?  Like the psalmist in Psalm 42 our consuming passion should be for the Lord God.  Our consuming passion should be for developing our love relationship with the Lord.  Our consuming passion should be to live for the Lord.

The psalmist said in Psalm 42:1-2, "As the deep pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?"  A deer pants and longs for water, because its life is dependent on water.  This is especially true when the deer is being chased by hunters.  So also the psalmist longed to be with God. Apparently circumstances prevented the psalmist from temporarily going to the temple and communing with the Lord on the level that he would have liked to commune with God.  Hence, the psalmist's heart was aching and longing for God.  His heart was crying out for God.  The psalmist was not running after and longing for pleasure, position, or the material things of this world; but he was overwhelmed with a longing for God Himself.

You and I need that kind of passion in our love relationship with the Lord.  The things of this world will pass away.  Only our love for the Lord and our relationship with the Lord will last throughout eternity.  Also our hearts will be restless and will not find true peace and joy until they are resting in the Lord.  The Lord alone is the answer to our soul's thirst.  Joy, peace, and the longing of our souls can not even be found in what the Lord gives us or does for us.  It is found in the Lord Himself! Jesus said in John 7:37b. "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink,"  The Lord alone is the answer to our soul's longing.

The psalmist apparently was going through a difficult time in his life when he wrote this Psalm. He said in Psalm 42:3, "My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long. 'Where is your God?'"  Sometimes during times of trial and difficulty in our lives, we may be tempted to think that the Lord has forgotten us,  Just the opposite is true, however, The Lord is always with us. This is especially true during the difficult times in our lives.  Also the Lord uses times of trial and difficulty in our lives to draw us closer to Him. Difficult times in our lives help us to grow in our love relationship with the Lord.  Hence, trials in our lives help to satisfy our passion and longing for the Lord.

When the psalmist was feeling overwhelmed with the problems in his life, he remembered the Lord's past blessings in his life.  He also remembered the past joys of worshiping with God's people in the temple.  The psalmists went on to say in verses five and eleven of Psalm 42, "Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed with me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."

God will fulfill our every need during both times of trial and during times of relative ease in our lives. The Lord will do this for us, if we put our trust and hope in Him.  The Lord will do this for us, if our consuming passion and longing is for Him.  Even when we feel overwhelmed with a difficulty in our lives, the Lord is always with us.  In Psalm 42:8 the psalmist said, "By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me-a prayer to the God of my life."  No matter what the circumstances in our lives the Lord is our source of joy and peace.  May the Lord be our consuming passion in our lives!