My refuge and shield

Psalm 119:114 – You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

In a world filled with hate and pain. In a world so filled with anger and rage, what are we to do? The chaos seems too much. The attacks are too great. The weight is too heavy for us. Somehow for some reason, we have hope. We have hope in something greater than what this world can offer. We have the Almighty that will shield and protect us. We have a Father that gives everything to us. We have a Redeemer that will never leave or forsake us. We simply have hope.

But… we need to hold on to those promises. There are days in my life and I am sure in yours where it seems that every moment is just another attack. It is another arrow Satan shoots at me. Another arrow that is too great for my defenses. One after another after another they come. What seemed like it was going to be a good day; a day full of God, a day full of joy has quickly turned into a day full of fighting for life. I feel like I am drowning in a sea of sin. The moment I come up for air, something else pushes me down. It is just too much. I get stuck on how God can love me.

But, our God reminds us of His Word and how He keeps His word. By the time I remember all of that, the battle has gotten the best of me. There are days when 9 AM rolls around and I am so lethargic and down on myself because the battle has been waged all morning and I am a beaten, bloody mess. How can something as simple as being reminded who God is and what He can do escape me? Why must I try to overcome on my own?

God promises us to give us everything we need each day. He will sustain our needs for that day. He will provide for us. Throughout these Psalms, it is mentioned time and time again about God being our refuge and shield. Our Rock and fortress. Our strength and strong tower. But how or why can I forget that? How do I not call out for God earlier? It is so easy to get caught up in the battle of Satan’s attacks that I forget the one thing can actually help me and stop these attacks. But, God gives us a defense. He will shield us.

Ephesians 6:16 alludes to this, “In addition to all this (speaking of the armor of God), take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” There it is again. There is that word. Shield. God is our shield. Faith in God will shield us. It will not only shield us, but it will extinguish the flaming arrows of Satan. The worst, most wretched things he throws at us, the shield of faith will extinguish. Before it can do anymore damage, before it can hurt us anymore, it will rid us of it.

But how? The author of this Psalm gives us a hint. One, don’t be double-minded. Love and cherish and delight in the law of God. Enjoy who God is. He is our refuge. He is our hiding place. He is our defender. He is where we need to turn to. Whether it is an attack on our spiritual lives, or it is some type of other suffering like financial, health, job, and addiction. Ask God for help. Remember who He is. But as James mentions in chapter 1 of his book, in verse 6-8 he says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” Expect God to come. Stand firm on the promises of God. Stand firm on who God is and His goodness. Man, I need to do that so much better!

Second, stand up to evil (v. 115). Remember the power of the name of Jesus. Behind God, grounded in confidence in God and who He is, speak out against evil. I once heard Max Lucado talk on this and he said that since Satan was an angel, he cannot read our minds thus we must verbalize it. So if you can, try it and see what God’s power can do. Because as the Psalmist says, I want evilness away so I can follow God and enjoy Him.

In verse 116, “Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live…” the author remembers that God is our sustainer and reminds us to seek sustenance from God. Look to God for He alone will sustain you in the worst of times. You may not know how, you may not know when, but God will come through.

The last part of this section, verses 117 to 120, is a fantastic reminder on who we are and what we truly need to fear. God will uphold His people. He will uphold His children. No matter how much we mess up, He still amazingly calls us valuable. He still loves us and wants us to have a deeper life with Him. I forget this so often. I struggle sometimes thinking of God in ways that are not true. I think of Him as a father that is just shaking his head at me and questioning why He even tries with me. Yet, He doesn’t think like that. He loves me unconditionally. He still has a plan for me. He still has a purpose for me.

For that and more importantly who He is, I stand in awe. Who am I to be in the presence of God? Why should I have that privilege? But oh for the grace of God that I can enter the throne room confidently because of the gift of salvation. That is my hope. That is my refuge. That is my shield. That while I was an enemy, still a sinner, God loved me enough and you enough to send us His Son so we could have life, hope and a greater joy than we could ever imagine.

In our lives, may God be lifted high. May we stand in awe of who He is this day. What He has done. He has so much to offer. But this day, may we just focus on Him, not what He can give us or do for us. But oh the glory, the beauty and majesty of God. In tough times, in attacks, in hurt and in pain, God is our refuge. God…is…our shield. Hallelujah!

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Teach me Your ways!

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people. (Exodus 33:13, NIV)

What a beautiful request! Today, I have made this my prayer. I pray that God would teach me His ways that the desires and longings of my heart may find joy as it drinks from the Fountain of Living Water. I echo what Moses said that I may know the Lord and may I know Him better. I pray that all of us would stop settling and being content with the “mud pies” this world offers and truly enjoy the fullness of God.

I think about the relationship that Moses had with God. I think of all the things Moses got to do and see. What is amazing is that while Moses had his faults and his struggles, he still longed for God. And He desired to know Him more and more. This man only a few verses later asks to see the glory of God (“Now show me your glory.” v. 18) and God shows him.

Throughout this section, Exodus 33:12-23, we see Moses showing his dependence and need for God. We see Moses even say to God “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (v.15) What I love about that is that God just told Moses in the previous verse the “My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” But Moses didn’t want to leave without God. He wasn’t willing to go out on his own. He knew that the only way he could leave; the only way the people would be taken care of; the only way he could lead was if the Lord went with him. He was dependent on God to take him to where they needed to go.

That brings me to what Mary and Joseph did when they left Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:41-52). I understand that times were different and they were in a caravan and other factors, but THEY LEFT THEIR CHILD AT THE TEMPLE! Let alone they left the Son of God. They went on with their journey while leaving Jesus behind. And He was left behind for several days.

How often do we do that? How often do we leave Jesus at the temple? How often do we feel like God told us to do something and we go try to do it on our own only to fail? How often do we think we are doing God’s Will, but don’t rely on God to get it done? Every stinking day! Moment by moment I do this. I leave Jesus at the temple.

Another analogy, not that you need anymore, but I think about Jesus coming to my house and I say hello but I head off to work. I leave him at the doorstep. I don’t invite him in to change me. I don’t wait on Him to tell us when to go. I just head right off to my daily routine and leave Him there. Then I come home and there He is. But, I never let Him lead me. I never stopped and said, “If you are not with me, I can’t go do this.” I can’t even walk to the doorstep of work. I can’t do this task. I can’t love my wife like I should. I can’t lead our family. I can’t enjoy your ministry. I can’t even eat. I can’t even breathe if you are not with me. I lose focus of just how much I need God with me at all times.

There are times when I can recognize my independence, but the sin of hurriedness gets in the way. I recognize that I am not dependent on God, yet I don’t wait on Him. I don’t do as Moses did and simply say if you are not with me then don’t even move me from here. And Moses was willing to wait. He was wasn’t going to move until the Presence of God was with them.

Moses also knew what set him and the Israelites apart. He knew that the only thing that “distinguished them” was God (v. 16). That is true for us. We go to work, we go to school, we go to the store and how does anyone know how we are different than they are. Simple, it’s God. The only way people can see a difference is if we let God in, let Him change us, mold us, shape us and transform us. And let Him shine through us. I desperately want non-believers to see a difference in me and the Christian brothers and sisters. That is why I need God with me that I may be different in the way I act, the way I talk, the words I use, the example I set, the way I work. That is hard to do. But, I want to set that example that God can change a wretched sinner like me. While Moses asked God to remember the nation was His people, we need to remember we are God’s children and let God work in and through us.

I really like verse 17 as well, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.’” How beautiful is that? I love the reminder of how it applies to us this very day. That while we have failed, while we have made countless mistakes today, God is pleased with us. And all because of Christ, we are His children. He knows us by name and has a plan for us. No matter how little our lives will matter in this world, God calls us valuable. He says we are important and we can make an impact on this world. This verse has reminded me of John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” God did the very thing Moses asked by showing him His glory (v. 23), and God reminds us through Jesus that He will still give us whatever we ask. Because Christ is our mediator and representing us, what an awesome promise Christ made to give us whatever we ask for.

God is pleased with me and us because of Christ. And because of Him we can be found in His favor. But we cannot settle just to know Him or to know Him by name. Then, we will never be satisfied or fulfilled. But, if we seek God and ask Him what Moses asked by saying “…teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you…” then what a beautiful thing will happen when God shows us and teaches us more about Him. What a beautiful joy to know more of the Almighty and have our relationship with Him cultivated in new and exciting ways.

The only way that we can do anything, lead these people, lead at school, lead at work, lead our families, lead at church, lead in our ministry is by waiting on God and not leaving without Him. The only way is if God is with us. He is with me on this journey to know Him better and have these verses take root. The only way they will take root and bear fruit is Him. I am the first to admit I need greater dependence. I need to not leave without Him. One way to know the Father better is to let Him work, let Him lead, let Him teach us and change us. I am willing. God help me be more willing. Help me to know You better.

Following and enjoying God’s Word

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me. (Psalm 63:8, KJV)

Today I started a new book study (The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer) and this verse was the start of chapter 1. What a way to start. The reason I chose this verse was because of what I needed to hear, to follow hard after God. These past few days and weeks there has been a theme that keeps coming up: Enjoying and delighting in God and His Word.

It is interesting when we hear something like, enjoying God’s Word more, and we like the thought but it is hard to apply. Or we don’t even know how to apply. This has been a theme for me in a couple of devotionals, a book and now another book. I felt it even came up in a sermon. So finally, it hit me, only after being hit over the head for the 100th time, that I don’t only need to pray to enjoy God and His Word more, but I need to constantly pray that. I need constant reminders to not just read the Word of God, not just go before Him in prayer, but to truly enjoy Him. To truly behold and enjoy His insights. To seek Him that I may find Him and not just mark off a box. It is funny as I write that, I am reminded of a verse that I have committed to memorize, Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.

When we seek God, truly seek God, isn’t our prayer time so much sweeter and better. Isn’t it so much more of a joy when we don’t come to him to make ourselves feel better but to learn and grow from Him? In the book Desiring God by John Piper, he quotes from George Mueller about Scripture. Here is what Mueller said:

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.

I have started to try to apply this in my morning devotionals. As I go from my mundane prayers marked with motions and not of value until the last few minutes when I am late and need to get done, I am doing my best to focus on feeding this inner man. Realizing that I can’t do this day on my own. I can’t drive to work, I can’t accomplish my responsibilities, and I can’t even breathe without God. I am completely dependent on Him for everything, yet all too often I live a life of independence. I don’t follow hard after God. The NIV of this verse says “I cling to you; your right hand upholds me”. That is definitely what I need to do, every hour and every moment of the day. I need and desire to cling to God, to cling to the cross and remember what God has done, to cling to my Savior who because of Him I can be a child of God. I cling to God and follow and seek Him because He is what my soul needs. It is what my soul desires. It is the only thing that will satisfy.

I recently read a devotional in the YouVersion app from “15 days in the Word with John Piper”. On one of the days he talked about struggling reading the Bible and why we should do it even when it feels like a duty. He also mentions this in the revised editions of his Desiring God book in the last chapter, but the main thing that hit me was to confess to God that I don’t always enjoy His Word like I should. I have broadened this to my prayer life as well mainly because as much as I pray throughout the day, somehow I make talking to the amazing, awe-inspiring Almighty a box to check off to make myself feel better. Then, the next step was to asking God to help me enjoy Him, enjoy and delight in His insights that He gives and behold the awe of God. So, I have started that and today God answered in awesome ways.

In different parts of the Old Testament, there are several verses that talk about the right hand of God upholding us. Isaiah 41 mentions this and how it strengthens and upholds us. There are several Psalms that make mention to this. I have wondered about the right hand of God and even going as far to think of God holding my hand with His but then I would start thinking about how Jesus was at His right hand and it would throw me off. Today it hit me and there was such joy in an awesome insight that I completely forgot about. An insight I never thought of. While this isn’t new to many, it was of great delight to me.

The reason I am upheld by the right hand of God is simply Jesus Christ who is at the right hand. I am in Christ. When the Father looks at me, He sees Jesus. He sees His only Son. I am upheld because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, italics mine). I can enter the throne room and be near God because of the eternally great and awesome sacrifice of Jesus. I am declared righteous because Jesus took the full brunt of the wrath of God. How awesome is that!!! I am new. God is making me and all things new!

Here is the thing with this verse. I think it is a great reminder about not being satisfied in things of this world. It reminds how we should seek after God. I think it is reminding us that the only thing that satisfies is not found in this world and what it treasures. The money, the fame, the popularity, the power, the security, the relationships will all fail us and leave us empty. We will keep building broken cisterns. But if we seek after God, He will uphold us. He will strengthen us. He will show us the beauty of a relationship with Him. A relationship we will never be able to fully grasp because of the infiniteness of God.

But here is what I want to focus on: seek God with all your heart and follow Him. Enjoy and delight yourself in God. Enjoy His teachings. Let Him teach you and show you new things. It may not happen immediately. Maybe it will. But the thing is if we have the right attitude and pursue our Lord, what an awesome promise He makes in upholding and strengthening us. During all periods of life, He is there and will be there. Ask God to help you. Ask Him to enjoy His Word, prayer and restore the joy of your salvation. He will help you and lead you. He won’t let you down. He won’t disappoint. Instead, He will encourage and open new things to you. Your “inner man” will be fed and nourished in new ways or in ways of delighting in Him again. I am on this journey with you and need so much help to enjoy God each day. I let stresses and other things distract me. But, when those light bulb moments come, my soul rejoices and leaps in joy. God has so much to offer, it is a joy to know more about Him.

Surrounded with favor

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12, NIV)

I must confess that many times in my life and throughout my day, I don’t feel surrounded with God and His favor. Instead, I feel surrounded with evil and attacks on all sides and mainly from within. It becomes quite difficult to function because it is one thought after another. One sin after another. It eats at me. All I want is peace, yet the more I yearn for peace, it seems the more the attacks come. The more the evilness amps up their efforts.

What I love about this verse is the beautiful reminder that God blesses His children. He blesses them with His love that he would take people completely undeserving of even sniffing the word righteous, and calls them righteous. I confess that so much of my life that is the least thing I feel. I don’t feel righteous at all. I feel completely opposed to God because of the weight of my sin. Because of the attacks on my daily life by sin and temptation, who am I to even be called that word.

But, even better and the greatest news is that I am that. I am righteous. All because of God’s love. All because God poured out his love on the cross. Because of that blood. Because of what Jesus did, I have been declared righteous.

Pause with me for a moment. Think about that. Just imagine for a second that we stand in a courtroom before the judge; with charges against us that is 100 miles long. You don’t even have the strength to lift your head to look at the judge. The judge looks over the docket. You know you doom is sealed. You know you will be in the gallows this night. They won’t even wait to send you to jail to face your execution. Don’t pass go, just straight to your execution. The moments tick by. You see the judge reading every charge. The murder. The adultery. The blasphemy. The counterfeit gods. The lies. The hate. The anger. The lust. Oh the weight of it all is too much to bear. The accuser has made so many arguments against you. The prosecution brought up things you thought would never be mentioned. No one knew those things. All you can muster is a sigh as you wait your fate. Finally, you hear a sound. BANG! BANG! You can’t even look as the judge bangs his gavel. The judge begins to speak, “I find you…” the pause is excruciating. “Not guilty.” You look up astonished and you see the judge with a smile on his face. “You are a free man.” But how? Because of the greatest advocate the world has ever seen. Because of our Defender, we are free and found not guilty.

That is what the Lord did for us. He took our sins that when God looks on us, He sees Jesus. He sees Jesus! Plus, He sees us as His children. We will never be un-adopted. He will never leave us no matter what we do or say or how much we fail.

The reason I wanted to bring this up today is because when the attacks come on who we are, when the attacks come of our old sinful selves, when the attacks come from temptations of this world; remember God is with you. It may not always feel like it, but during those times is when we need to see our desperation and cry out for God. We need to see just how much we need God to come rescue us. And, best of all, He will. It may not be our timing. It may not be our way. But God will come and surround us like a shield. I love how Psalm’s is loaded with constant reminders that God is our refuge, our shield, our strong tower, our defender, our foundation, and our refuge among the many more.

How great a promise is that! God is with us and will protect us and has protected us in ways we don’t even know a thousand times a day! Even in the verse before, David reminds us how great a joy it is to seek God and take refuge in Him. We can be glad when we are in God. That no matter what is attacking us. No matter what tricks Satan is doing to our mind and twisting our words, we can be so glad that we will even be able to sing for joy. Joy, magnificent joy!

But why? Because the Lord loves us. He loves us so much that He sacrificed His Son for us. He spreads His protection over us. Even during those times when we feel alone and are so hurt, God is with you. He is protecting us. He is protecting us through these times that we may rejoice in Him. We may rejoice in the power of His name. A name so powerful that we cannot even understand its power. A name so strong, so beautiful, so sweet, so mighty, so sacred that when we mention it, the knees of evil start knocking together out of fear.

On a day like this, when I don’t see how God could love me. On a day filled with attacks from Satan, the Lord is blessing me and surrounding me with his favor as with a shield. A man unworthy of such attention, yet by the grace of God can find rest. A day full of battle. A day full of defeat. A day full of hurts and pains and scars. God says, “I love you. You are my child. I bless you as righteous. Now, find rest in my grace. Here is peace. Just trust me. Call on me. Let go. Let me fight for you.”

Psalm 5 is filled with so many treasures like the reverence David shows in verse 7. Also, his call to have God lead him and make his path straight. As David cries out, the Lord hears. As I cry out, I can read Psalm 5 and be reminded God hears and knows my struggles. He is strong enough to overcome it all. And He is protecting me now.

God’s grace is enough

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This is such a big verse in so many different ways. There are two ways that I want to address this today: 1) God’s grace, 2) Giving grace.

First, let’s talk about the amazing beauty of God’s grace. How great, how big, how wide, how far, how deep it goes to redeem us. Many scholars debate on what “thorn in the flesh” Paul was talking about when he wrote this, but what my focus is today is on the beauty that is God’s grace. In the midst of our pain, our struggles, our sufferings and all the attacks; God’s grace is sufficient. His grace covers so much that it covers all of our failures and mistakes. Even when we do not treat God, our greatest treasure, as a treasure, He still gives grace and loves us.

What amazes me, and encourages me, is that even the great Paul struggled. What is beautiful is that this man, who talks so much on grace, pleads for the grace of God. He needed relief from the pain and hurt he was feeling. Even though he took so much joy in God and even took joy in suffering, he still needed to be reminded that God loves and cares for him.

What I love is how Paul takes his hurt and starts to boast in what God does so that he may taste the pleasure of having Christ’s power rest on him. It is so hard for me when I am in the middle of a weakness, a hardship, a difficulty to praise God, yet Paul is delighting in it. He takes such delight that he gets to see how God is going to work in it and through it. He doesn’t run from it or cower, he stands strong. I recall when Job was in front of God and God tells him to “brace yourself like a man” (Job 40:7). While that is a different situation, I mention it because when we stand firm in God and delight in Him, we can stand up to all these hardships and persecutions because we know He is such a treasure. He is so good and so faithful. Even though the world and the attacks bring us down and beat us time and time again, God picks us up off the floor. He puts his arm around us. He tells us to lean on him. We are completely battered and beaten to an awful mess, yet when we call out to Him, he stands us up. We can stand firm on the mighty foundation of the Rock.

There are many days when I feel the evil one relentlessly attack me. My thoughts betray me. Everything gets twisted and distorted. It is just a bad day, yet that is when I need this verse the most. That is when I need to recall it the most. Because as awful as I have been, as bad as the thoughts were that went through me, as horrible as I have been, this is where I need to be reminded of the great grace of God. That He is making me strong. That He is there for me in this trial, this hurt and all this pain. His grace is sufficient and it covers the dirtiest of sins we confess and repent of.

These are the days I feel the worst and feel like I am so far from God. These are the days that wear on me and drag me down because it has been a battle all day. And I have been defeated so much. Yet, somehow He still loves me. He still cares for me. He still forgives me and calls me his son.

I praise God for that. I praise God that His grace is enough. And it always will be.

The other part I mention is giving grace. It has been interesting because the last few days my wife and I have been struggling with this with other people. Sometimes the hardest thing we have to do is to give grace, or in a worldly saying to give the benefit of the doubt. We are so quick to judge and condemn, like caged, hungry lions attacking its prey.

These past few days and weeks it has become a big lesson for us both. People seem to have a first response of attack when a mistake is made. Or even when there is no mistake, just to be mean or rude for no reason. Obviously, I am not in their shoes and don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. Also, I am not without guilt. All too often I do the very thing I mention. I am quick to judge, quick to get angry and slow to listen and speak. For some reason it seems that we have been at the receiving end of rudeness or insults. People not thinking before they send an email. People speaking before thinking. But it happens and I do this too.

Sometimes, I wonder if people heard the way they spoke to someone how they would take it. How would they take the correction that isn’t important? The unnecessary anger. The jab for no reason. The put down. How would they feel? How would I feel? Why is an encouraging word and even response so hard?

I was faced with this today and when I went back through this verse, God slapped me across the face with the “I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Particularly in an insult. As someone was rude to me for no reason, by the grace of God was grace. This is surprising since I am a hot tempered person. I get defensive and my usual response is not sprinkled with grace and salt but with venom and vengeance.

There are days when I am so tired, or hurting, or hungry and all too often I let my emotions rule me and my response. I don’t want to be led by my evil emotions, but by the love and grace of God. For when I am weak (tired, angry, hurt, hungry, stressed) that is when Satan attacks me so much. That is when the simplest comment that would otherwise not affect me gets blown out of proportion. That is where Satan keeps attacking and growing roots with this evil seed. And for some reason, I let him. I fight at times, or try to, but so often he beats me.

That is where I need this verse. That is where I need to give grace, to give the benefit of the doubt. Why do I need to make someone feel bad? We all make mistakes, why do I need to beat someone up over it.

God, I need your grace to give grace. I thank you for your grace. I thank you that when I am weak and not doing well, you lift me up. Encourage me. You give me hope and walk me through. I need your grace Oh Lord. I need your strength to receive your grace. I need your strength to call out for your grace. Focus me on you. Focus me on your heart. I want and need to be gracious. Help me Lord! Strengthen me Lord! I am weak. I am hurting. I need you. I need a Savior. I need your grace. God have mercy on me when I fail. Thank you that your grace is sufficient! Amen.

Delight in The Lord, Psalm 1:2

Blessed is the one… but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:1–2, NIV)

How great it is to delight in the Lord! How great it is to remember Him and all that He has done. How great it is to be reminded of His promises.

But how often do we not delight in the Lord. How often do we forget His Word and His promises. How quickly we forget the power that is simply in the name of Jesus. How quickly we forget these things when the business of life comes, when the trials of life attack us on every front.

Sometimes we just feel like we are in the middle of the ocean, with a storm all around us. Lightning coming down all around us. The thunder becomes deafening. The rain pours down with such force we think it is going to go straight through our little wooden boat. We are paralyzed with fear. We don’t know what to do. The chaos is too much. The storm is too great. Everything the Lord has taught us has gone out of our mind.

But then, we can feel that tap on our shoulder. The whispers become clearer. What is it saying? Again, we hear it. We pause so we can formulate it in our minds. There it is. The look of fear is now bewilderment, and then we look up and imagine Peter seeing Christ standing on the water. We can see Peter get out of the boat and start heading toward the Lord. Those words that went through our mind become clearer. “Trust me.” “I am with you.”

God reminds us of those promises. He reminds us of the stories we have heard many times before. Maybe He brings to mind stories we have only heard once. But we know He is with us. Whether we have been a Christian for many years or a few minutes. He strengthens us. He comes and reminds us of those promises.

That is why this challenge to memorize Scripture is so much more important for me and vital. In the times of great trial and tribulation, we can hold firm to those promises. The very words that He has spoken to us in His Word come alive. They bear fruit. They take root. How great it is when we are able to combat the attacks of Satan with words from the Word of God. It gives a sense of victory. I can’t explain it, but instead of feeling defeated, when we fight those attacks with Scripture and being reminded of who God really is, it is so renewing and refreshing. It is this amazing sense of accomplishment to use the sword of the Spirit to fight the evil one.

But we will never do it on our own. We will never win because we overcame it. It will only be done because of our dependence on the Spirit. It will be done because we cry out to God for help, fully admitting that this problem, this trial, is too big for us and we need Him.

That is why when times are “good” or “normal”, it is so important that we truly remember this verse and Scripture and meditate on the Word of God. That we think about what God is saying, we ponder it and we consider it. We consider how we can apply it, what it is saying and what the next steps are. That way when life becomes a struggle, we have a great foundation of Scripture to rely on.

We are able to remember the goodness of God. The power that is in the name of God. That God is so faithful and full of joy that we just want to be where He is because there is fullness of joy in Him. When we read His Word and are in His presence, what joy that is!

That is what I want to do. I want to truly delight in God. Delight in who He is. Stand in awe of what He has done and how He can love us and someone as awful as me. What pleasure it is to delight in our treasure. That is what God is to us though isn’t He? He is our treasure. Finer than silver, more precious than gold. He didn’t leave us to fight this battle of life on our own, but gave us His Son. He gave us His instructions in His Word. He gives Himself to us for us to enjoy and take pleasure in.

I am not going to say I have all the answers in how to delight in God or meditate on His Word. But I know that if we don’t seek Him, if we don’t hold true to His promises, if He doesn’t remain in us (like in John 15:5), we can do nothing and our lives won’t bear fruit. The best way to combat sin and Satan is to attack by the power of His Word. Each situation is different, but God is there. I and we need to rely on Him more and better.

I pray that we will delight in the Lord. That we will recall what He has done for us. The pain He has brought us through. The pain that He will get us through. The joy of knowing Him. The blessings He has poured out on us. The sheer delight of just knowing Him and being in His presence. I can’t go to any CEO right now and talk to them, but I can go to God any time, any place and anywhere and He listens. He truly listens. May we hold His Word firmly in our hearts and trust that God will bear fruit in us with those words.

Delight in the Lord, for He is good. He is coming back. He is here for you. He is with you. He hears you. His Word and His love never fail.

Freedom reigns by Jesus Culture

As I finished writing my thoughts on Galatians 5:1, I felt compelled to include a song in there as well. The song that came to my mind is “Freedom Reigns” by Jesus Culture. (quick note: you will probably notice that any time I mention a song it will probably be a Jesus Culture or bethel music song. I just love those bands.) While this song is mainly about 2 Corinthians 3:17 (Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom), I wanted to share this song about freedom in Christ. With Him, with Him reigning in our lives and over every part of our life we can feel the chains fall away.

Wherever you are, God is with you. All the grace and mercy you need is with you. God is showering you with these things. He is constantly reminding you that there is mercy and grace with Him and you don’t have to be shackled by sin. Shackled with hate or anger or rage or selfishness or lust or dread or worry or anxiety or fear. God gives you a way out of all that. He gives you Himself. He gives you His Son. He tells us to call on Him. To ask Him for anything and He will give it to you.

One line in this version is that in the bridge it says, “feel the heaviness all the weight…” This is why Galatians 5:1 means so much to me and applies to me in this song. All the weight, all of the burdens of sin. All of the guilt, the shame, the pain, the hurt. All of these things…gone. Just gone. With the mercy and grace of Jesus because He reigns over it all.

One of the things that I love about this song is that for a full minute or so, the only words you really here is “Great is Your faithfulness.” It is simply a reminder of the classic hymn but more importantly that faithfulness of God. How great and wide and deep and amazing it is. God will not leave you. in the midst of our trials, our struggles, our dreams, the good and happy times, He is reigning over it all. He is here with us. Oh that I might call on Him more throughout my day for how I could use a more personal and deeper and intimate life with Him.

“If you are tired and thirsty, give your all to Jesus” What a great reminder. Trying to be good enough is a tiresome job. Religion just wears me out. It doesn’t satisfy my thirst and just causes me to feel the burden of my sin and depravity more. But Jesus offers us another way. He offers us freedom. He offers us rest. He offers us peace in this land of grace when we give our lives and every part of it to Him. Not 50%. Not 90%. Not 99.9%. but every part and all of it. for then, we find freedom. We find rest. We find such a fullness of joy by being in His presence.

I hope you enjoy this song and the great reminders of freedom in Christ. Even when the world drags us down and the stresses of life weigh us down. And believe me I know there are some terrible struggles and stresses. From money problems to job issues to medicine to diagnoses to relationships to children to so many things just weighing us down, this song reminds us of one very important thing. “Lift your eyes to heaven…there is freedom”. There is hope. There is peace. There is freedom from the burdens and trials, please I pray that you and I both lift our eyes on heaven and the eternal hope of the greatest reward in life with Christ and freedom from this world.

Jesus Culture – freedom reigns

Galatians 5:1 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, NIV)

This is the first verse in this new challenge of trying to memorize a verse a (week)day. What a way to start! I chose this verse because one of my biggest problems is that it is very easy for me to turn God into some sort of legalistic ritual. I make God a religion of my own. I take the beautiful gift of grace that gives us peace and freedom and make it something it is not. Essentially, I am confining the unimaginable God into some type of box that my feeble mind can understand.

I try to make Him who knows no bounds into something that has boundaries. Most of all, I take this gift of grace that he has lavished on us for granted. Jesus paid it all. He said it was finished. Yet daily, my sinful mind and self try to turn this free gift into something I have to earn. Do you ever do that? Have you done that before?

Why do I/we try to take the gift of freedom, this priceless gift, and turn it into something we think we have to earn or “buy” by good works or deeds? It is amazing to me how easy it is to fall into that type of thinking. It is easy to slide down that slippery slope. And the next thing that happens is that I find myself burdened with the shackles of sin and trying to be good enough. I become like the Pharisees with all of their rules and laws.

I start feeling down on myself because I didn’t pray a certain way. Or I didn’t pray long enough. Or I didn’t pray for all these different things. Or I didn’t do something I thought I was supposed to. I didn’t say something I was supposed to, and then I try to make up for my disobedience. When I do that, I don’t do it with a joyful heart or servant’s attitude, I do instead out of fear trying to get God back on my side.

I start getting burdened with my own guilt of not being good enough. I don’t live up to my expectations of what I think I should be. I start thinking of God in some type of dictator fashion where he starts looking at me with utter disdain. Just shaking his head the whole time.

Yet, God is never like that. He instead sees the beautiful sacrifice of His Son Jesus when He sees me. He looks at me with joy because He truly sees His Son. The One who took the full force of His wrath. Behind that, because of Christ, I can call Him Father and He has made me an heir. He has chosen me for “adoption to sonship” (Ephesians 1:5).

It is so beautiful and so wonderful to be free from the law. The law that points out our wrongs yet was needed so that we can see just how much Christ has set us free from. Freedom is such an amazing word. A word we take for granted. What amazes me though is that when I am burdened with trying to live up to what I think God wants me to be, I don’t feel God. I definitely don’t feel that peace or rest or freedom. I feel so burdened, so weighed down, so far from God that it is unbearable. I can feel myself not connected to the ultimate Source of life. The Source of satisfaction. All because I am trying to find satisfaction in the “mud pie’s” (nod to C.S. Lewis) of this earth. I am reverting to my sin nature that I think I have to do this or that, yet the ultimate satisfaction is in resting in God. Obedience to His call. Open to His will.

I mean, some of the greatest feelings we have is when we are truly still and just before God in His presence where there is fullness of joy. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NIV). All too often I do not live in the land of grace where there is freedom. I live by my rules and my ways. Yet as I read this verse, as I remember it, what a sweet reminder of keeping my eyes on God and never making Him or prayer or Scripture or anything something that it is not. But just enjoy the sweet gift of the freedom found in Christ. It is so important that Paul decides to mention it twice in one simple yet profound sentence. It was for freedom, our freedom, that Christ set us free by being nailed to that very cross.

This verse can be applied and dissected in a 100 different ways, but one more thing I want to mention is that we are free from the law, free from worry, free from anxiety, free from sin, free from death, free from being an enemy of God, free from the wrath of God. We are free to have hope in the future. Free to believe that even amidst all the suffering there is good. God has a plan. God is working it all out for good and we can look toward heaven. Thank you God for Your freedom!

Scripture memorization challenge

In an attempt to sow better seeds in my life, I have started to make a habit out of memorizing at least one verse every weekday. I am not quite sure how I came to this conclusion, but I felt although God was telling me to be better at hiding His Word in my heart. I kept being reminded of Scripture being our only offensive weapon against the attacks from Satan. Through the Spirit, God has given us a full armor for defense against the thousands of attacks we face daily.

But, He has given us also a key weapon to combat these forces…The sword of the Spirit. His very Word. In my everyday life, I am attacked in what seems like a thousand different ways moment by moment. Yet, when I face these challenges, or attacks, I try all too often to do it all on my own. I try to rely on my strength. I try to “will” the attacks away. While I may have one or two victories, on my own I simply fail. The daily battle that I face on my own is marked with defeat. But God reminds me and each of us that those who are saved, those who believe in the Almighty and the magnificent gift of Jesus, He has made us more than conquerors.

So, simply put there are many things that I need to do. One, rely on Him. I need to be completely dependent on Him. Realizing that the only way that I have breath, is because He has allowed it at that very moment by His amazing grace.

But another thing is that when these attacks come, I want to be able to remember what God has said in His Word. I want to stand firm on these truths to recall in moments of doubt and pain. Another important reason is just the simple and sweet reminders of who our God is. His magnificent qualities. His abilities. Who exactly He is (or as much as my feeble my can understand about the infinite God).

As I have read and memorized more Scripture, the verses have come alive in me to remind me of what God has called us to do (to go and bear fruit) and that apart from Him, we can do nothing. I am reminded that God has a purpose for us and chose us. So as I read these Scriptures and try to memorize them, I have roots starting to form in me.

I can’t honestly tell you why I never made it much of a priority to memorize Scripture before now. There would be a verse here or there throughout my days, but not much. When I was growing up, it was a requirement of my school to memorize a verse a week. Now, I wish I could only remember those now.

I hope you join me on this journey as I share with you the verses I am memorizing. I hope you also take this challenge to plant the good seeds of Scripture in your heart. I hope that as we memorize these verses, that we will be able to recall them at those times when we need it. Although, God has a funny way of working in us to make those verses come alive and be more impactful than we may ever have thought. What an amazing God and an amazing plan.