GOTCHA!!

Everyday you will see something like this in the news media:

  • Latest News: Chicago Could Be Inundated by Lake Michigan (Weather Channel)
  • NASA Spots “Godzilla” in Space (Weather Channel)
  • Christmas 2021: Experts anticipate most expensive in decades as inflation, supply chain crisis lingers (Fox News)

Gotcha!! Fear-filled headlines draw you in. They capture your thinking and cause your mind to race and your heart to skip-a-beat! These well-placed, frequent headlines lead you to worry, be stressed, to try and control your future on the spot, and keep you attached to whatever news source has your attention. Fear sells; it makes millions at your expense both physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Would you sink your tap roots into the following eternal, life-changing truths? Would you meditate on these words from God Who has everything under His sovereign control? Would you dwell on divine viewpoint rather than human viewpoint?

Isaiah 41:10Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Philippians 4:4-8Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatevr is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Psalm 56:3-4 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

2 Timothy 1:7For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

I have given you seven scripture passages. Take a one passage a day for the next week. Please think the truth; meditate on the truth; memorize the truth; share the truth with someone. God never intended for us to live in the land of fear but the land of faith (Hebrews 11:6).

Has fear “gotcha” or is the truth continually setting you free (John 8:31-32)?

21 Days of Prayer (Day #3)

“Lord, increase our obedience!”

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:1-10

If you read the Bible with a sensitive heart, you will often be overwhelmed with the great difficulty of many of its commands: “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33). “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). The list could go on and on. How can we possibly obey these seemingly impossible commands of Scripture?
The disciples felt overwhelmed by Jesus’ teaching in Luke 17:1-4. He told them to be on guard so that they would not cause any young believers in Him to stumble. And He said that if their brother sinned, they were to rebuke him and if he repented they were to forgive him, no matter how often the cycle was repeated. The disciples instantly realized that these were tough demands. To walk uprightly so as not to cause a new believer to stumble and to forgive someone who has wronged us are not automatic behaviors! Forgiveness especially is tough because our feelings are involved. So the disciples respond by asking the Lord to increase their faith (17:5). It was an honest request stemming from the right motives. They saw that if they wanted to fulfill these demands, they would have to have God’s strength and enabling to do it.
But Jesus’ answer (17:6) indicates that more faith is not really the issue. Faith is not measured by its quantity, but simply by its presence. A mustard seed sized faith will accomplish impossible things. The real need, Jesus says (17:7-10), is for more obedience and humility. We should view ourselves as God’s slaves who owe Him simple and unquestioning obedience. And, when we have done what He requires, we should not get puffed up with pride in our great obedience, but should simply say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” Thus …
When we encounter the difficult commands of Scripture, we should not focus on more faith, but on more obedience and humility. (Steven Cole)

In prayer today, let us focus on “Lord, increase my obedience as I humbly submit to You, Your authority and Your great love for me.”

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the commands of Scripture you are not obeying?
  • In addition, read again through the commands given in the first paragraph of this devotional.
  • Confess your disobedience (1 John 1:9).
  • Cast all your fears, excuses, doubts, laziness, whatever you are choosing as stumbling blocks of disobedience at the feet of Jesus (1 Peter 5:5-7).
  • Submit to the Word and “step into the water” (Joshua 3:8).
  • Bottom line, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15). Make the connection here with abiding love from our 1 John 4:7-21 study.

“Lord, increase our obedience!”

The Utmost Need of the Hour

This evening, our church family will gather via Zoom to seek the Lord’s face on behalf of those affected by COVID-19 and for protection from the same.

What do you do when life is out of control? Who do you call when you have no answers? Where do you find wisdom that is sure, consistent, and always relevant?

Psalm 86 manifests the answers. Sometime today, read this passage. Read a line or two, then stop and meditate on it. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you. Soak it in. Speak the Word audibly in prayer. Pray with all your heart. Pray desperately, honestly, full of faith.

We must turn from letting COVID dominate our thoughts to crying out to the One Who is transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me;
For I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
For I cry to You all day long.
4 Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.
7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
9 All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.
10 For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
13 For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.
15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

16 Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Prayer is the utmost need of the hour individually, as a family and corporately as the body of Christ!

COVID Counsel #3

Keep Your Eyes on the One Who Walked on Water

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.


Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.


So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

These lyrics written in 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr., came to my mind Monday morning as I sang along with the instrumental version playing through Alexa. The bold lines struck a chord in my heart.

Indeed, COVID has been one of “life’s billows” (a great wave or surge of water) that has tossed us in so many directions that we have been or are today tempted to be “discouraged, thinking all is lost.” How interesting our minds and deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) work at moments like these.

The battle is not with COVID but with our thinking.

Is all really lost? Note the phrase, “thinking all is lost.” Is that true? What does God’s Word say about COVID or any circumstance of life?

The songwriter got it right when he said, “So amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all.” That is absolute, eternal truth!

Colossians 1:16–17 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Psalm 97:9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

So, today, do not listen to your thoughts but think His thoughts. Do not listen to yourself; preach the Truth to yourself.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Count Your Blessings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=FZECFq4BvRQ

COVID COUNSEL

Many years ago, I heard a preacher say, “You wouldn’t say it out loud, but you probably think you are the most intelligent creature on the planet. Why? Because you listen to yourself more than anyone else.” By the way, do you ever have a conversation with yourself or with someone else in your mind?

This preacher went on to say something very needful. “Instead of listening to yourself, you need to preach to yourself! You must preach the Truth to yourself!”

David does this in Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

For sure, COVID and 2020 has been filled with inconsistencies, false information, cancellations, deaths, life-altering illnesses, disappointments, fear, anxiety, abrupt changes, and unfulfilled plans and expectations.

Where do you run? Where do you hide? Where do you find rest for your weary soul? Where do you find strength to take the next step, to live the next day? The answer is found in the aforementioned scripture passages. Read and meditate on what David is saying. Put yourself in the passage. Preach the truth to yourself. Do not listen to yourself, your doubts, your confusion, your pain, your sorrow, your fears, etc.

The help of His countenance (42:5) will always be the help of my countenance (42:11; 43:5) as I hope in my God and praise my God while preaching the truth to myself. Counsel your heart.

Fear

Fear . . . the dwelling place of millions around the world today.

Fear . . .

  • Puts you in bondage.
  • Sells.
  • Keeps you on edge.
  • Is a companion of worry, anxiety, discouragement, depression, despair, stress, physcial ailment, suicide, etc.
  • Lies.
  • Produces weakness.
  • Is no friend of love.
  • Is a snare in life.
  • Leads to quick, unwise decisions.
  • Causes panic.

What is the opposite of fear? Some of the antonyms of fear are assurance, boldness, confidence, courage, faith and love.

So, how do we live with these characteristics in this fear-filled age? May I encourage you to get a Bible and read each of the passages listed below? Read them slow. Meditate on them. Soak your soul in the eternal, life-giving, absolute truths of God’s Word! Let it wash over your fears and lead you to a faith-filled life that dwells above it all!

What does God say about fear? Joshua 1:9; Psalms 23:1-6; 27:1; 56:3-4; 91:1-16; Isaiah 41:10; 43:1; Matthew 6:25-34; John 14:27; Romans 8:28-39; Philippians 4:6-8; 2 Timothy 1:7.

Facing Opposition

Image result for congregational pew boxes images

While preparing to record my weekly radio broadcast, the Lord led me to this illustration and used it to speak a needed word of exhortation to my own heart. Hence, I share it below in hopes it will encourage you, especially pastors and their flock.

When he was appointed as the pastor of a church in Cambridge, England, in 1783, Charles Simeon was delighted. The people of the church did not share his joy. Many of the prominent members of the church opposed his convictions on reaching the lost with the gospel. To show their displeasure they locked their pew boxes during the service and left them empty so that those who came to hear Simeon preach had to stand or sit in the aisles. Eventually God began to work, and Simeon’s ministry had a powerful influence on the nation of England and the world through his efforts to encourage missionary work.

Image result for congregational pew boxes images

During the dark days of opposition Simeon wrote: “In this state of things I saw no remedy but faith and patience…. It was painful indeed to see the church, with the exception of the aisles, almost forsaken; but I thought that if God would only give a double blessing to the congregation that did attend, there would on the whole be as much good done as if the congregation were doubled and the blessing limited to only half the amount. This comforted me many, many times, when without such a reflection, I should have sunk under my burden.”

Opposition does not mean that we are doing things wrong—often it is evidence that we are doing things right. If we allow ourselves to be deterred from doing anything unless we have complete approval, it is certain that we will never accomplish anything of value. Rather than being discouraged by opposition, we should take comfort in God’s faithfulness and keep on doing what is right.

( https://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/standing-strong-in-the-face-of-opposition )

Faith & Courage

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Wow!  What a world we live in today!

  • Rebellion towards authority.
  • Fake news.
  • The threat of nuclear war.
  • Disrespect for our flag and our country.
  • Hatred poured out on the gospel.
  • Natural disasters.
  • And on and on and on and on…..

But, are we surprised?  Since the Garden of Eden, sin has had its tentacles sunk into the heart of man and its curse on this earth (Genesis 3).  Jesus said, These things I have spoken to you, . . . . In the world you will have tribulation [trouble] (John 16:33).

Yesterday morning, needing an encouraging boost from the Lord, I read the following words:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Did you note the repeated phrase, So we are always of good courage (5:6, 8)?  How can I have good courage in a world of sin and trouble?

  1. Remember, as a born again believer, you are not Home yet!
  2. When your body groans because of pain, accident, old age, etc., remember God said it would. Hang on, a new body is coming!  The groaning is a constant reminder of that new house!
  3. God has prepared us for this. We are equipped to endure to the end by His grace.
  4. Faith gives courage because faith is based upon the character of God Who is holy and cannot lie. You look around, and you are tempted to fret and despair.  What does faith say?  Who is God?  Wow! What courage that brings!

How are you walking today?  What has your attention?  What are you meditating on?  Living by faith or fear?  Courageous or cowering?

By the way, Christ has the final, authoritative word on all of life.  Meditate on the rest of John 16:33, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Press on, believer!

Itty-bitty Christians

This picture says so much! We found these “cute” onesies in a religious bookstore this week. Others said, “Itty bitty _________” (fill-in-the-blank with a church denomination).

I think I understand the “cute” intent of the maker and store owner, but how many of us as true, born-again believers could wear this outfit?

Itty-bitty Christians . . .

  • Are satisfied to stay an infant when it comes to spiritual growth in the Word. Instead of totally immersing themselves in the daily personal intake of the Word (Psalm 119; Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:18-20), a quick dose of an internet devotional or a religious song on Sirius XM on the way to work suffices. The outcome is an itty-bitty faith in an itty-bitty God.
  • Are satisfied to stay an infant with it comes to living out all of God’s purposes for you in the body of Christ, the local church (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11 – 6:20). Sunday is the Lord’s Day all day, not just for a couple of hours for me to pick and choose how I want to worship. The outcome is itty-bitty participation, connection, transparency, honesty, accountability, body-life, service, praise, fellowship, prayer, evangelism/discipleship, one-another’s, exaltation of Christ, etc. As one lady told me about her church experience, “I like going to the early service because I can go, get it done, and go about my day.”
  • Are satisfied wearing a “onesie” because life is about them instead of glorifying God and serving others. (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 12:9-21; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 1:15-18) The outcome is an itty-bitty Christian who seldom makes an impact on the world for Christ.
  • Are satisfied being a nominal Christian rather than a genuine, all-out disciple of Christ. Read Luke 14:25-27. Does that passage describe an itty-bitty Christian wearing a “onesie”?

Believers, we are exhorted to grow, to mature in the faith. Take heed to the following and let’s cast off our itty-bitty Christianity!

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:13-15)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Hebrews 5:12-13)