Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty

shade-tree-summer

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NIV

When I was a little boy, air conditioning was a luxury. Most of the schools didn’t have it and many of our houses were without it. Still it seems like we spent more time outdoors then than we do now. In the summer, we would go to my grandparents quite often. When the time came for homemade ice cream, everyone would gather around, bowls in hand, and head for their favorite shade tree. No matter how hot it was, with ice cream in hand and a shade tree above, the weather was always just right.

That is what I think of when I think of the “shadow of the Almighty”.

Resting within the protection of God’s glory, I find peace from the burdens of the world.

No, my problems don’t always disappear, but the journey is made easier. The valleys aren’t as deep, and the mountain tops seem to last longer and come more often.

Dwelling within God’s shelter means that I trust Him even when the odds makers say I shouldn’t. It means that I choose Him over the achievements I can make on my own. It means that my life is not my own. I am bought with a price, the shed blood of Jesus, and that my home is in Heaven, where awaits for me an eternal blessing, which far outweighs the problems of this world.

My grandparents tree is no longer standing. I have air conditioning now everywhere I go. We seldom make homemade ice cream. In fact, at family gatherings now we rarely go outside. As I reflect on the good memories about that shade tree, however, I realize that the best shade I will ever experience is within the “shadow of the Almighty”.

Why don’t you rest in His shade with me for a while?

Like maybe for an eternity!

Fear Devotional, Part 4

Scared Afraid Man Wrapped in Red Fear Tape

He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:17

There is something about fear and faith working together that intrigues me. It seems, at least in my life, that the times of greatest fear are the times God is calling me to display the greatest faith. I wonder (really I know) God does this so the attention and glory will not be on me, but on Him who can do all things. Somehow, if I was able to easily accomplish what God asked me to do, or even to endure, it wouldn’t make God seem that special; even that important.

Of course, God is special. His glory created the Heavens and the earth. He really doesn’t “need” me for anything. He chooses to use me simply to display His glory and honor. To do this, He must do through me things I couldn’t do apart from Him. So, He calls me to God-sized tasks that require an increase in faith beyond what I have ever experienced previously. It may be to move in some new area of my life or to simply remain patiently as I wait for Him to move again, but both require faith. Each new challenge grows my faith to another level.

What is God calling you to do today that is bigger than you; that in order to accomplish it will require an even greater display of faith than you have ever displayed before?

  • Is it to end a relationship you know is not God-honoring?
  • Is it to begin a new chapter in your career life?
  • Is it to step out in faith into some ministry opportunity?
  • Is it to forgive the person who hurt you the most?
  • Is it to simply trust Him with your finances, your family or your future?

Once you know God is calling you to something and you become afraid, the question then is what are you going to do about it? Will you reside in fear or surrender by faith to God’s plan for your life?

As Henry Blackaby says, “What you do next reveals what you believe about God!”

That choice, my friend, is yours!

The Elasticity of the Heart

Be aware of the elasticity of your heart.

I’ve learned through hard lessons that a stretched heart never returns exactly the same.

The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart.” I think part of the reason is that once the heart stretches, it’s changed. Forever.

Let’s say you had a dream. You pursued it with passion. It didn’t work out. You failed. But, in the process you stretched your heart for something new. You’ll have to find yet another dream to fill the void you created by stretching.

You thought you had the job. You were beginning to get excited about it. You even looked at houses in the area. You didn’t get the job. Your heart stretched. You will have to refuel your passion where you are now or you’ll be miserable. Your heart was stretched.

You felt a call to ministry at some point in your life, but you ignored it. Or something happened. You’re not serving right now and your heart is empty. Your stretched heart has never been the same.

And, it works in other ways too. You looked at things online you shouldn’t have seen. Now you want more. And more. You can’t seem to find satisfaction. You stretched your heart.

Be aware of the elasticity of your heart.

My advice is to find something to fill the new space you have created. You can’t just “get over it”.

You have to fill the void left behind because of the stretching. That may require prayer, discipline, accountability, practice or even counseling. Maybe all of them.

But your stretched heart is too important to ignore.

Above all else…guard your heart“. (Proverbs 4:23)

12 Game-Changing and Tweetable Proverbs

wisdom road sign arrow

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. – Proverbs 15:1

A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. – Proverbs 15:14

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. – Proverbs 15:22

Greed brings grief to the whole family – Proverbs 15:27

Pride goes before destruction – Proverbs 16:18

Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it – Proverbs 16:22

Kind words are like honey— – Proverbs 16:24

Better to be patient than powerful – Proverbs 16:32

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven. – Proverbs 17:9

A cheerful heart is good medicine. – Proverbs 17:22

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. – Proverbs 18:13

Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes. – Proverbs 19:2

Which of these most speak to you? 

What My Ants Taught Me About Following God

We Are The Ants. ant tales

My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. Psalm 119:139

The Psalmist who wrote this verse was excited about God! So excited, in fact, that he apparently wore himself out with service! There were so many enemies of God, that kept the Psalmist so busy! Oh that we would be found so faithful!

That reminds me…

I am marveled by ants. I know what you may be thinking, “What an awkward transition and how can anyone make a Biblical illustration with a bunch of ants?” Bear with me. Ants are fascinating.

Several years ago, when we still lived in the house where we raised our boys, if the weather was nice, I would sit on my back patio, drink my coffee, and read my Bible in the morning. For a period of months, I was captivated with a trail of ants that began on one side of my patio, and ended on the other side…a distance of about 30 feet. The ants marched in a straight line, two ants going one direction, two going the opposite direction. They were spaced no more than an ant’s distance apart from each other. All total, there were hundreds of ants on my patio at any given time.

Now, I have to be honest. When I first discovered there were ants on my patio each morning, I was not very excited. I tried spraying them with ant killer. I tried washing them away with the garden hose. I tried stomping on them. I even got creative by trying to place obstacles in their way. (Perhaps you can tell I was starting to have fun with this project.)

My attempt to rid the patio of ants went on for over a week. Guess what? THE ANTS WERE STILL THERE! Oh, they would disappear for awhile. I was very good at getting rid of them temporarily. I felt successful everytime I tried, but before I knew it, the line of ants was back again…bigger, stronger, more determined than ever. I actually decided I kinda liked those ants. They became my ants!

As I have watched the life of an ant, and spent time in my morning devotion, it occurred to me that just as they are diligent in their labor, so should I be in mine. Just as the Psalmist was diligent in serving God, I should be in my work. He pursued God’s enemies as the ants pursued my patio, as I should pursue God’s call on my life.

If I am called to serve a mighty God, I should serve Him mightily!

Even when I’m distracted.

Even when obstacles get in the way.

Even when the work is harder than I think I can do.

If I am asked to work for a God who is steadfast in His love for me, then I should work for Him steadfastly!

My ants taught me a lot about following God.

What are you learning about God these days?

Do Not Forget the Lord

The Israelites were repeatedly reminded:

“Do not forget the Lord”

Deuteronomy 4:23, 6:12, are 8:11 as a few examples.

It made me think…

We wouldn’t forget the Lord…would we?

Or admit to forgetting the Lord…or our commitment to Him…

We would never, ever, forget our God, would we?

He’s our God…we love Him…

How could we forget the Lord?

But, we are human…

We all like sheep have gone astray…and go astray…

Do you ever worry more than you trust?

Do you ever fail to pray when you are afraid?

Do you ever move to control faster than you move to surrender?

Do you ever take grace for granted when you do wrong?

It almost seems fair to say…even today…

“Don’t forget the Lord…”

Dear Lord, help m today not to forget you!

The Greatest Must Be A Servant

Grandmother & Granddaughter Playing at Home VII

The greatest among you will be your servant. Matthew 23:11

I have fond memories growing up of a sweet, older lady who worked in our church nursery, watching children while the parents went to Sunday School and worship service. She had a quiet disposition. She was easy to love. I remember wanting to hug her every week. She diligently changed diapers, wiped noses, and cleaned up toys after toddlers emptied the toy boxes. She never complained, she just did it. She was loved by all who knew her.

As far as I know, she never had her name announced in a church service. She didn’t serve on committees, have a building, or even a room in the church named after her. From what I knew where she lived and she didn’t appear to have a lot of money. She was just a simple lady, with a lot of class, and a whole lot of love. I have a suspicion that if she had ever had a need, someone in the church would have easily come forward to meet it, because she was a princess among people.

What was special about this lady?

It wasn’t her position. It wasn’t her bank account. It wasn’t her connections. (She probably had more power by popularity, but she wasn’t the type to ever use it.) It wasn’t even her abilities. There were others who might have been more qualified, at least on paper, than she was at her work.

As I reflect on her, I think she was special because of what was in her heart. She treated everyone the same; with love and grace. She had a servant’s heart. It wasn’t what she did. It was who she was. She loved people and so she wanted to give them the best of herself.

When I think of this verse I think of her…and many like her. She was great among mankind, because of her servant’s heart.

What defines your greatness?

Are you great, because of the standards set by society, or are you great because of the love within your heart?

In God’s Kingdom, greatness is never greater than when defined by a servant’s heart.

Does that describe our hearts today?

Whom do you think of when you read this verse?

Good Friday

cross

And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Two scriptures this Friday before Resurrection Sunday! Two scriptures to remind us!

You and I, the children of God, will never be forsaken by our Father God.

That’s why Jesus went to the cross!

While Jesus breathed His last breath; all of Heaven was on edge. Never before had there been such an occasion. The Son, loved and adored by all the angels, but especially by the Father, was about to give up His life.

At the hands of an angry mob, but under the will and direction of the Father, Jesus had been mocked, beaten, bruised, and hung on a cross to die. He had placed upon Him the sin of all the world. The Bible said the wages of sin is death; and Jesus’ death was unlike any other. I have often thought, He was more dead than any man had ever been; since His death was the result of all sins, past and present, which are ever committed.

Perhaps worst of all, God the Father; perfectly Holy, as was the Son; must then forsake His Son. Since God can allow no sin into His presence, and since Jesus had become sin, the Father must forsake the Son. God turned His back on Jesus to avoid looking at His sin.

God did forsake His Son, so that He would never have to forsake you and me.

Through the shed blood of Jesus, and through His bodily resurrection, you and I, by faith, by believing oh Him, receive the eternal, permanent commitment…promise…reminder…of His love and provisions.

He will never forsake us, because Jesus paid the price at the cross!

No matter what you are going through; no matter how tough life seems right now; no matter what your circumstances, no matter what you have done, if you are a follower of Christ; God will never forsake you!

That’s good news today! That’s a Good Friday!

All Creation Bows…When Your Faith Dwindles

faith

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Matthew 8:26

I wonder if Jesus often wondered, in His humanity, why the disciples just didn’t get it.

In fact, I wonder why I don’t at times. Sometimes it seems like an everyday occurrence.

There Jesus was, all along, throughout the storm, and yet I fail to recognize Him. I knew, at least in my heart, that God was still God, that the Holy Spirit was my great comforter and that Jesus was at the right hand of the Father saying, “Dad, I know what he’s going through. Let’s help him one more time.” But in the midst of a tempest…a storm…a trial…it often seemed like He was nowhere around.

Or, are you not like me and my disciple friends? Do you have perfect faith? Strong faith? BIG faith? BIGGER faith? Is your faith “mature”? More “perfect” than mine?

Sure, we should always grow in our faith. And, it is trials and storms of life that God uses so often to increase our dependency on Him; to teach us who God is and who we are not. But you and I, if we are honest, know that our faith often dwindles. We often try to take on the storms with our own abilities. It may be like flying a paper airplane in a hurricane, but we will put our all into being independent. As dumb as that seems in reality.

And then our plane crashes…

You’ve been there.

Suddenly, we have nowhere else to turn and we call upon the name of the Lord!
Redemption comes! Then comes the real strength and power! Then comes the real solution!

Our faith…little as it may be…calls upon Jesus…and all Creation bows at His name!

When is the last time you knew God to be God…no questions asked?

Are You a Christian Struggling with Guilt?

girl past

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” John 3:17 NLT

Are you a believer, but you can’t seem to shake the feeling of guilt? You know God saved you, but you still feel so much guilt from your past?

I need to assure you today that, in my understanding of Scripture, guilt does not come from God. The devil often uses guilt to keep us from doing the will of God and growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Guilt has to do with condemnation. You feel the “weight” or “sentence” of your sin. But, didn’t Christ die for that condemnation?

The next verse after John 3:16, the famous and familiar verse, reminds us that God sent Jesus to save, not to condemn it. Romans 8:1 says there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The very definition of guilt has to do with remorse for having done something wrong. Furthermore, guilt is being responsible for an offense. A Christian’s sins have been paid for on the Cross. One of the very definitions of guilt is “guilty conduct; sin”.

The sin debt of any believer is heavy, but every bad offense we have ever committed has been covered over by the grace of Jesus Christ. We still sin, but Jesus doesn’t get back on the Cross. His death was sufficient for all our sins. There is “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand, you may feel sorry for your sins and ask God for forgiveness. That’s what we call repentance, but God’s motivating factor in obedience is love, not guilt. God guides His children to obey Him with a loving hand. Sometimes God’s love for us involves discipline. Many times we suffer the consequences of our sins. God will lead us to follow Him exclusively, but He will do it with love, not with guilt.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring condemnation. He came to bring salvation to all who would believe in Him.

Thank God today that there is no guilt for the person who knows, loves and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior.