We Are Surrounded

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...

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Let Freedom Ring

Let Freedom Ring

As we approach the 4th of July this week, known as Independence Day; it is important to recognize that this day stands for more than vacation and fireworks. However, fireworks have been part of the July 4th celebration since 1777. July 4th in the U.S., is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago in 1776 on July 4 by the Continental Congress. The second paragraph speaks of our freedom. It says, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What is freedom? Freedom is the condition of a citizen. It is exemption from punishment. The Bible talks a lot about freedom. We find Paul speaking about a greater freedom than even national freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 What he is speaking of is the freedom from the burden of the rigorous demands of the Old Testament Law as the means for gaining God’s favor. This did not represent the freedom given through Christ. In fact, this demand impeded the development of the Christian life. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free exempting us from the penalty of our sinful state. This is explained further in Romans 7:4-6. “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” What does this mean? The Law was condemning and could not free a person on a daily basis from their sin. They had to wait, sometimes, a year for their sin to be atoned and forgiven through a priest. But through Christ, we have access to God on a daily, moment by moment, basis. Therefore, He gives a freedom like no other. He does not condemn us in our sinful state, but rather delivers us from it. In fact, Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery; “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” She said “no one...

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Perspective

Perspective

Putting Things in Perspective “…should I not have compassion on Nineveh?” Jonah 4:11 This is an excerpt from “Facing Fears, Quenching Flames”, a devotional book on overcoming fear and anger. Available on amazon.com and christianbooks.com.     Scripture Reading: Jonah 4:1-11 “Do you have good reason to be angry?” Jonah was so angry that he wanted to die. But what God recognized in him was an outburst of anger for a surface issue that covered a deeper problem. The surface issue was a plant that had died. The real issue was Jonah’s attitude toward God over circumstances that he could not control. He was still angry that God showed mercy instead of judgment for Nineveh, but the anger he expressed was related to taking away his comfort. His attitude was so resentful and despondent that he no longer wanted to live. But what purpose does it serve to be angry at God? I think we learn from Jonah’s example that it serves no purpose other than to make us miserable. There was a pattern of behavior in the life of Jonah that God was trying to get him to acknowledge and change. His attitude led him to a place of despair and self-pity. Jonah was trying to control God and His actions, so the results would be the way he thought they should be, rather than according to God’s character of mercy and compassion. God’s point to Jonah was the value of life. He pointed out that Jonah was angry over the death of one insignificant plant, but God was concerned with the lives of 120,000 people. This story is a picture of how anger distorts our thinking until we have unrealistic expectations of others and of God. When those expectations are not met, emotions plunge to despair. As difficult as it may be for us, God wants us to put things in perspective. Whatever it is that has caused our anger, we may never know the why or the circumstance which caused it. And so, in order to survive this frame of mind, there are several things to do that help in getting our emotions to a place of healing.   Acknowledge that God is wiser and more powerful that you are – Isaiah 40:21-27   Identify the root of the anger before you become bitter – Hebrews 12:15   Give your emotions and circumstances to God – Psalm 55:22, Psalm 69:19   Be forgiving and merciful – Ephesians 4:32   Re-join the land of the living – Matthew 22:32, 37   Hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:5 This book of the Bible ends in a very strange way. It just...

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The Blank Page

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...

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5 Me’s

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...

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You Decide

You Decide

Choices. We make them every day. Some are thought about for a long time, while others are made on the spur of the moment. There is power in a choice. The decisions we make today will impact our future and the future of others. They reflect our personal needs, desires and our very character. Our will is determined by what we think, feel and know. It is a reflection of the heart and mind. There is power in our “will”. According to the Merriam/Webster Dictionary, “will” is described as desire, wish, choice, consent, appetite, passion, determination. Something desired: a choice or determination of having authority or power. Mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring or intending. Act according to principles. Power of control over one’s own actions or emotions. Even though God is Sovereign, meaning He rules and controls all things, from the very beginning He has given mankind the freedom to make choices. They are a matter of our own will; what we desire, wish, determine and choose for ourselves. But He has also given clear direction for how to make right choices. The power of the will determines how you will live your life. God places His desires for each of us in our hearts and when the time is right, He gives us the wisdom to make right choices. If there is a desire in your heart that will not go away, ask Him to show you clarity of knowing if this is of Him or simply something that you want to do. Seek Him for the answers through prayer and scripture and He will give direction. Remember, the choices you make today will impact your future. Questions to ask when making decisions: Lord, is this Your will or simply my own desire? Jeremiah 29:11 How do I move forward from this – what are the next steps? Proverbs 3:5-6 Will my choice impact others for good? Jeremiah 6:16 Show me your way that I may walk in it. Isaiah 30:21 How will I know You are speaking to me Lord? John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let now your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” When God gives the answer and direction, you will experience a sense of confidence and peace internally. You will feel confident in moving forward with your choice even when it seems impossible – even when you do not feel equipped to handle the outcome. God will never lead you to a choice that is not in keeping with His perfect plan for you. He will not lead you to go against...

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