We Are Surrounded

“But you LORD are a shield surrounding me, my glory,

and the One who lifts up my head.”

Psalm 3:3

 

As I read Psalm 3 this morning, the word that caught my attention was ‘shield’. What is a shield anyway? In Ephesians 6 we read about the armor of God which includes the shield of faith. That shield is one that we lift up for protection from the enemy rather than dragging it behind.

But Psalm 3:3 tells us that we are surrounded by a shield. That shield is God Himself. It is not one we have to lift up. It just simply is a fact. The shield is for protection and defense. This verse tells us that God is our protection and defense.

We need to know that today. We need to trust this today. God has entrusted us with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and will protect that within us. It is permanent and eternal.

But because of the decay of society by sin, there are times when we question God. We question our faith and become ensnared by the horrible things going on around us. When that happens, we don’t look like Christians. Our witness is damaged by our actions and words.

When we feel surrounded by evil and fear for our safety, we need to remember that God is everywhere present. He is our shield of protection, not just in front of us, but all around us. We are surrounded by Him! If I back away from a difficulty, He is there. If I move forward to face the circumstance, He is there. If I turn to the left or right, I will hear His voice saying, ‘this is the way – walk in it. He is there guiding, protecting, defending and speaking.

With the world in turmoil, with death and destruction taking place to terrorize us, it is hard to see God’s shield of protection sometimes. But we need to trust that it is there. We need to protect the cause of Christ by speaking and acting like Christians in spite of what social media tells us. Respond in love asking ‘what would Jesus say’. We must check the facts before speaking so we are speaking truth that benefits rather than assumed truth that harms. As believers in Christ, we simply cannot continue beating each other up with our words. Rather, we should trust the one who surrounds us to guard and protect our hearts in Christ Jesus.

When King David penned this Psalm, it was at a time when his own son was trying to kill him and take over the throne. But when others said of him, ‘there is no help for him from God’, David claimed the Lord as the shield of protection surrounding him. He claimed God as his shield and the One who lifted his head when despair and discouragement threatened to overpower him.

I believe this is a lesson we can all learn from. God will not allow us to linger in despair, but instead will lift our heads to press on knowing He is all around us to guide and protect. As we trust Him, He gives peace. It may not be what we perceive peace to be, but will be peace as God intends.

From Designing to Defending Women

Designing  Defending Women

Recently I saw a video clip from an old television show called “Designing Women”. In the clip, one of the Sugarbaker sisters, Julia, was defending her younger sister, Suzanne from a fellow beauty contestant. In looking back to this clip, I noticed several interesting things.

First, through the entire tirade, there was not any foul language. She got her point across without resorting to crudity. In addition, her delivery of defense was confident. It was passionate. It was sustaining.

This clip reminded me of my own sister through the years in her defense of who I am. She would not allow anyone to be critical of me in a way that was hurtful and destructive. If I shared my hurts with her, she carried them as if they were her own.

I thought of that this morning as I read Psalm 55:22. “Cast your burden on the LORD. And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” NKJV

This verse is telling us to throw down or, throw away those thoughts, difficult relationships or circumstances that have become so heavy on our heart and mind that we are paralyzed from moving forward in what God has for us. But, the Psalmist completes this phrase by telling where to throw those heavy burdens. We are to throw them on the Lord. Why? Because He will sustain you. That means He will hold you up when you are weak and weary. He will nourish your dry spirit and take upon Himself all you have thrown His way.

Why would the Lord do such a thing? Because He does not want us to be weakened in our faith or to fall into despair. “He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” The promise for you and me as believers is security. No matter what struggles we are dealing with, God will not give permission for our faith to be overthrown, dislodged or carried away. He is there to defend us and to catch us when we begin to waver and fall.

In those moments when you feel like giving up because things are hard, you will read something, see something or hear something that will draw you back to lean on the Lord. Those are His reminders to you that He is with you always. He will not allow you to be moved from your position of relationship with Him. You are secure in His loving arms. He is your defense and will always defend your cause according to His will. He is passionate about you. He is confident in you as His child, and He will sustain you by His power that you may endure whatever hurts and pain come your way.

And then finally, what if we as believers were as quick to jump to the defense of our sisters in Christ who are facing criticism and mockery as the Lord in His defense of us? As we sit in our church pews, we are surrounded by those who have like minds. But when we go into our communities, we are surrounded more and more by those whose words and thoughts are in stark contrast. Mockery and criticism abound in the secular world. We must take up our cause for Christ in a way that defends the rights of our brothers and sisters in the faith. We must do it with passion, confidence and in a way that lifts up one another to fight the good fight of faith.  

The Blank Page

It is a new year! I can’t say I am sorry to see the last one go. 2016 was filled with tension, conflict and transition for our nation, for many of our lives personally.

For myself , it was also filled with tension, illness and transition as my husband and I moved from a metropolitan area where we have lived for many decades, to a remote area by a lake.

This move meant saying goodbye to lifelong friends, our church home of 35 years and everything near and dear to us. It meant saying goodbye to teaching Bible Study that I had done for years.

When we moved in the summer, I had already committed to teach before I knew we were moving. So my sweet husband told me that if I wanted to keep that commitment for the fall, that he would drive me the five hours each week so I could complete my commitment. And that is what we did.

It happened that I was teaching from the book of 2 Timothy. This book of the Bible is the last letter the Apostle Paul wrote and the last word Timothy heard from him. So, it was very emotional for me because it was my goodbye to a class of women I had taught for many years.

For some reason in the fall semester, I used a different Bible than I had normally used. This one was new and I was not as familiar with how the books and chapters flowed on the pages. Then, in the last week of my study, as I read the last few verses of the book of 2 Timothy, I turned the page for more.

The page was blank.

As I looked at that blank page, I was overwhelmed with grief and thought, “this is what my life looks like right now. Blank. I don’t know what is ahead for me.” No sooner had I thought these things then I sensed God in my spirit saying “What looks blank to you, I have already filled. I know exactly what your future holds – trust me.”

Trust means to be confident and secure in something or someone, and as I thought about it, I remembered one of my favorite passages of scripture:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

In that moment, I had immediate peace like a weight had been lifted because I knew I could be confident in my security with Him. I began to pray “Lord, I do trust you with my life and my future and I thank you in advance for it. Because my understanding was flawed by my human nature and grief, all I saw was a blank page, but you knew what was written upon it and I am confident you have gone before me and paved a path for me.”

One month later, as I sat in my remote lakeside home, I received an unexpected invitation to speak and teach through a radio program. I was shocked! But as I prayed about accepting and spoke with a spiritual mentor, I remembered God’s promise. The page that looked blank to me, God had already filled.

And so as I begin this New Year, I am thankful. I am thankful for God who goes before us preparing the way in which we are to go. He has made all things new in this New Year. He has provided a way for me to continue teaching, even from a remote location.

If He will do something new in my life, He can surely do something new in your life. Trust Him with your present and with your future. He will make a way for you. “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 KJV

Father, what a blessing it is to know you, to trust you and feel secure in your loving arms. And as we begin this New Year, I pray for our readers and beyond, that you will teach us to love one another. That you will teach us to trust you with the blank pages of our lives. Thank you for guiding our footsteps to the places you have gone before in order to make a way for us. Amen

5 Me’s


“O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;

In your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.”

Psalm 143:1 NIV

It is the holiday season – that time of year for celebration and giving thanks for our country and God’s provision for those who landed on the shores of this great land all those years ago.

And yet, for many this Thanksgiving and holiday season, celebration is the last thing on their minds. Hearts are broken, health is in question or provision unknown. Where is the hope and help needed in these times of despair and hopelessness?

In reading a prayer of David in the Psalms, you will find five “me’s in his requests of God in chapter 143:

  • Answer me
  • Show me
  • Rescue me
  • Teach me
  • Lead me

David was overwhelmed by his situation. He was desperate for mercy and word of God’s unfailing love. Despair was trying to drag him down into a pit, but he was determined to trust God. He cried out to Him for his needs of rescue and guidance.

  • He needed a quick answer because his spirit was failing, meaning he was at his wit’s end and sinking into despair fast.
  • He needed guidance and direction for which way to go through the difficult circumstances facing him.
  • He needed to be rescued from those who were out to destroy him.
  • He needed lessons for how to know God’s will and how to do it.
  • He needed to be led on a path that was free from obstacles at every turn.

Throughout David’s prayer, he made commitments to the Lord to meditate on all the works of God and the things He had done. This is where you would remember that it is God who created you to be His very own. It is God who loves you with an everlasting love that cannot be taken away from you.

Then David surrendered his situation, made his “me” requests known and trusted God for answers, love and deliverance. There are times in our prayer life when we intercede for others, but there are times in our prayer life when it is all about “me”. When you are heartbroken and in despair it is perfectly OK for your prayer to be all about you. God wants you to be healed from your broken heart, illness, despair or whatever state has tried to drag you down. He will give you strength to endure.

This Psalm of David is short but filled with hope, encouragement and teaching for all, but especially those in seemingly hopeless situations. With Jesus, there is always hope because He is our Hope! (I Timothy 1:1)

Practice the five “me’s” in your prayers as you trust God for hope, answers and direction. He will guide you through whatever difficult situation you may find yourself experiencing. No matter what you hear, experience or who comes against you, He is with you always. He is there for you and hears the cries of your heart.

Beyond the Pain

It has often been said that hurting people hurt people. Perhaps not intentionally, but it happens anyway. That is why it is so important for those in any kind of leadership to be healed from their own personal pain; so we don’t keep hurting others and so we have a testimony of healing for the purpose of giving hope to those who hurt.

As we have worked with hurting people through our ministry, it seems that most negative emotions can be traced back to unresolved past painful experiences. Those experiences may be carried over as far back as childhood. It is that pain I am addressing today, pain which has been buried and hidden for a very long time. I am addressing it, not from the standpoint of a person’s public exposure, but rather to encourage personal exposure between the one wounded and God for the purpose of healing. Because unless we allow God to expose the reason for the negative emotions to us personally, we will just keep on simmering on the inside without understanding why those emotions control our lives. We will continue to ride the merry-go-round of negativity, too afraid to jump off and too wounded to keep going – stuck in the sameness of emotions we can’t seem to shake.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life on that merry-go-round. I would rather ride the playground swing higher and higher to a deeper relationship with my Lord Jesus knowing He is the great physician who can take away the pain. He can and will heal us as we take our pain to Him in prayer, confession and forgiveness toward the one who inflicted the pain.

The best Biblical example of this response is Joseph. Out of jealously, his brothers threw him in a pit and left him to die. Then, at the objection of one brother, they took him from the pit and sold him into slavery. He was a slave in Egypt for at least 20 years before he saw his brothers again. The story takes place from Genesis 37 to 50.

After all those years, when Joseph’s brothers  went to Egypt for famine relief and realized the one who saved them was Joseph, they threw themselves down before him and committed to be his slaves. But here is the best part of the story. “Joseph said to them, ‘don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:18-20 NIV)

What an amazing response! Can you imagine the pain experienced by that 17 year old boy when he was abandoned by his siblings and taken away from his parents for 20 plus years? And yet, through those years, Joseph maintained his relationship with God in a way that enabled him to forgive the very ones who had hurt him. Not only did he forgive them, but from his position of power, he saved them from starvation and promised to provide for them in the future.

Joseph was a leader who did not harbor negative emotions toward those who had caused his pain, but allowed the painful circumstances of his past to be used as a testimony of the goodness of God. What a great example of response to pain inflicted upon us by others.

To Grow Your Faith,  CLICK ON Live Beyond the Pain