Thursday, February 25, 2016

Psalm 18

Psalm eighteen was written by David after he had been delivered from the hands of King Saul. King Saul hated David, because he knew God had rejected him and had chosen David to be the new king to succeed him.  Hence, Saul was trying to kill David.  God protected David, however, and David eventually became king.  Psalm eighteen is a psalm of praise from David to God for his deliverance from Saul.  It is a beautiful psalm of praise which we can utter to the Lord also!

David said in Psalm 18:1. "I love You, O Lord, my strength."  This verse reveals David's intimate and passionate relationship with the Lord.  The Lord delights in our expressions of love to Him as well. We need to always be expressing our love for the Lord through our prayers and our lives.

When we truly love someone we also trust them.  This kind of trust for his Lord was expressed by David in Psalm 18:2-3a.  David said, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise."

The Lord is our "rock" or foundation also.  When we are resting on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ our lives are meaningful, and every moment of our lives are under the Lord's direction and control.  We need to fear nothing!  The Lord is our "fortress" or place of shelter and safety.  When the difficulties or trials of life come we can run to the Lord.  The Lord is our "deliverer."  How often we try every human resource before we turn to the Lord.  We must run to the Lord first.  He is our only true source of deliverance and our only "shield" of protection. The Lord is the one who will protect us and give us the grace and strength we need in those difficult times in our lives.  The Lord is our "horn" of salvation and our "stronghold."  He is the strength and glory of our lives for time and for eternity!  If we truly love and trust the Lord, we must call upon the Lord with our every need.  We can trust the Lord to meet our every need in His perfect timing.  Hence, we must also not forget to praise our awesome and faithful Lord; for He is indeed "worthy of praise!"

Even though David went through a difficult experience when he was being pursued by King Saul, the Lord was with David and protected him in a mighty way.  David said of God in Psalm 18:16, "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters."  Later in Psalm 18:18b-19 David said, "The Lord was my support.  He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me."

The Lord rescues and helps us also in times of difficulty.  The writer of this devotional has lived long enough to see that the Lord has always been faithful to her in her life.  Sometimes the difficult things that occur in this life seem hard to accept and understand, but we can trust with absolute confidence that the Lord is faithful. Often only through difficult times can the Lord shape us into the kind of of people He wants us to become.  This is because during trials in our lives we tend to lean more heavily on the Lord.

After the trials the Lord often draws us "out of deep waters," and He brings us "into a spacious place."  The writer of this devotional has also seen that in her life.  The Lord will always bless us through and in the trials, and then He will bring us out of trials "into a spacious place" unconfined by dangers and threats  and protected by His love!  This will always happen either in this life or ultimately in eternity!  The Lord is faithful to His own!  The Lord delights in His children who love, trust, and obey Him!  Psalm 18:46 says, "The Lord lives!  Praise be to my Rock!  Exalted be God my Savior!"

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Matthew 14:22-33

"Take courage!  It is I.  Don't be afraid."  Matthew 14:27b

Perhaps you remember as a child being afraid of the thunder and lightening.  Maybe you have experienced fear in the midst of a tornado or a hurricane.  There are also other kinds of storms in life. When the circumstances in our lives are of such a nature that everything in our lives seems to be crashing down around us,we are also experiencing a storm.  Difficult trials or storms in our lives are never something we enjoy.  God, however, often allows these trials or storms in our lives for our good.

Matthew 14:22a says, "Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side."  Notice this verse says Jesus MADE the disciples do this.  Because of their obedience to the Lord the disciples were soon going to find themselves in the midst of a storm. Storms and trials in our lives do not necessarily come, because we have been disobedient to the Lord.  Often the Lord allows storms in our lives to teach us to rely on Him instead of our own resources.  Often the Lord allows storms or trials in our lives to perfect and sanctify us.  The Lord allows these things to help us grow spiritually.

After Jesus sent His disciples out into the boat to cross to the other side, a fierce storm arose on the lake.  Though they were in the midst of this storm and thought they were alone and without Jesus' help, Jesus was still with them.  The Gospel of Mark's account of this same event says the following in chapter six verse forty-eight, "He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them."  Jesus was with the disciples even when they felt they were all alone.  Jesus saw the difficulties they were experiencing.  Jesus is also with us in the storms and trials of life.  The Lord is with us even during the times when we feel all alone!

During the middle of the night Jesus came walking out on the lake to the disciples!  When the disciples saw Jesus they were terrified, because they thought Jesus was a ghost.  Jesus, however, said to the disciples in Matthew 14:27, "Take courage!  It is I.  Don't be afraid."  Jesus in effect said, "Cheer up!  I am more than a match for any storm, so do not be afraid!"

Then Peter, one of Jesus' disciples said to Jesus in Matthew 14:28, "Lord, if it's You,---tell me to come to You on the water."  Jesus did tell Peter to come to Him on the water.  When Peter stepped out in faith and kept His eyes focused on Jesus, Peter actually walked on water! However, then Peter took his eyes off the Lord Jesus and looked at the waves and storm around him. As a result Peter became afraid and began to sink. According to Matthew 14:31 Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Peter and said, "You of little faith---why do you doubt?"  As Peter and Jesus climbed into the boat the wind died down.  The disciples worshiped the Lord Jesus and said to Him in Matthew 14:33b, "Truly You are the Son of God."

As we experience storms and trials in our lives, we also have a choice to make.  We can either be overcome with doubt and fears, or we can keep our eyes focused on the Lord and trust Him to be with us in the storms.  We can and must trust the Lord to be with us through the storms of life. We can and must trust the Lord to calm the storms in our lives.  Then we will be able to walk triumphantly over the angry waves of the storms and trials in our lives!  Our Lord is faithful, and He will be with us through every storm of life.  We simply have to keep our eyes focused on the Lord.  He alone can calm every storm and fear in our lives.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Matthew 13

Jesus often used examples from real life to teach an eternal and spiritual truth.  These illustrations or real life examples are called parables.  A parable has been defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  Matthew chapter thirteen has a number of these parables of Jesus.  For the purpose of this devotional we are going to look at three of these parables.

The parable of the sower talks about a farmer who went out to sow seed in his field.  As the farmer was sowing the seed some of the seed fell along the paths.  This seed was all eaten up by the birds. Some of the farmer's seed fell on rocky places where the soil was shallow.  This seed sprang up rather quickly, but when the hot sun came out these plants were scorched and they withered.  This was because they had no deep roots.  Some of the seed that the farmer sowed fell amidst thorns.  The thorns grew up and choked out the plants that resulted from that seed. There was some seed, however, which landed on good soil.  This seed produced a bountiful harvest.

The seed that fell along the path is a picture of God's Word being heard by people with hard hearts. These people may hear God's Word and yet not understand it, because their hearts are hardened to the things of God.  They may even be sitting in the pews of church each Sunday, but they have hard hearts.  We need to examine our faith to make sure we do not have hard hearts. The seed that was sown on rocky ground is a picture of people who seem to joyfully accept God's Holy Word, but when persecution or trial comes they fall away.  These people are those who are not rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Christ we as believers can and will persevere even in times of trail, because the Lord has promised to be our strength and protection.  We can do this, because we are rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The seed that fell on thorny ground is a picture of people who hear God's Holy Word, but these people allow the worries of this life and the pursuit of material gain to choke out God's Word.  God has to be number one in our lives.  He has to be more important to us than anyone or anything else in our lives.  If we allow anything or anyone to be more important to us in this life than God, then God's Word will be choked out of our lives.  The seed that fell on the good soil is a picture of those people who hear and accept God's Word.  These are people who have taken advantage of every opportunity to receive God's Word into their hearts.  These people have a passion for living for the Lord.

There is a great blessing in being a child of God and in having a passion for the things of God. Verses forty-four through forty-six of Matthew chapter thirteen shares two of Jesus' short parables concerning the treasures we have in Christ.  The first parable is a story about a man who found hidden treasure in a field.  This man carefully hid the treasure again and then went out and sold everything he owned, so he could buy that field.  The second short parable is about a merchant who was looking for pearls of great value.  When he found such a pearl he also went out and sold everything he owned and bought that pearl.

These two short parables of Jesus teach the same truth.  Christ alone is worthy of our whole life. The Lord Jesus has to become our passion and life.  He must become our precious treasure and pearl of great price.  The Lord must become so precious to us that we would be willing to give up all else in our lives if necessary to gain Him.  Our love for the Lord must grow deep and never die. He must be our life and our greatest joy.  We need to seek Him with all our hearts and run to Him. There is no joy on this earth that can compare to the joy of knowing the Lord. It must be our passion that the Holy Spirit will burn away our selfish desires until our one delight is in the Lord and in doing His will.  Our prayer and passion must be that the Lord will conquer our hearts to an ever greater degree, and that we will be found to be a pleasing gift to the Lord!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Joshua 3

God's Old Testament people, the Israelites, had been living in the wilderness for forty years.  Now they were about to enter the land that God had promised them many years ago.  Before they entered the new land, however, they needed to cross the Jordan River.  The Jordan River was at flood stage at this time.  Also the priests, the Levites, and the huge assembly of God's people had to cross the Jordan River.  It would take a miracle for God's people to safely cross the Jordan River, but our Lord God specializes in the impossible.  

The officers of  God's people told them in Joshua 3:3b-4a, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before."  The ark of the covenant was a symbol of the Lord's presence among them. Whenever God's people would break camp the people were to keep their eyes on the ark and follow it.  Only if God's people did this would they "know which way to go," for this was new and foreign territory to them.

So we also must keep our eyes focused on the Lord, and we must follow His leading for our lives. Each day is a new day given to us by the hand of the Lord.  When we awaken in the morning we do not know what new experiences or circumstances we may face that day.  We also "have never been this way before."  Every day and moment of our lives is known and planned by the Lord, however. He knows and understands the joys and heartaches we may face today and in all the tomorrows which lie ahead. We must trust that the Lord will safely lead us each and every day, as we keep our eyes focused on Him and follow Him.  Joshua told the people in Joshua 3:5, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."  The Lord will do "amazing things" in our lives also, if we trust and follow Him.

Joshua reassured the people that day that the living God was among them by saying in Joshua 3:13, "as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord-the Lord of all the earth-set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand in a heap."  Notice the waters did not divide while God's people were still in camp or even as they were marching towards the Jordan River. Joshua 3:15b-16a says, "Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.  It piled up in a heap." When the priests stepped out into the water in faith, God's people were able to safely cross the Jordan River!

Sometimes we also face seemingly hopeless situations.  At times we may see no way out of our distressing circumstances.  At times like these we too must commit our needs and desperate situations to the Lord.  We must commit our needs to the Lord, and we must trust that He will see us through these difficult times.  We also must step out in faith.  We must trust that the Lord will see us through the seemingly impossible "Jordan Rivers" of our lives.  The Lord has our lives in His control, and we can trust and follow His leading!

Until all the people of God had crossed the Jordan River it says in Joshua 3:17a, "the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan." The ark of the covenant was a symbol of God's presence in these Old Testament times.  So we too can count on the Lord being with us in the middle of seemingly impossible situations in our lives.  The Lord is leading us through seemingly impossible situations to His victories in our lives! May we always trust Him.