Our church has been collectively reading the book of Psalm every month. Five chapters a day and after an entire year, you will have read the entire book 12 times. It’s amazing how feeding yourself at much scripture will do for your spirit. It’s also amazing how one month, a particular chapter will mean more than it do the previous month. So here I am at chapter 91. Please indulge me for a moment?
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.””
Psalm 91:1-16 ESV
Can we just sit here for a minute? Read it again and let the Word soak in. As of this month, I’ve read this chapter 10 times. Each time I throughly enjoyed it. This time it hit me like a tidal wave. Do you see the promises of God for believers? When we dwell and abide with Him, He will deliver, cover, be faithful, guard, rescue, answer, be with, honor, satisfy and save! All of this because we dwell, abide, hold fast, call to Him… know Him. So then, why as a believer, do I walk (slouch) around wondering if God will be faithful? Wondering if He will guide? Oh my heavens!! Have I read this chapter? Have I taken it to heart? I’m not seeing sunshine and roses for the believer all the time. There is evil in the world that is out to get us, but God. But God!! He does all this because we have chosen to claim Him as ours. He then call us His own. Above all things, all worries, all fears, uncertainties. Did you see the last line? All the longings in this life can be satisfied, will only be satisfied by One. To be satisfied in overwhelming grace. Psalm 91. Sit here a while…
Going to the Farmers market is such a joyous experience for me. I love seeing the loaded bins with the freshest of finds. Back in the day, as the saying goes, I spent time in the garden with my dad. We planted and harvested so much that we had our own little farmers market roadside stand to sell our bounty. I’ve become a bit of a produce snob as what I find in the stores barely resemble the treasures we would find every harvest.
From tall corn, to the tangled vines around the soil that led to the biggest pumpkin. We planted it all but there is something about the sweet aroma of green onions takes me back to my childhood. Working in the garden with my dad, pulling onions, potatoes and tomatoes. There’s something grounding about this smell of earth and nature. It’s as if all trials and troubles of the present day are returned to a time where God became real and present to me. The plants, soil and even the earthworms we would dig for fishing calm my soul. The gentle voice of my daddy, guiding me in gardening, pull this, leave that, serve to remind me that my Heavenly Father guides me daily. Go here child, steer clear of this. I see things you cannot. My wisdom is for you -listen, watch and learn. All lessons from the garden. Blessed be the bounty of this harvest.
“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God ’s Decree. “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. “So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines— Monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God.” (Isaiah 55:8-13 MSG)
Did you ever have something you really wanted to do (that was beneficial in every way) but you let a million reasons not to get in your way? Or you kept putting it off till a better time? Yesterday I was visiting with a lady as we were waiting in line for the race to begin. She asked me numerous questions about the training program I had participated in to prepare for this race. At first I thought she was overly curious but as our conversation continued, I realized she was asking the same questions and for each of my responses, she had an excuse why it wouldn’t work for her. My thoughts were confirmed as another lady chimed in with all the benefits of training and the lists of reasons why she couldn’t join in continued.
I thought about her quite a bit over the course of the day. I could tell she wanted something but, she wasn’t ready. It’s ok to get yourself into a place where you are ready, but it’s not ok to procrastinate. I’ve learned though the years, there is never a “right” time to get started…other than now. What is it your heart is leading you to? What is your goal? Is it business or hobby? Take the first step today. It doesn’t even have to be a big step. But one step in the right direction will create momentum. Keep taking that step and before long, the excuses will become recognizable and you can discard them quickly. Press on. Don’t quit. But before those can occur….get started!
This morning while sitting down to read and reflect on the WORD, I must admit that my heart was quite, um, how shall I write this, perturbed. I struggled to focus while reading my daily text, my mind sarcastically replied to the devotional. Yep, I’m getting real here. Not every morning is sunshine and roses. There really are times when’s just don’t feel like reading my Bible. I know it’s best. I know it’s a guide but my heart just isn’t in it. So I prayed. Lord, help me through this, help me glean something today to help my heart and to pass on to others. And then I came across Romans 12:12. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Ok , so I know I have Hope in the person of Jesus. Yes, I should be praying (I just did) what? Patient in tribulation?? I am not patient today, LORD!
So I tried reading in a different version, “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.” Oh, ok. Yep, the same thought. (The Message translation added verses 11 & 13.) Not that I expected differently but you know when you just don’t want to hear what you need to hear? And yet, it keeps repeating? Let me walk through this…
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. -What am I doing daily to stay strong in my faith?
Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. – Here’s the hope part, but note the added part about being servants of Christ who are cheerful? How am I serving?
Don’t quit in hard times – aagh! Here’s the part about being patient! Keep the faith, no matter the circumstance.
pray all the harder- with the same breath as “don’t quit” we are encouraged to pray? Harder? I seem to remember another verse encouraging constant prayer…(Philippians 4:6)
Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. – I loved this part. We are called to serve. Hospitality doesn’t just mean having people over to our homes and laying out a great dinner party. It can mean a cup of kindness to someone in need, an encouraging word to those around us, kind, friendly and generous.
So here’s the gist for today. I sat down with a grumbling, and a not-so-happy spirit. Even though it was a struggle, I read God’s WORD, expectantly hoping. I prayed -didn’t want to but I’m learning that prayer changes things. And it did. My heart is not so grumbly now. And my hope is that these experience that I have, my writing them down and sharing with you, not only give you encouragement and draw you closer to Christ but give you the nudge to share your experiences with Jesus to those around you. Because, really, it’s all about Him and not about me or you.
We recently celebrated our oldest son’s birthday. As is tradition, each child chooses their menu for the occasion. After all these years, our children all choose the same thing. Daddio Chicken (fried chicken), mashed potatoes & gravy, corn and for desert, triple chocolate cake. Now this isn’t a typical cake. Pudding is used to make it extra moist and chocolate chips are added for fun. But what really makes it stand out is the chocolate ganache frosting. Ganache sounds so fancy, but it’s really just heavy cream and chocolate chips. I love how the chips melt into the cream and turn into this heavenly fudge-like frosting. (Hungry?)
I always start off with a double boiler and add the cream to heat. As soon as it begins to warm, in go the chocolate chips. Standing there looking at it, stirring with the spoon, I realized that this process of melting the chips resembles what happens in a believers life when they are immersed by the Spirit of God. It’s a process that changes the two ingredients into something new. The chips begin to melt and when stirred, the cream and the chips eventually become one. When we choose to be added into the family of God, we are covered by the Spirit. As the heat of the pressures of life begin to melt us, we are transformed by the Spirit into a new creation.
Standing at the stove stirring the ganache, I had time to think about the day. Worry usually accompanies my thinking. But on this occasion a verse in Matthew came to mind. In chapter 6, Jesus is reminding believers not to worry. “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Just like the cream and chocolate, when tea is steeping, it infuses the water and changes it. I couldn’t help but think of the Spirit like this. Allowing the Spirit of God to infuse and impart the qualities of Christ in me. Transformed, changed. When we do this, worry has no part. When our attention turns to the power and workings of God, just like the flowers of the field, the birds of the sky, we will find provision. Take your eyes off of the problems, the heat and pressures of this world, and allow God to change you into a new creation, to be used for a purpose for His glory. Just like the decadent frosting was used to complete the cake, allow the decadence of a Spirit-infused life to complete your everyday life. Remove the worry, see what God will do and by all means, go eat a piece of chocolate cake.
““If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Matthew 6:30-34 MSG
I was sitting in a doctors office recently and had a lengthy wait. It was interesting to see how the other people responded. Two older women were haggling out the reasons why they didn’t want to be there, an older man was dozing in a chair. I was thankful to sit for a while with nothing to do. (I’m not always like that, by the way). But there was a young girl waiting so impatiently. At first from her cries and whines I thought she was quite young. Maybe 3 or 4. Then I looked up, definitely older, maybe eight? But truly to old to be pitching the fit she was pitching. Her actions made me think.
There are things that happen for a reason and we understand immediately. Then there are things that happen and the reason is cloudy at best or sometimes we have no clue why is particular event happened in our life. These are the trying times of faith. Events, circumstances, situations that at times that push us, pull us and sometimes can flatten us to the ground. As Believers in the One True God, how are we to respond?
We can stomp our feet, whine, complain in a tantrum of a two year old. Never do that you say? I know that I’ve had my fair share of tantrums in my spirit. No one would know the condition of my heart, right? The whining that went on inside. No one. Until, out of the overflow of the heart, my mouth speaks. Wow! That sidelined me when I realized what I was doing. When the bitterness and frustration finally came through in my speech, God gave grace for me to realize the condition of my heart. Forgiveness, healing and a renewing of my mind that I daily struggle with to keep my heart cleaning my spirit free from grumbling. So that I can freely praise the One who walks with me through each clouded trial.
May I suggest a different approach? Hiding the Word in your heart until it is so powerful that when those toddler-like thoughts try to invade, there is no room for them to stay. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 ESV. This is a daily, usually for me and hour by hour effort. God’s mercies are plentiful in the trials but I must have the Word in my heart so that I have the means when the need comes around. The “means” only comes when I am reading, meditating, memorizing Scripture. So when the “need” rolls around, and it will, I am ready. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 ESV. When my heart is full there will be an overflow. I get to choose what I fill it up with, words of complaint or Words of praise for my God who will walk with me every step of the way. Today, pick a scripture to meditate on. Hide His Word in your heart. Not sure where to start? Psalm’s is full of wonderful words to fill your heart and lift your soul. May your heart overflow with praise and thanksgiving for the One who loves you.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.. Psalm 121:1-2 ESV
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV
There is a story of a man who brought his child to Jesus for healing. (Read about it in Mark 9 ) Jesus asks the man if he believes that He can heal him. The man replies. “I believe.” Yet with the same breath he says, “Help my unbelief.” I love this simple truth. He does believe but at the same time he’s just not sure but wants to be. Graciously Christ shows up and the child is healed
Daily I’m asked to believe in the faithfulness of God. This story in Mark resounded with me because I know that God can provide for my needs but I struggle with the belief part that He will. “Help my unbelief” comes in many forms but most often in my life like the following statements.
“I want to volunteer at the local shelter but I can’t because…”
“I want to give money to the church but I can’t because …”
“I wish I had time to read my Bible but I can’t because…”
“I’d love to believe in an all forgiving God but I can’t because…”
Each one of these statements is true. And each one boils down to a lack of faith. “I want to do these things but what if God doesn’t pull through for me?” We don’t want to say it out loud. Saying that we don’t trust God is so… sacrilege.
That’s the crux. Belief comes in timid yet bold at the same time. Taking the stand to do what is asked of us by God is sometimes a shaky experience. Yet, all the time when we chose to believe, to do the hard thing, that thing we know is right, even when “help my unbelief” is utter with the same breath as “help me God” that’s the time when God’s glory is best on display. God knows our hearts, He knows our fears. He knows there are limitations on what we can perceive. This is why He commands so often to ‘be strong and courageous”. Because really truly It’s not about our limitations. It’s about His unlimited resources. It’s about Him! The redemptive story plays over and over every time we take a step of faith and trust Him.