Archive for the “God’s Protection” Category

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

In my last blog, I wrote a tribute to my mom. She is an example to me of a person who lives in difficult circumstances but remains thankful, joyful and positive. I ended by saying that she is God’s living example to me of someone who lives Colossians 3:1-4. I had preached on it a week or so ago but mom had been bedridden and unable to attend. Yet upon receiving sad news she did what the Apostle Paul encouraged – she directed her thoughts to things above. Let’s look at the Colossians passage in more depth.

Paul was writing to the Colossians – a city that had once been a thriving, important city but at the time of Paul’s writing was a dying city. Although it was located on a trade route, cities had grown up to the east and west of it and it somehow became overlooked. The population had declined as people moved away to the larger cities where most of the trade was occurring.

If you’ve ever lived in such a place, you know that they are depressed and depressive places – they have seen glory days but are now in decline. Living in that kind of place has a way of seeping into your psyche and it’s easy to become depressed yourself. At the very least, it’s hard to stay positive and creative and hopeful when living in such a place.

It occurs to me that Colosse is also an analogy for many of our lives. At some point in our lives, our “glory days” seem to be over and our health and prospects for an exciting future dwindle. Don’t get me wrong – I believe that God has purposes for us to fulfill in all stages of our lives. Still, there can be times when we are tempted to succumb to the aches and pains that come with aging and there are times when it is easier to let our culture – which worships youth – to seep in and drag us down.

It’s in those times, when Paul’s words to the Colossians are especially important. Paul is saying “It’s time for you to hit the reset button. Your lifes aren’t working quite the way God intended it work – you’re not living in the Kingdom while still here on earth.” Scripture is clear that eternal life isn’t something that we wait to experience once we’ve gone on to be with the Lord. It says that eternal life has come to all who receive Christ. Eternal life is, or at least ought to be, a part of living on earth. With the Lord beside us and the Holy Spirit in us, we can live lives that are full of peace and joy and purpose no matter what our circumstances are. Here’s how Paul put it:

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

Paul first gives a reason for hitting the reset button – he begins by saying “Since you have been raised with Christ.”

In other words…you are thinking and acting as if you live here in this city that is declining. I’m here to tell you that you have been raised with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms. You are thinking and acting as if the boundaries of your life are related in some way by the limitations of this world. They are not. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6 (NIV)

So, even before you hit the reset button, you need to remind yourself that this place is not your home, you are just passing through on your way to your eternal, heavenly, glorious home.

Now with that firmly planted in your mind – since you have been raised with Christ, Paul says, set your hearts on things above.

Set your hearts on things above.

Hit the reset button on your heart – reset the longings of your heart to things above. We long for things from our hearts. Our minds reasons, our hearts long. Our hearts desire. Desire the things of heaven. Let the things you long for be the things of heaven.

What are those things? What does Scripture teach us about heaven? It’s where God lives eternally. It’s where we will be face to face with God. It’s where we’ll sit with Jesus and reason together. It is where we have a mansion – a home created just for us. It is where our loved ones who have trusted Jesus wait for us. It is where there is no more sorry or sadness. It is where there is no sin or pain. It is where we will understand and fully experience the deep richness of God’s love.

Hit the reset button and set your heart on things above instead of things here on earth. Don’t long for the things of this world, long for the realities of heaven. That’s how the New Living Translation renders this verse: “Set your sights on the realities of heaven.”

Now I realize that’s not always so easy, because this world often seems more real than heaven. This world presses in on us and blocks out the realities of heaven.

The Apostle Paul realized that, too, so he continued, saying that there are two reset buttons we have to push to get our life headed in the right direction. The first, is that we need to set our hearts on things above.

The second reset button is found in verse 2:

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

We are to set our hearts on things above, and we are to set our minds on things above. Our hearts are the center of our longing. Our minds are the center of our thinking. The Apostle Paul is very appropriately telling us to hit the reset button on our thoughts. Set your minds – in other words, center your thoughts – on things above.

Our minds are very powerful muscles. You will find that they are very suggestible and whatever we tend to occupy our mind with, our desires quickly follow. So one big way that we reset our hearts is by resetting our minds. Set your minds on thoughts above and your heart will follow. If you want to long for heaven more, think about what is waiting there for you.

Are you at a place in your life where you have something in common with the Colossians – perhaps your life today doesn’t compare well with the life you once had. If that’s the case, let me challenge you to take the Apostle Paul’s words to heart this week and hit the rest button – reset your heart and mind to things above.

This week, when you wake up each morning, do two things:

  • Set your heart on things above
  • Set your mind on things above

And each day at lunch, use your mealtime prayer as a reminder to

  • Set your heart on things above
  • Set your mind on things above

And then again at dinner, before you eat, pray and use it as an opportunity to hit the reset button:

  • Set your heart on things above
  • Set your mind on things above

And finally, when you go to bed at night – be sure to be thankful as you

  • Set your heart on things above
  • Set your mind on things above

Colossions 3 continues:

3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

You are hidden – kept safe from the worst this world has to throw at you – with Christ in God. He is your protection. He is your safe place. He is also your ultimate reward – if you know Christ, you will one day appear with Him in glory.

Trusting Christ is the first step in living the Kingdom He has given us here on earth. It is the first step in a journey that takes us through our death into eternal life. That journey is made easier when our hearts and minds stay with the One who loves us more than anyone, who protects us, and who leads us home.

I sign most of my emails with the simply closing “Enjoy!” It is my shorthand for “Enjoy God! Enjoy life!” We do that by keeping our hearts and minds on Him. Friends, enjoy!

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God is so very good! I’ve been enjoying His goodness a lot lately. And still, I’ve been missing it a lot! It seems that the past few months have been tremendously busy. The pace is accelerating and I don’t always know how to slow it down. I’ve been pretty consistent about keeping my time with the Lord and have thoroughly enjoyed His goodness during those times. Yet in the flurry between times with the Lord, I am aware that I’ve lost my connection with Him. Of course He is still there and I know I can trust Him to always be there, but I’ve lost my sense of His nearness. So I’ve been missing Him.

There are times when my husband and I can spend the whole day together and at the end of the day I feel a sense of missing him. That’s when I realize that while we were near one another all day, we weren’t connecting. That’s the experience I’ve been having with God between those times of enjoying His goodness.

In my busyness, I also have not been sleeping well. There have been too many nights in a row in which my brain doesn’t fully shut down. I’m sleeping, but in my sleep, I’m still trying to work out the issues of the day. I’m waking frequently and struggling to get back to sleep. So I’m dragging during the day and when I’m over-tired, I usually feel a bit queasy. So as my friend from Texas would say, I’ve been feeling “puny” lately.

So one morning while in the midst of this, my Bible fell open to Psalm 91 and God spoke to my heart. (Which, by the way, isn’t how God usually speaks to me. He usually speaks through my systematic reading of Scripture. Today He changed it up a bit.)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NLT)

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High…” God is pointing out to me that I’m not “living” in His shelter throughout the day. I’m visiting each morning and often in the evening. Most days I love those visits. But like a visit to my grandma’s when I was a kid, when the visit was over, we packed up and left. After my visit with the Lord each morning, I’m packing up and moving on with my day.

The word translated “live” means to dwell, to settle in, to remain or abide or to tarry. It also means to marry. (Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary).

We’re not to just visit with the Lord, we’re to live in Him. And we’re not to live with him as roommates, but intimately, as spouses.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NLT)

When I move from one project to another at work, I take all the paperwork associated with the first project and put it in a stack and move it to a corner of my table. Then I pull the paperwork associated with the second project from its spot on my table and move it to my desk. I’ve fallen into the trap of doing the same thing with God. Mentally, I’m stacking my “God project” neatly in the corner of my table and moving the pressing matters of the day to the front and center of my desk.

God is so good! He’s been putting up with this from me for longer than I care to admit. He’s been patiently waiting for me to find my way back to Him. He has been patiently waiting to do what brings him joy. Luke records the words of Jesus in this passage:

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Luke 12:32 (NKJV)

Did you catch that? God is waiting patiently to give me the kingdom. He wants to do it. But I’ve only been visiting with him. He is waiting for me to move in, to live with Him – or rather, to live in Him. When I do that, I will find rest. I really need that rest!

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NLT)

Now the word translated shelter is “sayther” and can also be translated “covering” or “secret place.” In fact, you might be more familiar with the New King James Version translation of this verse:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 (NKJV)

So what is this secret place? Where is this “sayther?” I had an idea where this was going, but I wanted to find it in Scripture. Scripture took me to where I expected to end up, but the hunt was worth it. Listen to these verses. In each case, the Hebrew word translated “secret place” is the word “sayther.”

4One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. 5For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27:4-5 (NKJV/NASB)

What was the tabernacle? It was the tent of the Lord’s presence.

19How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. 20In the secret place of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.
Psalm 31:19-20 (NIV/NASB)

“In the secret place of your presence…” The secret place is the presence of God.

15My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:15-16 (NIV)

The secret place we were made was not our mother’s womb, although that’s the final place where we were formed, but Scripture says that God formed us before the world began. We were first formed in the presence of God – it is there that all our days were determined. It was there that we were given the gifts and talents and personality that is unique to each of us. Wow! I was formed in the very presence of God. So were you!

The secret place, friends, is the presence of God. So let’s create our own translation of Psalm 91:1 –

Those who live – settle into, remain, not just visit – in the presence of the Most High – those people will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1

This verse that is so familiar to many has an exciting meaning to it. It is a promise – that those who dwell, who live, who settle down, in the presence of the Most High God – Elyon, the Supreme God – will find rest. The word translated “rest” means remain permanently. When I learned that, the first passage that came to mind was John 10:

27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29 (NLT)

No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. Those who settle into the presence of God will remain permanently in the shadow of the Almighty.

Which brings us to the last word we’re going to look at – “shadow.” The word also means shade or defense. In other words, it means under the protection of. When we settle into God’s presence, we are covered by Him. He defends us and protects us. No one can snatch us from His hand. No one can harm us. He is the Supreme God, Elyon, God Almighty, El Shaddai.

This single verse says so much. When I put the full meanings of the words into the verse, this is what I get:

Those who settle into or remain in the presence of Elyon, the Supreme God who is above all other Gods, that person will remain forever under the protection of the Almighty God.
Psalm 91:1 (SJH)

It’s because of this sentence – this first verse of Psalm 91 that the Psalmist can write verse 2 with confidence.

I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
Psalm 91:2 (KJV)

When we settle into the presence of God and stay there throughout the day, we can confidently face the challenges of this life because we know – we know – that we are under His protection. He is our refuge. He is our fortress. He is our God who is faithful and worthy of our trust.

God is so good. In the midst of my busyness, He stopped me in my tracks to remind me that He wants me to live in His presence, not just visit for a few minutes each day. He wants to give me the Kingdom. What a deal! What a good God!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartI find that there are certain conditions in my life that lead to holy boldness:

Confidence – When I am feeling confident, I am bold, not timid.

Freedom – When I am experiencing freedom, I am bold because there’s nothing that is hindering me from being so.

Security – When I am feeling secure, I can make bold moves instead of playing it safe.

Being loved – When I know I am loved and will be loved even if I fail, I can step out in boldness, not being limited by any fear of what others will think.

Having hope – When I have hope, I can climb mountains that are otherwise too overwhelming.

All of these things are found in faith. All of these things are results of a faith-filled heart. Boldness – holy boldness – comes from a faith-filled heart, and it is the difference between timidly attempting the assignments God has given me and boldly attacking the assignments He has designed for my life.

All these conditions come from our faith in Christ. Let’s look at Scriptures that relate to each.

Confidence – Our confidence comes from Him – knowing what He has done for us and what awaits us:

Since this new way [that is, faith in Christ] gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.
2 Corinthians 3:12 (NLT)

Freedom – Oh, the freedom that comes from knowing God:

He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
Titus 2:14 (GW)

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)

Security – Having security means I am not worried about what will happen to me; I’m not to take action.

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

2He sang: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; 3my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence.
2 Samuel 22:2-3 (NLT)

Being loved – Knowing that we are loved brings the greatest freedom and in turn, the greatest boldness. It is what causes us to run freely in the wind and fiercely into battle.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

But God showed [demonstrated] his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Romans 5:8 (NLT)

Having hope – Hope gives us reason to look forward – reason to live boldly today because of what awaits us tomorrow.

18So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.19This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
Hebrews 6:18-19 (NLT)

Faith in Christ is the key to conditions of the heart that lead to a holy boldness.

Similarly, there are conditions of the heart that lead to reckless boldness. This may not be an exhaustive list, but I find these conditions to be the most common reason we take recklessly bold actions:

Fatalism – When I believe that “whatever is supposed to happen will happen,” I am less careful about where I step and the path I take. Fatalism is a lie from the enemy. Scripture is clear that we have personal responsibility to pursue God, to choose to obey Him by taking the actions He assigns to us, not waiting to see what will happen and trusting it has been His will.

Utter sense of futility – When “who cares” and “what difference does it make” are phrases that have captured my mind and heart, I either fall into the depression of nothingness or take rash action. Of course these phrases are also whispers from the enemy. They are signs that he has been on the prowl, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He’s trying to devour you. God cares and He has purposes for your life that reach into eternity.

Rebellion – When I’ve become tired of following my King and decide to go my own way and make my own decisions, all of my actions can be labeled reckless boldness. We can’t blame the enemy on this. This is sin. It is our own selfish pride. It is thinking we have a better plan than God. It requires repentance – a genuine sorrow for our attitudes and actions, a turning to God for forgiveness and a change in our behavior and thoughts.

Disappointment with God – When God doesn’t live up to our expectations (oh, Lord, it is difficult for me to even write this, but I know there are time when we feel like this – forgive us when You are so worthy of our worship even when we feel disappointed) – when God doesn’t live up to our expectations, our hearts can grow cold. Our minds build a case against Him and our attitudes turn to rebellion. Being disappointed with God doesn’t have an easy solution – it’s usually a combination of repentance for our own wrong attitudes with a heavy dose of experiencing God’s great love. It requires an understanding that God’s plan is greater than our earthly desires.

The antidote to all of these conditions that lead to reckless boldness is faith. A faith-filled heart is the greatest weapon against these conditions. A faith-filled heart is the greatest weapon against reckless boldness. That faith comes from being with Jesus. We see it again and again in the New Testament.

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (NLT)

Because the men had been with Jesus, they had a holy boldness that confounded the leaders. We can have that same holy boldness.

It is also because of our faith in Christ that we can come into God’s presence freely – and it is in God’s presence where we find the source of all the conditions that lead to holy boldness:

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
Ephesians 3:12 (NLT)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:19 (NLT)

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

Our faith-filled heart enables us to fulfill God’s purposes in our lives – it gives us the holy boldness we would otherwise lack and it keeps us from acting recklessly, without caution or care.

We have been studying Ephesians with our nursing home Bible study group and I have been so strongly impacted by Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians. I have been praying this prayer at every gathering since we studied the passage and regularly for myself and Phil. It seems so appropriate to every venue. And it is totally appropriate here. I pray for you as Paul prayed for the Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

I can’t pray it any better. Knowing the vastness of God’s love for you, may you be filled to the “measure of all the fullness of God.” Whew! That’s gonna lead to some holy boldness!

If this blog has blessed you or helped you live in holy boldness, please share it with others. You can use one of the buttons below to share. Let’s help one another become a people worthy of God’s calling (Ephesians 4:1).

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As I completed yesterday’s blog, I was immediately reminded that it is not only me watching God. It is also God watching me. And He isn’t distracted by bright shiny objects as I am! It’s not only you watching God. It’s also God watching you. And nothing distracts Him from His focus.

We’re to watch Him “as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal” (Psalm 123:2b, NLT). We’re to watch Him closely – never take our eyes off Him. Yet we do.

Still, He watches over us with a tenderness and a constancy that exceeds anything we can fully comprehend. Think of the perfect parent, combined with the perfect protector, combined with the perfect coach combined, with the perfect husband. That person watches with perfect tenderness, perfect love, perfect protection and perfect compassion, yet his love doesn’t smother us because he wants us to grow into a person who is better than we can ever imagine ourselves being. That’s a glimpse of God.

Somehow that description doesn’t convey the love that is at the heart of it all. Jesus said:

29What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT)

If not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without God knowing it, I would think that a whole flock of them would have his full attention. And I’m worth more than that to Him. He’s got His eye on me. All the time!

The Psalmist wrote this:

6Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, 7for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care…
Psalm 95:6-7a (NLT)

He watches over us. We are as a flock under his care. Shepherds and ranchers watch over their flocks and herds carefully. They watch to see that they are well fed, healthy and protected. They move them from place to place to provide the best food, sufficient shade, and protection from wild animals. They care for them when they are sick. God is our heavenly shepherd. He watches over us. All the time!

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1The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Psalm 23:1-3 (a compilation of phrases from the NLT and NASB )

My soul was a little bruised today. A sadness hovered around me, constantly bumping me and causing me to lose my train of thought.

It wasn’t a good day for working. But then it wasn’t a good day for not working either, because work provides a bit of structure and the need for focused concentration which shelters me a bit from the constant bumping.

Throughout the day I had worship music playing in the background. It kept trying to assert itself to the foreground and I kept resisting it. I was supposed to be working. I was supposed to be sad. You can take your pick of reasons. Both pulled me away from the worship music.

Finally near the end of the day my Pandora station played Chris Tomlin’s song Let Your Mercy Rain. I was swept away into worship. And God spoke to me about my own resistance to letting Him restore my soul. Psalm 23:3 is often quoted as “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I like the New Living Translation above – “He lets me rest in green meadows.” Sure, God sometimes “makes me lie down,” but isn’t it so much more wonderful to know that He “lets” us rest? He gives us permission to step away from the world. And during that resting, He restores our souls.

As I closed my eyes and listened to the words, healing poured over my soul:

God, You have done great things
God, You give grace to the weak
And bless the brokenhearted
With a song of praise to sing
You reached down and lifted us up
You came running, looking for us
And now there’s nothing
And no one beyond Your love

And I lifted my hands in worship and petition as the chorus started:

You’re the overflow
You’re the fountain of my heart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

It lead me to expressively sign the words to the rest of the chorus:

You’re the faithful one
When the world’s falling apart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

Yet as the song continued, I felt this internal pressure to get back to real life. It occurred to me that we often focus on living purposeful lives, accomplishing things for the Lord and “numbering our days aright” (Psalm 90:12) and seldom focus on letting ourselves rest by the green pastures God leads us to and allowing Him to restore our souls.

Sure, we give Him our devotional time in the morning (and/or evening), but often during that time we don’t allow Him to restore our souls. We rush through our reading and our praying. Even when God speaks to us and it is a special time, we don’t allow enough time for His voice and the impact of it to fully restore us. We rush on to what’s next.

I’m thinking that living without our soul being restored on a regular basis is setting ourselves up to be knocked down. Our enemy roams around like roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). When our souls are malnourished, we are easily devoured.

In God’s to do list for our day, allowing Him to restore our soul isn’t number 101. I’m thinking it might be in the top three.

Yet we push it down the list so that we can concentrate on getting our work done – our work. His work is restoring our soul so that we can bring glory to Him. A malnourished soul is a soul screaming for God. If it’s been so long since we’ve fed it properly, we may no longer recognition nutrition when we see it.

How does God nourish your soul? Worship music is a key element of a healthy diet for me. God’s telling me that when my soul is weary or sad I need to take in extra nourishment. His Word often nourishes my soul. Biblical fellowship nourishes my soul. Sleep nourishes my soul. Play nourishes my soul.

What we see as frivolous – a waste of time or something just for our enjoyment, God may well see as feeding our soul.

Have you allowed God to nourish your soul today?

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Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.
Psalm 57:1 (NLT)

This verse from today’s Resting at the River’s Edge readings caught my attention. It was the last phrase that made me stop. “I will hide beneath the shadow of Your wings until the danger passes by (emphasis mine).

I wonder –

> how often do you cry to God for help – “Lord, have mercy on me. Lord, I look to You for protection.” –

> then hide yourself in Him

> and then fail to stay there until the danger has passed?

How often do you come out of hiding long before the danger has passed only to get beat up by the storm?

I’m sure there are many times I do that. It’s both a symptom (the coming out of hiding too soon) and a result (getting beat up by the storm) of a nature that hasn’t matured in patience and effective prayer.

What does it mean to “Hide Beneath the Shadow of [God’s] Wings?”
Most typically, it means that we remain engulfed in God because of the continual, effective prayer we offer. I am safe within God because I am not allowing the world and its influences to pull me into temptation. That temptation might be to worry or to respond in an ungodly manner. Either way, I have removed myself from the shelter of God’s protection by stepping into the world’s way of doing things.

It also means following His ways, including His approach to the situation at hand. Knowing what God wants us to do means knowing His Word and knowing how to hear His voice.

If you’re like me, sometimes you cry out for help “Lord, protect me!” and then immediately leave His presence to go about your day. Sometimes I don’t wait to hear what God has to say about it and sometimes I leave my prayer time and immediately attack the situation in worldly ways. (Lord, forgive me.)

So today’s Scripture is a reminder to:

Cry out to God when I am in trouble…

Wait on Him to hear His plans for my deliverance…

Stay under the shelter of His wings until the danger has passed.

I need that reminder every now and then, how about you?

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“Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”
2 Timothy 1:12b

As I read that Scripture today, my mind drifted to the topic of needless worry. Even as I type the phrase, I realize that the word “needless” is…well, needless. It’s not necessary – because it is true of all worry. It’s not like some worry is needed and some is needless. All worry is needless. There is no worry that is justified.

What captured me about this verse is that it gives me both:

  • the reason that worry is never justified, and
  • the method for achieving a “don’t worry” lifestyle

The reason – He is able

“He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”

God is able. Period. He is able to guard whatever we’ve given to him. What value is worry? It doesn’t add one inch to my height (Matthew 6:27) and it doesn’t make me happy or content. More likely the weight of the worry slumps me over, gives me gray hairs and wrinkles, and fills my day with negativity.

You already know lots of verses about God’s faithfulness and capability, but let me remind you of just two:

My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19)

5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  6So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

The method (1) – Entrust your life and life situations to Him

“He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”

What is He able to guard? That which I have entrusted to Him. What are you worred about today? Have you entrusted it to Him? Have you cast your cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7)? Or are you holding them in your heart…so that they leave no room for God? God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18)! Use that perfect love to cast your fears back upon the Lord.

The method (2) – Know God

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced…”

Do you really know God? Do you know Him well enough to be convinced that He is able? Further, do you allow that knowledge to convince you of it? Knowing something is different from being convinced of it. Being convinced of something generally requires either a testing of the knowledge we have to prove it as fact or an overwhelming stack of evidence that make the knowledge irrefutable.

I’ll be honest – the first time I said “yes” to God I didn’t know him very well. I knew the central points of the Gospel:

  • God was a reality (a major stepping stone for me because I had rejected that point most of my life)
  • That the Bible was the Word of God (not a book of Grimm’s fairy tales as I had been referring to it)
  • That I was a sinner (that was a pretty easy one)
  • That Jesus paid the penalty for my sins by dying on the cross
  • That I needed to accept Jesus’ gift of forgiveness of my sins in order to spend eternity in heaven (I didn’t quite know what this meant, but the alternative wasn’t at all appealing)
  • That if I rejected Jesus’ gift I would spend eternity in hell

For about a month before accepting Jesus as my Savior, I was convinced of all of these central points except the first one! I had read enough of the Bible and enough about the Bible that I was convinced it was not a book simply written by men to tell a story we wanted to hear. It was too full of fulfilled prophecies and the realities of life for that. The evidence was stacked up so high that I could no longer deny that Scripture is valid and true. Once I was convinced of that, the points that follow were no-brainers.

Yet still I struggled with that first point – truly believing that there is a God who existed before time began and will exist forever. Such a concept was (and still is) outside my ability to comprehend. It took an experience with God for me to be fully convinced that He existed and that He cared for me. I found myself in serious danger one night – in a situation in which I was totally defenseless. When I emerged from the situation totally unharmed, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had intervened. At that moment I became convinced that He was real and that He had intervened in my life, even if I didn’t understand or acknowledge His existence. (It has since dawned on me that if I could comprehend this God I serve, He wouldn’t be worth serving – duh!)

Since that time God has shown Himself to be real and alive and strong over and over again. Each experience I have with Him enables me to say as Job did “I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) Often when this verse is quoted, the last half of that verse is left off. Let’s not do that! It is an affirmation just as Paul’s affirmation in 2 Timothy. Job knew that no matter what happened on this earth that one day his Redeemer would “win.” Paul says that he is convinced that His Redeemer is able to keep everything that he entrusts to Him – in other words, that Jesus will win over any and all that the devil throws at Him.

Do you know Him well enough to know that He will hold what you have entrusted to Him? I hope so. Yet we all have times when our faith waivers. Whether you’re just getting to know Him or have known Him for years but find your faith waivering, the process of knowing God and becoming convinced of His awesome power are the same: Spend time with Him in many ways every day.

  • Read His word.
  • Talk to Him.
  • Listen for His response.
  • Worship Him.
  • Serve Him.
  • Talk about Him with your friends.

Frends, I challenge you to give God a chance to further convince you of His faithfulness, power and great love by entrusting your biggest concern in life to Him today. Yep, today.

  • Stop for a moment here and consider what is the most pressing issue in your life.
  • Now take a few moments to entrust God with that issue. Go ahead – say it out loud so that you hear yourself giving it to God.
  • Now, rest in your confidence that He is able and begin to look forward to watching God move in that area of your life.

I think I’ll close and do that myself. Let me know how it goes for you!

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One of my favorite movies is Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher, Zoe Saldana, Bernie Mac and Judith Scott. It’s a 2005 remake of the 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy & Sidney Poitier.

In Guess Who, Theresa brings her boyfriend Simon home to meet her parents. Theresa and her parents are black. Theresa neglects to tell her parents that Simon is white, complicating all the relationships. Overriding the issue of race is Theresa’s father’s distrust of Simon. After a dinner ruckus that many consider the funniest part of the movie, Theresa goes to her father to talk. Every time I watch this scene I am stunned by its strength and truth. It is a perfect message for Father’s Day.

Theresa confesses to her father that she is afraid to marry a white man. She loves him and he’s a wonderful guy, but she’s experienced hateful words and looks when they are in public and she is afraid. Here’s the interchange that impacted me so strongly:

Theresa: I need you to tell me that it’s OK to be with him.
Her Father: Baby, me telling you it’s OK is not going to change the world.
Theresa: But it would change my world. Daddy, it’ll change my world if I know you’re behind us.

“But it would change my world.” Somehow, knowing that we have our father’s support, approval and blessing changes our world. Knowing that we have someone behind us gives us courage to face the battles in front of us.

Yesterday I was organizing some old photos and I came across the envelope that holds all the memorabilia associated with my father’s death. I don’t think I’ve looked through it since my dad died a few years ago, and I didn’t go looking for it yesterday – God’s timing sure is interesting, isn’t it? One of the things in the envelope was the printed version of his online guestbook. I read all the entries, and here’s part of my husband’s entry:

“Hey there, old man!” That’s how Pat and I always greeted each other. My father died of cancer when I was 12 years old. For the last 29 years, Pat Parks was as close to being a father to me as anyone. I always felt like he had my back. He wasn’t one to hover over us, but I  always knew that he was watching out for me…I look forward to seeing him again – on the Other Side – and saying, “Hey there, old man!” (emphasis mine)

Dads – let your kids know that you have their backs. Don’t hover, but let them know you are behind them – cheering, encouraging and backing up in a fight when necessary. (And be sure to tell your daughters how smart and beautiful they are!)

The wonderful thing about being a child of God, is that He is a perfect Father. Whether our earthly fathers were supportive or not, we can stand with confidence and face the battles in front of us because He always has our backs. He promised He would. And we can bank on that.

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-30

5bfor he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5b-6

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15Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
Exodus 17:15-16

Many years ago I read a statement that shocked me. Henry Blackaby and Claude King, in their book Experiencing God wrote:

Throughout the Bible God took the initiative to reveal Himself to people by experience. Frequently when God revealed Himself to a person, that person gave God a new name or described Him in a new way…Bible names, titles and descriptions of God indentify how the men and women of the Bible personally came to know God. The Scripture is a record of God’s revelation of Himself to man. Each of the many names for God is a part of that revelation.
Experiencing God, by Henry T. Blackaby and Clalude V. King, Boardman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN; 1994; page 5

Prior to that I had always thought of the Hebrews as learning the names like we learned them, but that is totally incorrect. They identified or created the name by experiencing His nature or character. I went on to write in the margin of the book:

Perhaps having God’s Word makes us overly dependent on learning about God and less dependent on knowing God.

I’m not advocating that we quit reading Scripture and certainly not advocating that we base our doctrine on our experience instead of God’s Word, but I am recognizing the importance of experiencing God and allowing that experience to make His Word come alive.

Exodus 17 provides an example of Moses experiencing God and creating a meaningful name to describe Him. Moses spent the day standing on a hill, holding his staff high over his head while Joshua led the Israelites in battle against the Amalekites.

As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
Exodus 17:11

When Moses’ arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur held them up. At the end of the day, Joshua had won the victory over those who had attacked the Israelites.

Jehovah-Nissi – The Lord, My Banner
It was at that point, when Moses was undoubtedly exhausted from standing and holding his staff high over the battle that was occurring in the valley below that Moses said “The Lord is my Banner.” It must have felt to Moses like he was holding the victory banner – that is, something that symbolized victory – over the battle as it ensued below him. But when the battle was won, I can easily imagine an exhausted Moses realizing that it was God who had won the victory – it was God who had held the victory banner over the Israelites so that they might win against their aggressors, the Amalekites. He knelt down and built an altar and said “Jehovah-Nissi” – The Lord, My Banner.

Moses experienced God’s protection for himself and all the Israelites and created the name Jehovah-Nissi. Have you experienced God’s protection? Perhaps Jehovah-Nissi or The Lord-My Banner doesn’t have personal significance to you. I do hope you have a greater understanding of the experience Moses would have had that caused him to create that name for God. Let me encourage you, however, to consider developing your own names for God. No, I am not suggesting you add to Scripture, but I am suggesting you recognize experiences with God by creating names that honor and glorify Him and His characteristics.

The Lord, My Cast
Many years ago, my husband Phil tore the ligaments in his ankle. Can you say “ouch?” He was in a cast for six weeks. When the cast was removed, he felt a bit nervous as he took his first wobbly steps – unprotected and vulnerable. It was at that time that he created a name for God that has meaning for him – The Lord, My Cast. He recognized that God puts a protection around us that enables us to walk without fear of breaking and without the pain that would otherwise be experienced. When God’s protection is removed, we are vulnerable to any and all outside forces that would seek to harm us.

Whether you know Him as Jehovah-Nissi, The Lord-My Cast, or some name that you have created that declares God’s protection over you, I pray that you will (1) experience God today and (2) know that He is your Protector – your Banner and your Cast.

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This morning as I looked at our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule for December, it finally hit me…2009 is almost over! Last year the Thanksgiving and Christmas season came in with a quiet, holy anticipation. I so enjoyed it. Yes, the season got busy, but because it had been ushered in so majestically (not by me, by the Lord working in my heart) the entire season had a holiness or a Christ-filled sense about it. I’ve been waiting for that holy anticipation this year. It hasn’t happened (yet).

So as I pondered over our reading schedule for the remainder of 2009 (I’ll post it later this week), it finally hit me – the year is coming to a close. The wonder of Christmas hasn’t hit me yet, but the end of the year seems imminent. What a year it has been! Perhaps this pondering is especially appropriate for this Thanksgiving week. I hope you’ll indulge me as I look back at 2009.

To start, I thought I’d go to my pre-2009 blog. I didn’t remember what I had written, so I went looking and found a blog titled Trusting God in 2009. Without meaning to brag, I have to say that I was so blessed by reading the blog. Not because it was well written or incredibly insightful, but because God used it to allow me to see:

  • that what I had written was God working in me to prepare me for the year to come; and
  • that God had enabled me to live out the blog.

The blog was an encouragement for all of us to put our trust in God, not in ourselves or the economy or anything else on this earth, and it ended with Psalm 20, in which David prays for God to meet us in our times of need and to give us the desires of our hearts.

As I read the blog, I was reminded about the times in 2009 when I was enabled to trust God:

  • When my husband had a major heart attack in February, I was able to trust God for Phil’s life and health. I am continually thankful that I am not a widow. And I am incredibly thankful that God enabled me to trust Him throughout the process.
  • When we had little or no income throughout the year, I was able to trust God for His provision and over our finances. Our business has been exceedingly slow this year and Phil missed quite a bit of work with his heart attack. Yet God has somehow made it possible for us to pay our bills. He has a way of stretching money when there is no money to stretch! And He has enabled me to know that He will provide and I truly haven’t worried about the issue.
  • When all the smaller things in life happened throughout the year – you know, all those little issues that work their way in between major challenges – God has been so very faithful and has enabled me to trust Him. Not perfectly all the time, but when looking back over the year, I can give thanks for seeing Him strengthen my faith! He has set my feet upon a rock and I have not been moved. What a great God we serve!

I was also reminded of God’s great goodness to me. He has given me a desire of my heart this year when He enabled me to complete my Master’s degree and be ordained.

Life is busy for me right now, and I’m guessing it’s busy for you. May I encourage you to take time and remember where you were last year at this time and all that God has done for you in the past year? It’s a great way to prepare for Thanksgiving.

As I shared with Phil God’s goodness in preparing me for 2009 by urging me to trust Him, I had tears running down my face.  I was rejoicing at God’s goodness when I said “and I was able to do that! Undoubtedly one of the most difficult years of my life, and as we near the end, I can say ‘I trusted God in 2009!”

Phil looked at me and said “Let’s do it again in 2010!” (I love having a husband who always challenges me to grow in ways that God wants me to grow!)

Will you join us? I know it’s an early invitation, but let’s agree today to trust God in 2010! He’s shown Himself faithful and trustworthy and good. As for me and my house, we’re going to trust the Lord. We hope you’ll join us!

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