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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Yea, Though I walk...

In the post entitled The Rising of the Waters, we looked at how we can keep from being overwhelmed.  I woke up this morning thinking about the post and how to expand on it.  We know how we get overwhelmed.  We saw yesterday that we can avoid it, but what do we do when are overwhelmed by our circumstances anyway?  So, today, I woke up thinking about Psalm 23.

As Christians,we hear these verses recited so much.  We might even recite them ourselves, but do we really listen to what the scriptures are saying?  When do we recite these scriptures?  It almost seems elementary or bible school-ish to recite these doesn't it?  Let's look at them verse by verse:

Psalms 23:1  The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
The Lord leads me; therefore, I do not lack for anything.

Psalms 23:2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
The Lord gives me rest in His life.  He leads me in peace. 

Psalms 23:3  He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
He give my tired and weary soul to Him new rest.  He reconciles my soul to Him.  He guides me into righteousness for His glory and honor.

Psalms 23:4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
I may walk through the lowest points of my life, even through darkenss and death, but I will have no fear because He is with me.  His support through the difficult times brings me comfort.  I am not alone.

Psalms 23:5  You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
He has brought me before those that accuse me, that seek my destruction and fed me from His goodness in front of them.  He has blessed measure. He covers me with His Holy Spirit. 

Psalms 23:6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
His goodness and mercy will always be with me.  I will make my home in the House of the Lord forever.  

So when we are feeling overwhelmed, sometimes we need to get back to basics.  We need to remember that He is always with us.  He knows everything that is going on in our lives.  AND He is not surprised or shocked at what is happening.  Isn't it funny how we can think God has no idea sometimes what is going on?  We cry out to the heavens during our times of rising waters and say "God! Don't you care?" And then I think about the disciples in the boat during the storm.  (Matthew 8:23-27).

In verse 25, the disciples said the same thing: "Lord save us!"  In verse 26 Jesus gave a little rebuke that can often be overlooked if we are not careful. He said, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?"  Doesn't that speak volumes?  It does to me.  After all, the disciples were in the presence of the King of Kings.  He was in the boat with them.  Yet, they were still afraid.  They still did not have the faith that they would survive the storm. Remember Deuteronomy 31:6?

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you." 

The Lord our God is THE ONE who goes with us every day!  He leads us.  He guides us. He prepares the path we walk.  He will not leave us.  He will not forsake us.  He is always there. Do not fear.  Do not be afraid.  It doesn't matter what is pressing us.  It doesn't matter how hard the winds blow, how high the waters rise, how high the waves are...when we are tossed around and feel as though we are overwhelmed, we still have The One who goes with us.  

Do you want Him to say O you of little faith?  I don't.  I want to rest in the comfort of the knowledge that My God is always with me.  My God makes me to lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. He gives me rest.  He gives me peace.  He lends me support (His rod and staff) and gives me comfort.  It doesn't matter what else is going on around me.  His word remains true.  His word gives Life.  His word does what it sets out to accomplish.  

So, today, instead of getting overwhelmed, look to the One who goes with you.  Close your eyes, get in your quiet place and rest in His comfort.  We cannot make it through this world on our own.  Jesus said apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).  He also said that with man it is not possible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).  

This year has been about learning how to use the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, in our daily lives.  So, today, put Psalm 23 into your heart. Tack it to your cubical wall, tape it to the top of your desk.  Put it on your mirror in the bathroom.  Find ways to remind yourself today and every day that you are in the presence of a King who leads you along the path of righteousness...not of destruction.  He does not seek your demise.  Find comfort in the midst of your storm in Him.  Find your peace in His presence as He leads you before your enemies and those that would mock and ridicule you.

Father, today remind us that the storm will not overwhelm us.  Remind us that you are walking with us and prepare the way for us to go.  Let us find our rest in your Living water, and find the peace our souls need in Your presence.  Thank you for your peace and comfort every day.  In the name of Jesus, amen.  

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Monday, August 14, 2017

The Rising of the Waters

We have discussed so many things this year...from God's love, grace, and mercy to the strength He gives us when we are weak.  We have discussed worry and anxiety and how we learn to deal with those things.  But one thing we haven't discussed is stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed.  

Over the weekend, parts of Texas saw more than 9 inches of rain in just a few hours.  Streets flooded and became impassable.  Yards became so saturated that water began to stand.  The wind blew hard enough to down tree limbs in many places.  Lightening struck homes.  The storms swirled and unleashed their devastation on the land.  I began thinking about how our lives can look like this at times.  How many times do we look around us and think we are drowing in all that is going on?  Sometimes our focus is so centered on the storm and the damage and destruction that it brings that we forget about the sanctuary we have.  (Isaiah 25:4)

Becoming overwhelmed is a sensation we all know and I personally am very familiar with.  Sometimes that feeling is one we make ourselves.  We commit to many different things that come due all at once and the pressure begins to mount and we feel as though the water is rising and we are unable to complete anything we have committed to.  As we lose sight of our shelter from the storm, we move away from the protective covering of our God.  Once we have done that it feels as though the enemy strikes out at every turn.  We often contribute our own creation of our problems to the enemy, when we really we have created the situation, Satan just uses it to tear us down and keep us in turmoil.  

We can feel like the roads in our lives have been flooded.  We can't pass through for fear of being swept away.  We might even feel as though we ourselves are drowning in the situation and are being overwhelmed with rising waters.  It is a terrifying and hopeless place to be if we don't keep our eyes trained on the One who is our salvation.  We can forget in these times that our God is the Redeemer of Israel.  Our God is the One who led an entire people, millions, out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.  Our God is the One that gave Joshua victory at each battle; He delivered Daniel from the Lion's Den.  Our God delivered the Philistine Giant's Champion warrior into the hands of a shepherd boy.  Would our God do any less for us?  He is the same God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  He is the same God that said:

Isaiah 43:1-2  But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel; "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. (2) When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, no shall the flame scorch you." 

We are His.  Verse 1 above says He has called us by our name and we are His.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  He is not going to change His mind about whether we belong to Him or not.  More importantly, He promises that whatever weapons are formed against us will not succeed.  

Isaiah 54:17  No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgement you shall condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me," says the Lord. 

There is no weapon that the enemy can use against us that can prosper.  Those who speak against shall be condemned.  This is our heritage...our birthright.  So, why do we let the enemy so easily overwhelm us?  Why do we put ourselves in the position of rising waters?  He is our shelter and our refuge.  He is the Redeemer of Israel.  He does not change.  We are His and He calls us by name. 

When you begin to feel overwhelmed, just remember Who your Redeemer is.  Just remember what He has done for His people in the past.  He is the same God.  He will not leave you, forsake you or abandon you.  He will not let the waters and rivers overtake you.  Let your focus remain on Him and what He has done.  Let your focus remain on the One who deliver you from the storm.  But don't create your own flood.  Don't over commit to so many things you can't deliver what you have committed to.  Be wise in your commitments and good steward of your time.  Don't set yourself up failure and give the enemy the tools he needs to attack.  Be confident in the One who holds you in His hand.

Father, as we go through this week, send your Holy Spirit to help us keep our eyes focused and trained on you, not the storm around us.  Thank You for Your never changing love and faithfulness.  Let us walk through this week bringing You all the glory and honor.  In the name of Jesus, amen.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Secret works...walk humbly

In Secret Works and Sounding Trumpets, we looked at doing our works in secret and shouting from the rooftops the good and chartable works we do.  We had several comments on the discussion questions, so I thought we would explore a couple of them further. 

If anyone had a reason to proclaim His own great works and wonders it would have been Jesus.  He made Lazarus rise from the dead.  He cleansed lepers.  He made blind men see.  He healed the woman with the issue of blood.  He made the mute to speak.  Why wouldn't He want to "sound a trumpet" and say, "Look what I have done!  I am the Almighty God!"  

But that isn't what He did.  In Matthew 8:1-3 a leper came to Jesus and began worshiping Him.  The leper said if Jesus was willing, He could make the leper clean.  Jesus said that He was willing and He cleansed Him of the Leprosy the word says Immediately.  Then in verse 4, Jesus says to the leper:

Matthew 8:4  And Jesus said to him, See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest. And offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.

Jesus told the leper to tell no one, but take himself to the priest and give the offering as Moses commanded.  Jesus didn't tell the leper, "Make sure everyone knows what I did because I am so important."  He didn't want the attention, He just wanted to heal the leper and cleanse him of his disease.  

In Mark 7, Jesus not only told them not to tell after he healed a deaf mute (Mark 7:31-37), He commanded them "that they should tell no one." In fact, look what happened in verse 36:

Mark 7:36  And He commanded them, that they should tell no one. But the more He commanded them, so much the more they proclaimed it.

The more Jesus said "don't tell", the more the people proclaimed what He had done.  The same is true for us, isn't it?  When we tell one person the good deed we did, these things generally spread like wildfire...and even more so today than in Jesus' time because of social media. Just like Jesus, we can't control the actions of others.  What we can control is our need to self-emulate.  We can control our need to build our pride and puff ourselves up.  All we have to do is be quiet.  Allow the Lord to cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit within us.  Let His love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness...and even His grace and mercy flow through us to those around us.  

Micah 6:8  He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does Jehovah require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?

How can we walk humbly with God if we are looking for every possible moment we can to take the glory from God and soak it up ourselves?

James 4:5-7  Do you think that the Scripture says in vain, The spirit that dwells in us yearns to envy?  (6)  But He gives more grace. Therefore He says, God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.  (7)  Therefore submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Can we submit to God without being humble?  Can we submit to God and let Him rule and reign in our lives as the King of Kings He is?  How do we submit to God while bringing the attention to ourselves of the good deeds we have done?  How do we resist the devil when we are self-serving and out of focus with what is important?  

In this age of selfies, the nearly instant connection internet and digital devices give us, it can be so simple to keep the focus on ourselves.  We are guilty of it from time to time.  What we do with the platforms we have before us helps to determine who gets the glory, honor, and praise.  

Lord, we thank you for the technology available to us to reach out to others. We ask that you would search our hearts for anything that would prevent You receiving the full glory and honor in our lives.  We know without You we are nothing...we can do nothing apart from You.  Thank You for love and mercy. Thank You for Your grace.  We ask that You use us today in a manner that brings You glory.  Show us where we lose focus so that we can refocus on what is important.  In the name of Jesus, Amen.