Posts Tagged “Psalms”

1Have 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.
2I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.
Psalm 57:1-2 (NLT)

There are times when the only thing that brings relief is crying out to God – “Have mercy, oh God!” Times when the things of this world seem to rage against us with no relief. Whether it’s mounting bills or serious persecution, we all have places and times in our lives when we cry out to God for His mercy, when we look to Him for protection.

If we’re smart (and I’m not always smart), we run to Him sooner rather than later. And if we’re really smart, after running to Him, we hide in Him until the danger passes. I was so struck by this second phrase of verse 1 – “I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.” I’m afraid my tendency is to cry out to God, then go out to face my battles. How foolish of me! It’s like asking for an umbrella, being given one, then dropping it on the sidewalk as I run into the raging storm.

Running to God is great, but remaining in Him throughout the battle is where our protection and victory lie. God will fulfill his purposes for you if you go beyond crying out to Him. Cry out, then wait and hide. Wait for your answer. Wait for His strength. Wait for His timing. That’s where His Spirit is moving. That’s where His protection is. Stay in it.

Easy enough for me to say, right? How do you stay hidden in God when you must face the world? Well, books and books have been written about that subject, but I find three basics in these verses:

  1. Cry out to God again and again and again. And again. John Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership says this: “What a person does on a disciplined, consistent basis gets him ready, no matter what the goal.” Be disciplined and consistent about crying out to God. Find triggers that remind you to cry out to Him – every time you reach for your coffee cup, every time you switch tasks, or every time you answer the phone, for example. Learn to cry out to God regularly throughout the day. The more you cry out, the more you will sense His response.
  2. Decide to stay in His peace – then do it. Period. “I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings” the psalmist wrote. It is much easier to allow ourselves to slip into worry, criticism or frustration. Don’t do it. Purpose in your heart that when you find God’s peace you will stay there. That means rejecting the temptation to leave it. When tempted to worry, pull your mind back to God. Cry out to Him again. Worship Him. Breathe deeply and let His presence and His peace fill you. It all starts with the decision – the “I will” – to remain in Him instead of letting your emotions rule you.
  3. Speak spiritual truths to yourself. The Psalmist reassured himself that “God will fulfill His purpose for me.” Make that your mantra. Or take a verse that God has highlighted to you and make that your mantra.

Three steps to remaining in the presence of God? Well, yes and no. Yes, I am fully confident that following these three simple steps will keep you in God’s presence. And no, it’s not that simple. Because God is both simple and complex. His Gospel is simple enough for a child to understand yet complex enough that we can spend all our lives studying it without having plumbed the depths of His grace and mercy. So start with these steps and trust that God will reveal more as you hide in Him.

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Make God’s Word the cornerstone of your summer reading schedule. Join us as we read through a few chapters of the Bible each day. Use our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules to stay on track with us. If you fall behind – don’t worry about it! Just keep reading. I am praying that God will reveal Himself to you as you read each chapter. Ask Him to and He will.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the July/August bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the July/August 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The July Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

I hope you’ll join us! I love the way God’s Word seems to speak to my specific situations as I read through His Word. I know He’ll do that for you, too. I’d love to hear about it. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for July is below.

July 2013 RARE Reading Schedule JPG

 

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Phil and I have been taking ballroom dancing lessons for about four months. Tonight is our first recital! Yes, I thought only children had dance recitals. Guess I was wrong about that. We’ll be dancing the rhumba and the waltz. Earlier this week I wrote about lessons from the battlefield and how they can be applied to our spiritual life. In honor of our dance recital tonight, I thought I’d share some lessons from the ballroom.

There are a few lessons our instructor, Michael, has been working on with us every single week. We’ve taken about twelve lessons and I don’t think a week’s gone by that he hasn’t mentioned all three of these things. And like our battlefield lessons, I find them applicable to my spiritual life. In fact, since I have someone harping on me about these lessons each week and we practice a couple of other times a week, these lessons are in the front of my mind and are serving as reminders of how I ought to live.

Lesson 1: Stand Tall

When you stand tall you command authority. You think and act differently.

Do you know who you are in Christ? We are many things, but I like the description in 1 Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

We are chosen by God, he has made us a part of His royal priesthood, and he’s given us a calling. What a privileged position we hold! Cherished by the creator of the universe! Knowing that ought to make us stand tall. There’s no slouching from insecurity in the King’s Kingdom. Yet when we are tempted to be downhearted, we can remember King David’s words:

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

We may be as Paul described – hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but we are not crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV). Why? Because God is the lifter of our head. He is the one who holds our head high. I ought to be living as that royal priesthood, as a person for God’s own possession.

A person who lives like that doesn’t slouch. That person has a regalness about them. Not an arrogance, but a regalness.

And it’s not all about how we walk, there is a spiritual application of this that goes deeper. Spiritually, we ought to be standing up. When we face the enemy, we’re not to be worn down, defeated, expecting to lose, afraid of being seen.

No, we should be standing tall in confidence and command because we are God’s holy nation, we are His ambassador. We’ve been called out of darkness, given the assignment of proclaiming His excellencies, His supremacy, and His great love.

We ought to stand tall. Because God is the lifter of our heads.

Lesson 2: Follow the Leader

Oh, I’m not always good at this one. Phil lifts his arm indicating that I’m supposed to go under it for an underarm turn and I just keep dancing my little box step. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t recognize his lead. I just didn’t feel like doing it. I needed a break from the last step we did.

Except for the fact that sometimes Phil’s leads are a bit indefinite and Gods leads are always perfect, the rest is about the same. Sometimes I miss the lead. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to stay in my routine. I wasn’t paying attention to Him and missed the lead. Or I wanted to take a break from the last battle he put me in.

I did a search in the Bible on the phrase “Follow me.” One of the things that jumped out at me was Jesus’ calling his Disciples. He met Peter and said “Follow me.” He met Matthew and said “Follow me.”

He said this as he called another disciple:

21  Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”    
22  But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Matthew 8:21-22 (NIV)

And His message was the same to the rich young ruler:

21  Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Matthew 19:21 (NKJV)

Follow me. That’s what God says.

If we move this command into the battlefield, there’s a good reason to follow Him. There’s a good reason not to take the lead away from Him – because it is His battle to win, not ours.

David knew this when he fought Goliath. He met Goliath with these words

“Today, all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:47 (NIV)

When we stop following, we put the battle into our own hands. When we stop following, we take the plan for the day and put it into our own hands. It doesn’t belong in our hands. It belongs in the Lord’s hands and He will give the victory

Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork

You know, I want it to be all about the footwork. Because I can get the footwork down. Slow, quick, quick. Slow, quick, quick. The footwork is the easy part. Michael is always telling us that the reason we take lessons isn’t to learn the footwork, we could get that from a video. The reason we take lessons is to learn style – to put the polish on the footwork.

What he’s talking about is adding passion to dance. Putting our feet in the right place at the right time is just a small part of dancing. An important one, but still a small one.

When we translate that into our walk with the Lord, we say that it’s not all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are important – reading our Bibles daily, praying, serving, being thankful, worshipping, tithing, and many other things – they’re the fundamentals – they’re getting our feet in the right place at the right time. They’re very important, but it’s not all about the footwork – it’s not all about the fundamentals. It’s about the passion of the dance – it’s loving the Lord with our whole heart. It’s serving Him whole heartedly.

King David gave this advice to his son Solomon as he was handing over the plans for building the Lord’s temple:

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.
1 Chronicles 28:9a (NLT)

That’s more than footwork. Learn to know your God intimately.

Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

We’re taking lessons because we want to know how to dance well. I’m shocked that we’ve spent the bulk of our lessons learning one dance. I would have guessed we could learn the rhumba in about three weeks. Yet here we are at week ten and we’re still learning the rhumba. The more we practice, the better we get.

The same is true in our spiritual life. Somehow we have the expectation that we ought to be good at it immediately. After all, we love the Lord – shouldn’t the rest come naturally. Uh – no. It didn’t for the Apostle Paul:

15I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22I love God’s law with all my heart. 23But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
Romans 7:15-23 (NLT)

Yes, I don’t really understand it – I want my feet and my body to go one direction, but they repeatedly go the other way. Well, on the dance floor, it’s not that big a deal. But in life, much more so. Yet living the life God wants us to live doesn’t come naturally. Sinning comes naturally. Living in holiness takes practice and requires listening to the Holy Spirit. Don’t be disheartened when you don’t get it right the first time. Keep practicing!

4 Lessons from the Ballroom:

Lesson 1: Stand Tall
Lesson 2: Follow the Leader
Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork
Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

Let me encourage you, friends, to live out my ballroom lessons in your spiritual life. God is worth it.

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There are many illustrations in the Bible about how we are soldiers for the Lord, a part of His army. And while it’s true that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness, there are lessons we can learn from earthly battlefields. A friend recently pointed me toward a Facebook page for the military unit her son is a part of.

The world is a different place these days. I didn’t know that military units have their own Facebook pages! I was quite surprised to learn that, but in today’s world, Facebook is the way the world communicates and it can be a wonderful tool for staying in touch. In a recent post, the captain of the unit included as part of his update information about what’s called an “After Action Report” or AAR. “If done properly,” the Captain wrote, “the After Action Reports are not for the thin-skinned, but it is a big part of how we get better, and why our Army is so strong.” He then shared some of the points from a recent evaluation. As I read the update, I was struck at the value the process and his advice has for us as Christians seeking to serve our King. Hence, our lessons from the battlefield.

Let me say here that I am NOT in any way meaning to devalue what the men and women in our military are doing. Their battlefield is much more stressful and much more dangerous than any I’m in. Rather, it’s my desire to honor them as I take from their lessons and seek to learn from them.

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve

Our first lesson comes from the activity itself – we can’t improve what we don’t evaluate. In the Facebook post, the Captain wrote this: “days seem to be endless, yet gone in a flash….It’s been a slow blur.”

Well, I’m not on the battlefield, but I know sometimes – lots of times, actually – my life feels like that. Will this day never end? And then “How can it possibly be Friday again?” Days seem endless, yet they’re gone in a flash.

If we don’t purposefully step back and evaluate our lives, we’ll find that more and more days have gone by without making steps toward improvement, steps toward growth, steps toward becoming the person God wants us to be.

One of the times we do that is during communion. Paul wrote this about communion:

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

God wants us to examine ourselves, to watch our behavior, to not take what Jesus did for us lightly.

King David knew that it’s not only self-examination that’s needed. We too easily deceive ourselves. King David asked the Lord to examine him:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

If we’re to become more like Christ, we must examine ourselves and ask God to examine us.

Lesson 2: Stay Sharp

The Captain wrote this in his After Action Report: “How do we keep Soldiers and Leaders focused? How do we keep them from becoming complacent? Although we haven’t been doing this a long time, Soldiers get tired.  How do we prevent the “Groundhog Day” mentality from setting in, where every day or mission looks like the one before?  Or the dangerous mindset that occurs prior to a mission when Soldiers think that nothing has happened, so therefore nothing will happen.  This is when I worry about Soldiers taking shortcuts and being complacent.  Complacency kills, bottom line.”

It’s not so different in our spiritual life. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian, we can still fall. Scripture warns us:

8Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

We’re to stay alert. Satan prowls around looking for who is most vulnerable, easiest to attack and kill. Even Jesus wasn’t immune to attacks by Satan. In the desert, satan tempted Him three times. Jesus successfully defeated satan each time, and then Scripture says this:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13 (NIV)

Satan is looking for an opportune time to attack us. Our responsibility is to stay sharp.

Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander

Our military isn’t focused on just doing their job. They’re focused on exceeding the expectations of their commanding officers.

Do we have the same commitment to our Commanding Officer? Do we have the same commitment to our King?

Paul encouraged the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:1

And to the Philippians he wrote:

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. 
Philippians 1:27

Is our focus on living a life worthy of the One who gave His life for us? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who created the universe? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who lives us so, the One who is jealous for us and whose love is fierce and strong?

Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Numbering our days aright means first remembering each morning that our time belongs to God. To squander it is to squander God’s resources. At breakfast last week my husband said “everything we have is stewardship” Are we using what we have in the way God wants us to use it? Phil was talking about cars and money. It also applies to time. Time, money, cars, talent, our home and food – they’re all included as part of the resources we’re to allocate properly. Lord, help us get better at it!

Four Lessons from the battlefield:

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve
Lesson 2: Stay Sharp
Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander
Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

They’re lessons meant to keep our troops sharp, focused, the best. They’re lessons we would do well to implement in our lives and our walk with the Lord.

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We’ve had extraordinarily high expenses this year. Thousands of dollars in car repairs. Unexpected medical bills.

We’ve had extraordinarily low income this year. Being self-employed means fluctuating income, but this year there’s been no fluctuation, it’s been consistently down.

We’ve had extraordinary pulls on our time and lifestyle this year. We’ve had many requirements that have eaten our time and gas money to provide unexpected support. We took a business trip (quite an expensive business trip) and got exceedingly sick essentially losing more than half of the benefit of the trip.

I’m not complaining. For the first five months, I just considered it life. A bit unusual life, perhaps, but life none-the-less. This past month I’ve wondered if there’s an extraordinary spiritual component to it. Are we being targeted by the enemy? I’m not one to blame every bad thing that happens on the enemy working against me. Lots of bad things are simply a result of living in a fallen world and/or my own bad or sinful choices. But when extraordinary things happen, I look to the spiritual realm. Yesterday, when yet another extraordinary expense hit shortly after news of continued low income, I began to more seriously consider a spiritual element. (OK, some would say I’m coming to the party a bit late. That’s probably true.)

But last night I began asking “What’s happening, Lord?” And even more to the point “How should I be responding to these issues, Lord?” I’m already remaining positive, hopeful and trusting. OK, I admit it, worry is beginning to creep in (which, of course, is the antithesis of trusting). Still, I know that I am a blessed woman. An extraordinarily blessed woman.

Well, I don’t have an answer to my questions yet. But this morning’s Scripture came at just the right time. I love serving a “just at the right time” God.

1God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Psalm 46:1-3 (NLT)

I am so encouraged.

God is ALWAYS ready to help. Lord, I need your help! Come quickly.

So we won’t fear – I WON’T FEAR – when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

And then I love the defiant – confidently defiant – tone of verse 3:

Let the oceans roar and foam – because God is my refuge and strength; because MY God is always ready to help.

Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge – because God is my refuge and strength; because MY God is always ready to help.

Lord, help me.

Afterward:
Of course my husband is in the midst of all this with me. Last night was the first time we talked about this year’s occurrences having a spiritual source. This morning he saw that I was a bit off-kilter and we prayed. (I thank and praise God for my husband.)

As I just finished writing this blog – right up to the line “Lord, help me” – he came down from getting ready for the day in our bedroom upstairs. Always quick to share the goodness of God with him, I said “Want to know what my first verses were today?” I then read Psalm 46:1-3 to him.

Then he said “Want to know what my last verses were ? The last thing I heard on TV before I came downstairs was this:

“Don’t you worry about a thing. Cause every little thing is gonna be all right.”

I guess God speaks through Bob Marley, too. (No, I’m not endorsing his life or life message. God speaks through the ungodly.) Yes, every little thing is gonna be all right. Enjoy!

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“…all who believe in him are made right with God.”
Romans 10:4b

As I read this passage morning, I was struck by the phrase “made right with God.” It seemed to stir an old memory that is only half there of my mom telling me to “make it right.” It seems that was something she would say after we kids got into an argument. As I said, it’s only what I call a “half memory” – I don’t know if it really happened, but there’s something stirring in my mind.

We would go from fussing and fighting about something to saying we were sorry and hugging each other. Now I’m sure that good feelings didn’t abound at the time, but there was a degree to which we were reconciled.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, God brings complete, full and perfect reconciliation between us and Him. He doesn’t harbor those residual ill feelings we had as children toward our siblings (or we have as adult toward those who offend us). No, he promises that He will “never again remember [our] sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34) “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12, NLT)

This is not a small thing. We have been made right with God. The Creator of the Universe whose majesty surpasses anything we can imagine, whose justice is perfect and whose righteousness is a standard that none of us can come close to meeting has made us right with Himself.

That reconciliation is made possible through our faith in Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross for us. It’s not made possible simply by believing in God. Let’s look at the verses that lead up to our key verse:

1Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
Romans 10:1-4 (NLT)

Paul makes it clear that one can have great zeal for God without knowing Christ. He calls it “misdirected zeal.” He makes it clear that we can pursue God in our own way – cling to the way that we want to be forgiven instead of accepting God’s way – and that it doesn’t lead to our salvation. Accepting God’s way leads to salvation. God’s way is believing and embracing what Christ has already accomplished – accepting His free gift, His substitionary death as fulfilling the payment or penalty required for our sin.

When we do that, we “who believe in Him are made right with God.”
Thank You, Lord. For making me right with You!

The Apostle Paul wanted to make sure everyone understood what he meant by that first paragraphs in Romans 10. A few sentences later he wrote this:

9If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

Have you been made right with God? If not, I urge you to take Paul’s advice – confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Believe it. Make Jesus the Lord of your life. Tell someone about it. Leave a comment on this post or email me – sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com.

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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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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Join us as we read through God’s Word a few chapters each day. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track with us…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. Before you begin reading, ask God to reveal Himself to you – He promises that He will.  God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. The “Additional Readings” in column 3 put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs as you read. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

I hope you’ll join us in Resting at the River’s Edge, and that you’ll email me, telling me how it’s going. You can also leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today? Share it with us so that we might also know Him better.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for June is below.

Resting at the River's Edge - Reading through the Bible in 2 years - June 2013 Schedule

 

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartWe’ve been studying about a thankful heart over the past few weeks. It has helped me through some tough weeks. In the midst of a bad case of stomach flu (or food poisoning, we’re not actually sure which it was) while travelling, I laid on my bed in the hotel room restless and nauseous. I was not a happy camper. Needless to say, my mind wasn’t working any better than other parts of my body. I asked Phil to read Scripture to me. His voice was either too loud or too soft. There seemed to be no perfect volume. His voice, a sound that usually has a very calming effect on me, somehow added to my nausea. Finally, I put my hand up to quiet him and I tried to quote Psalm 92:1-2.

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

I botched the verse pretty badly. As I recall, it took me quite a while to come up with the first three words. But those three words have become a stronghold for me: “It is good.” When my brain is fried from illness, emotional upheaval or just plain exhaustion, I can remember those three words. And then they start the memory ball rolling and I can come up with the next three words: “It is good to give thanks.” And then the next three words: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” That’s my stronghold. “Lord, I give You thanks.”

I don’t think I ever got the words right that night, but in my jumbled mind, I was able to recall the overall theme and it began to bring peace. Healing didn’t come for another day or so, but that peace was followed by faith. As I gave thanks for God’s protection and healing, a confidence began to replace the defeat that my body and spirit was experiencing.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus said. “Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1, NLT)

Giving thanks changes the environment. It brings peace in the midst of chaos. It brings calm in the midst of the storm. That peace and calm are the precursor to a slowly building confidence. That confidence – well, it’s just another word for faith.

Phil was sick the few days before I was. One of the things he said to me describes the “before thanksgiving environment.” “When I’m this sick, it’s hard for me to believe I’ll ever be healthy again.” He had it much worse than me. I understood what he meant. When we look at the circumstances, it can be very hard to believe anything will change. And when we’re physically sick, it can be very hard to see past our circumstances. It can be very hard to believe that God will win.

Thanksgiving changes the environment. It reminds us of what God has done in the past. It reminds us of where our hope lies. It reminds us that with God, all things are possible. And that changes the environment. Peace and calm replace chaos and anxiety. Confidence replaces doubt. Faith grows.

The thankful heart creates the environment needed for the faith-filled heart to grow. Let me encourage you once again – be intentional about giving thanks. Even when (or perhaps especially when) everything around you is in chaos. Giving thanks grows your faith. And faith is a good thing.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartMake thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High…But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:14, 23 (NLT)

We’ve spent several weeks on the topic of giving thanks, and I hope you are all working on your thanksgiving muscle. Yet I would be remiss to leave the subject without recognizing that there are times when it’s difficult to give thanks.

There are times in our lives when our bodies, spirits and/or hearts are broken. There are times when we feel like God is very far away. At those times, it is difficult to give thanks. Yet still, the commands of Scripture remain that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s at times like this that we need the blessings that come with thanksgiving. Yet making those thanksgivings is a challenge. That’s when we truly learn to make thankfulness our sacrifice to God. It is a sacrifice because we do it out of obedience and out of a long history of knowing God’s goodness, even if we’re not able to feel that goodness at any given moment.

So I’ve gone to Scripture recently. Because I believe that if God tells me to “give thanks in all circumstances,” He will also teach me how to do so. I’ve looked up all the verses that say “give thanks” and believe I’ve found a secret in them – God’s secret about how to be thankful, even in those times when thankfulness seems hard.

There are 33 verses in the Bible that command us to “give thanks.” Those 33 verses identify 4 things that help us to be thankful. Two of those things are reasons to be thankful. The other two things are actions that help us to be thankful. So Scriptures gives us both reasons why we can be thankful and things we can do to help us to be thankful. We’re going to look at those 4 things.

Psalm 136, verses 1 through 3 give us the reasons to be thankful:

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3

The two reasons are right there in verse 1 — Because God is good and because His love endures forever.

“God’s love endures forever.” Almost half of the Scriptures that command us to “give thanks” tell us to do so because God’s love endures forever.

No matter what is happening to you today, no matter what your circumstances are you can know that God loves you more than you can ever imagine. He loves you with an everlasting love and His love endures forever. That word “forever” includes all circumstances and is for all times.

He loved you so much that He willingly sent His Son, Jesus Christ to live on earth as a man and then to die on the cross so that the penalty for your sins could be paid. Scripture says that we are all sinners; that we have all asserted our independence from God, gone our own way. The Bible calls that sin. And Scripture is clear that the penalty for sin is death. But the Gospel message is that God offers us the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus chose to die in your place and in my place so that we can live for eternity with God. That’s how much God loves us. That’s how much He loves you.

My favorite verse in Scripture is found in Romans 5:8. It says that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That’s a love that endures forever.

God’s love is the same yesterday, today and forever. It endures forever. And that’s something that you can be thankful for every day of your life. No matter what your circumstances are, no matter how people around you are treating you, no matter how cranky you feel, God still loves you.

When we turn our attention away from the things that have gone wrong in our world and instead think about or meditate on God’s love for us, God changes our perspective and enables us to be thankful.

The second reason Psalm 136:1 gives for giving thanks is a simple one: because God is good. When I think about how powerful God is, how He spoke the world into existence, how the winds and storm obey Him, I am very thankful that He is a good God.

God describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. Listen to this:

6And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
Exodus 34:6-7

That’s the goodness of God – compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving sin. I can be thankful for a God that is so good.

Now those of you who know Scripture, know that I didn’t finish God’s description of himself. He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, and he does forgive sin.

But the verse goes on to say that the does not leave the guilty unpunished. A good God cannot overlook sin, and we wouldn’t want him to. God’s goodness requires justice. That means that the price or penalty must be paid for our sins. But His goodness also provided a way for that justice to be served. He sent His own son to die for our sins so that we might share eternal life with Him. God has already told us that when he judges sin, the penalty for it will be death. But He’s also already paid that penalty through the death of Jesus. When we accept Jesus into our heart and make him Lord of our lives, God no longer sees our sin. He sees that Jesus has already paid the penalty for it. That’s something to be thankful for.

I wrote earlier that Scripture identifies 4 things that help us to be thankful. The first two are reasons we have to be thankful: Because God’s love endures forever, and because He is good. Scripture also gives us two actions or assignments that help us to be thankful.

The first one is found in Psalm 100, verses 4:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

“Give thanks to God and praise His name.” We are to praise God. It’s pretty hard to praise God without developing a thankful heart. It’s hard to praise him and stay in a bad mood. Even when circumstances are difficult around us, we can choose to praise God. When we do that, we soon find that our spirits rise and we’re no longer looking at the difficulties around us, but at the goodness of God. Even when things seem to be at their worst, there are things we can praise God for.

We can praise Him for his goodness and for his never-ending love. We can praise him for his mercy and for sending Jesus. We can praise him for his presence in our lives. We can praise him for the wonders of His creation. We can praise him for giving us His Word to read. We can praise him for the peace and comfort He gives us.

The second action I see tied to giving thanks is related to praise. We can find it in 1 Chronicles 16:8-9:

8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
1 Chronicles 16:8-9

Scripture tells to “Tell of God’s wonderful acts.” When it’s hard to be thankful, remembering the good things God has done and telling others about them changes our perspective and produces a thankful heart in us. Do you know God as your savior? Tell others about Him! Has he blessed your life? Tell others about it. We looked at the first three verses Psalm 136 earlier. If you are struggling to give thanks, I encourage you to read the entire psalm. It doesn’t tell us to proclaim the mighty deeds of God, it simply does it. Here are just a few of the things the psalm says to give thanks for:

Give thanks…

to him who alone does great wonders, (v4)
who by his understanding made the heavens, (v5)
who spread out the earth upon the waters, (v6)
who made the great lights — the sun to govern the day, the moon and stars to govern the night; (v7-9)
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder (v13)
to him who led his people through the desert, (v16)
to the One who remembered us in our low estate (v23)
and freed us from our enemies, (v24)
and who gives food to every creature. (v25)

The Psalmist is proclaiming the deeds of God. If you were to write your own psalm, how would it read? Mine would read something like this:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.
He saved me when I was running from Him
He set my feet on a solid rock, He removed my need for striving
He blessed me with a wonderful husband
He leads me in adventures of ministry, He gives me joy in serving Him
He forgives my sins
He teaches me the mysteries of life with Him
He restores my soul and He will give me the crown of life

I challenge you, the next time it’s hard for you make thanksgiving your sacrifice, write your own Psalm 136. You will find that God’s goodness will overwhelm your heart; that His goodness is bigger and better than everything that is pulling you down. Your circumstances may not change, but your heart and your spirit will.

You’ve all heard of Hellen Keller. She was born in 1880 unable to hear or see. The circumstances of her life were pretty bad. Yet she found things to thank God for every day. Listen to this quote from her:

“For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to—a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”

If you know Jesus Christ as your savior, you can say that same prayer. “Thank you, God, for giving me knowledge of Your works. Thank you for bringing to my darkness the lamp of faith. Thank you, Lord, beyond measure, for the promise of eternal life with you.”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can do that now. If you have never said “Yes” to God, you are headed toward an eternity without Him – an eternity in hell, separated from God’s goodness and love. But that’s not what God wants. He loves you, and His love endures forever. He has made a way for you to spend forever with Him in heaven. That way is by asking Him to forgive your sins and to be Lord of your life. It’s His deepest desire for you.

You might pray a prayer something like this one:

Father in heaven, thank you for making a way for me to spend eternity with you. Forgive me, Lord for going my own way. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross as payment for my sins. Lord Jesus, come into my life. Teach me what it means to live my life for you. And Father, thank you for the promise of spending eternity in heaven with you. Thank you that you are good and that your love endures forever. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen

If you’ve prayed that prayer, you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. You have more to be thankful thank you ever have before.

When you find yourself in times where thanksgiving is hard, make it your sacrifice to the Lord. Turn to Him, remember His goodness, and give thanks.

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