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Archive for the ‘Exhortation’ Category

Psalm 13 begins with the Psalmist sounding like he is accusing God.  “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?  How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”  (Ps. 13:1-2)

In these verses, the Psalmist evidences an uncertainty about God.  Uncertainty can cause one to doubt God’s motives or doubt God’s timing.   Sometimes when we become fearful and afraid, we accuse God.  We mistakenly consider Him to be reacting to us like the humans around us who may forget us or hide their faces from us or allow our enemies to over take us and do nothing to help.  But God is not like us or those around us.  He will not forget us.  Isaiah 49:15 tells us,  “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”  Deut 31:6 tells us, “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.”

From accusation in verses 1-2, the Psalmist moves into calling out to God and reasoning with God in verses 3-4.  In these verses, he says, “consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.”

Finally, the Psalmist makes a choice in verse 5.   He states, ‘but I have trusted in Your mercy.”  He decides to trust in God’s mercy.  He decides to believe  and act upon what He knows about God.  This is internal to the Psalmist.  A choice to believe God and trust God must come from within.  I must, like priests carrying the ark across the Jordan, step into the water first rather than waiting for them to recede.  Trusting God is a choice I must make daily,  sometimes moment by moment.

From that choice, there is an immediate reward, the Psalmist says, “my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.”  When I choose to trust God, I am impacted in my walk with God, in my fellowship with God.  He immediately reinforces the positive step I have taken.

Verse 6 gives us the result for ministry, ” I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.”  When I trust God, my heart rejoices in His salvation, and from that comes an outpouring from me to those around me.  I will sing to the LORD!  I will declare to the world about my God, about His great bounty, His mercy, and His faithfulness!
To review, here is the progression:
  • Accusation against God
  • Calling out/reasoning with God
  • Trust in God (choose)
  • Receive from God
  • Give out in ministry

We all have times of accusing or doubting God, even if it is only in our thoughts.  The important thing is to move forward in the progression.  Cry out to God, choose to trust God, receive from God and then give out what you have received to those around you.

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Perhaps you have had a day (or two) when you asked the LORD, “How shall I go on?”  Perhaps it is illness, drug addiction, abusive relationship, fear, enemies who would seek to destroy you or just a sense of overwhelming fatigue . . . in looking at your circumstances, did you turn to God and ask, “How shall I go on?”  And what did He say?

  • Wait? Sometimes the LORD says to wait.  Don’t go forward or back.  Don’t go to the left or the right.  Don’t seek to change your circumstances, just wait.  Sometimes, the waiting is the hardest part.  But we wait because He is God.  Like a parent who tells a child to stay on the curb because a car is coming, God tells us to wait because He sees all things and knows all things.  He tells us to wait because that is best for us.  He promises “strengthen your heart” while you wait.  (Ps. 27:14)  Psalm 37:9 promises that ” those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth.”    Isaiah says, “who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”   (Isa. 40:31)  As you wait, the LORD may give you new strength.  He may allow you to soar above your troubles, keeping them from disturbing your peace.   He may take away your fatigue, allowing you to go a little further.
  • Cry out? Sometimes the LORD would have us to cry out to Him, recognizing that He is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides everything.  There is certainly lots of scriptural support for crying out to God in times of trouble.  Psalm 18:6 tells us, “In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.”  In Psalm 34:17, we read, “the righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.”  Psalm 56:9 tells us when ” I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me.  In Psalm 57:2, it says, “I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me.”   He is a God who hears and answers, so maybe He would have you to cry out, expecting His response.

Whether you wait or you cry, or you cry out while you are waiting, waiting and crying out are done in expectation, in faith.  I wait for God to deliver me, to strengthen me.  I wait because there is none other like Him.   “LORD, what do I wait for?  My hope is in You.”  (Ps. 39:7)   He alone has the words of eternal life.  When I cry out, I cry out to God in faith because God alone knows my circumstances.  God alone has power over all things.  I cry out to God because He alone is God.

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When the hymn-writer wrote those words, ‘When peace like a river attendeth my soul, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul,’  he described the reality of the alternating of peace and turbulence in the life of a believer.   More peace and less turbulence is my goal.  But how does one “get” peace?

The Bible gives some important answers to this question.  First of all, Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”  So on the one hand, peace has been given to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Although we have been given peace, we need to live in the place of peace.  To that end, the Bible also teaches us to pursue peace.  The Psalmist in Psalm 34:14 says to “depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”  Romans 12:18 tells us, “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”   Romans 14:19 tells us to “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”   Hebrews 12:14 says, “pursue peace with all people.” (emphasis added)   These verses speak of a lifestyle that we, as believers, need to seek after.  We need to put some effort into peace-making and peace-keeping.  We need to not be the ones engaging in peace-taking.

The better news is found in the book of the prophet Isaiah where he says of God in Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”  The reality is that when our minds are focused on God, God keeps us in the peace He promised us.

A few other thoughts on peace are found in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  By committing our lives to God in prayer, we make way for God’s peace to guard our hearts and minds.

May the peace of God descend upon your heart today.  May you pursue peace as much as you are able.

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In Deuteronomy 31, Moses teaches the strategy for overcoming the enemies in your life.  I believe this strategy can be applied to enemies of any kind including enemies from within.  Essentially, if you read Deuteronomy 31, you will immediately notice one important element of the strategy – God.

Deut. 31:3-6 “The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said.  And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them.  The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you.  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.”

Almost all of the doing is being done by God:
  • He goes first
  • He does the work of rooting out the enemy
  • We just walk into the land He has already made ready for us to possess

This is a strategy I can live with.  All the heavy lifting is done by God.  He destroys all the enemies and gives me what they had.  He promises to always be with me.  I need only do what He has commanded – walk in the paths He has laid for me.

Remember, “The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!  Then Israel shall dwell in safety, The fountain of Jacob alone, In a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew.  Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places.”  Deut. 33:27-29

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You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. 2 Corinthian 3:2-3

1.  As believers, our lives are letters (epistles).

  • Maybe you have heard it said, “You may be the only Bible those close to you ever read.”   If that is so, let your life reflect the gospel as clearly as possible – no mixed messages.
  • God’s plan to share the gospel is through people ministering to people. He desires that our lives be so changed by our relationship with Him that others will wonder, question, and follow.
  • Is the message in the letter written on your heart communicating the message of God’s love to the lost and condemned world around you?

2.  God is the author.

  • Pages don’t write themselves; they have an author
  • God will write your story if you allow Him.  God wrote Esther from captive to queen.  God wrote David from Shepherd boy to mighty warrior to King.  God wrote Joseph from slave to Pharaoh’s second.  God wrote Saul from assassin to Apostle.  God wrote Peter from fisherman to great church leader.  God can write my story to be a great epoch tale of victory over evil if I let Him.
  • God desires to leave His imprint on our lives, marking us as His forever.

3.  He authored us by His Spirit.

  • Give up striving.  This is not about what you do:  how many times you go to church, how much money you give.  This is about surrendering control of your life to Jesus, so He can fully communicate His message to the dying world through you.  To do that, you must first receive the message yourself and let it transform you.   Only then can it hope to transform others.
  • Start soaking up the Word.  Sit with Jesus daily.  Read, study and meditate on the scriptures.  Let them permeate your life.  Let them write your story.
  • Remove barriers to the working of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Confess your sins, allow God to cleanse you by His Spirit.  Pray always and without ceasing, so that you might always be in communion with the author.

May the richness of living for Christ become abundantly clear to you as you draw closer and closer to Jesus.  It was Jesus who promised that sitting at His feet was the “good part” which would not be taken away.  May you settle there and find rest for your soul while you wait.

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One of the best books that I have read in the past several years is Let Go by Fenelon.  You may ask, “What kind of name is Fenelon?”  Fenelon is actually Francois de Salignac de La Mothe Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambrai, France.  He lived during the 17th century.  He was a spiritual advisor to some believers in the Court of Louis the 14th.  Let Go is a collection of Fenelon’s letters.  He is very honest and straightforward to those to whom he is writing.  He speaks with a firmness that is actually quite refreshing and needful in this age of those who fail to speak the truth that will set us free because they fear they will offend.  I read Let Go like a devotional, taking only a letter or so a day and mediating on it.  I have read and re-read it all year and given copies to many of the woman that I know who are hungry for a closer walk with God.  The isbn. # is 0-88368-010-6.

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I re-read a journal entry that I had written about an extended trial I was going through.  In the entry, I was crying out to God asking how I would ever be able to go forward.  I was tired and out of strength.  The path was totally hidden from view by the fog of uncertainty.  The LORD showed me Psalm 20:1-6.  The message was that He would minister to me out of my existing relationship with Him.

I think the message for all of us is to always (whether in trials or in times of peace) be in close relationship with God.  Is God your BFF (Best Friend Forever)?  He should be.

Psalm 20:1 says, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you.”  To answer you, the LORD must hear you.  For God’s name to defend you, you must be associated with or be called by God’s name.  To be called by God’s name is to be in close relationship with God, even as close as a child.

Psalm 20:2 provides, “May He send you help from the sanctuary, And strengthen you out of Zion.”  To send you help, He must know what you need and where to deliver it.  The Sanctuary was the Old Testament place where God was (c.f. the New Testament where God’s spirit dwells in the believer).  This statement can best be understood as a promise that God will send you help from where He dwells.  He will send believers to be your help, your brothers and sisters in Christ will be ministers of God to you.  Also God will minister directly to you by His spirit dwelling within you as a believer.

Psalm 20:3 goes on to say, “May He remember all your offerings, And accept your burnt sacrifice.”  The offerings were part of the worship of God in the Old Testament.  It would be like saying today, “May God remember all the sincere worship in which you engaged.”  The burnt sacrifice was the sacrifice to deal with sin.  It is described in the Old Testament as “a sweet aroma to the LORD.”  God is pleased by the sweet smell of our offerings.  As we lay our lives down for others in obedience, as we practice gentleness, self-control, patience, long-suffering and love, we sacrifice up our flesh and what it wants.  That sacrifice is pleasing to God.  He promises to remember that.

In the next 3 verses, Psalm 20:4-6, we read the following:  “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, And fulfill all your purpose.  We will rejoice in your salvation, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.  Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand.”   From the relationship with God, comes fulfillment.  This is not just the idea of getting what you want, but rather of having the one who hears, answers, claims, defends, helps, strengthens and remembers you bring to you the best things – things that will satisfy your deepest longing and fulfill your very reason for being.  That is what God does daily for those who are called according to His purposes and called according to His name.

May the God of all creation be your BFF!

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