Sunday, August 25, 2013

Reputation on the Line

"But You, O LORD, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them." Psalm 41:10

David is under great stress. The warfare seems insurmountable. His enemies are persecuting him with their words and lies. His reputation seems on the line. They are out to destroy him, but God...

God is his Vindicator. The LORD is the One who "delivers him in times of trouble" (vs. 1). "The LORD will protect him and preserve his life" (vs. 2). The LORD "will bless him...and not surrender him to the desire of his foes" (vs. 3). David first recognizes who God is and reminds himself of God's promises.

David goes on in his prayer to admit his own sin to God and tell Him about the things happening to cause him such unrest, all the while asking for healing. He explains that his enemies wish him harm, speak falsely about him and spread rumors. Even his close, trusted friend whom he fellowshipped and shared meals with has "lifted up his heel against" him (vs. 9). Sounds like he's been beat up one side, and down the other, but God...

God is his safe place. The One he runs to in times of trouble. He pleads with God, "have mercy on me" (vs. 10) for his foes have been unmerciful. He prays, "raise me up" and be the lifter of my head. The enemy wants him to believe his lies, but David knows better! He can hold his head up because he and God know they are not true. He may feel like his reputation is at stake, but instead of justifying himself to those that are against him, he turns to God and trusts Him to secure his reputation. He is the only One who can right the wrongs.

David also asks for God's mercy so "that [he] may repay them" (vs. 4). He asks the LORD for opportunity to show his enemies that he is walking in forgiveness and harbouring no malice toward them. He desires to repay the evil with good. David is a man who strives to live life with integrity, even in the midst of strong adversity.

When I am thought or spoken of poorly, I have learned to first check my heart. I ask God to examine it and show me "if there is any offensive way in me" (Psalm 139:24). I ask Him to reveal to me if I've done something wrong, so I can quickly make it right. If I find that my heart is clean and my motives were pure, I forgive the one(s) speaking against me and take my situation to the LORD, asking Him to be my Vindicator and the healer of my hurting heart. He is my Defender, the One who clears my name and upholds my reputation. My response to adversity should always be integrity.

Father, thank You for the peace that walking with integrity brings. Thank You that even though we are sometimes wronged, You have the power to make things right. Thank You Lord that we don't have to please the world; we need only live to please You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tell Your God Stories

"'Return home and tell how much God has done for you.' So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him." Luke 8:39

God wants the stories of His goodness and faithfulness told. I know full well that He did not set me free from sin and shame for me to keep my mouth closed. He wants me to use my voice! So it was for the demon-possessed man as well.

In this parable, Jesus is met on the shore of Gerasenes by a man who was possessed with demons. When Jesus speaks to him, the demons recognize Him as the Son of the Most High God, and panic. They ask to be driven into a herd of nearby pigs instead of the Abyss. Jesus agrees and gives the command. The spirits come out of the man and go into the pigs, who rush down into a steep lake and drown. The man is restored to sound mind and is found sitting at Jesus' feet. 

Those who watched this story unfold ran off to report it to the townspeople, announcing that the man had been cured. When they came to see the man for themselves they trembled with fear and asked Jesus to leave. The man who was healed wanted to go with Jesus, but He commanded instead, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." In other words, go and tell your God story!

Jesus, thank You for the God stories You have created in my life. I pray that You would use them for Your glory and to point others to the hope and freedom that are only found in You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

When God Moves

"I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD."
Psalm 40:1-3

I love this passage! In 2006 it became the life verse for our marriage after God had done a mighty work in our lives. It was used as the key scripture for our vow renewal ceremony one beautiful October morning that year as we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.

As the passage starts out in verse 1, David declares that he has waited patiently for the LORD. If I could change just one word to make it most accurate to fit my own story, it would be that one. Though we waited and worked through things the better part of those first fifteen years together with fortitude and perseverance, I would say it was not always with calm and without complaint. We were not always super patient. Nonetheless, we hoped and looked to God knowing He was the only One who had the power to deliver and heal. Like David, we expected relief to come from God, and God alone. We have come to believe that when waiting on God, though we may wait long, we will not wait in vain.

By verse 2, though there is no indication as to how much time has physically passed, God moves. He lifts David from "the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire," and all that represented for him. One moment his soul is downcast and he's crying out to the LORD, and in the next, God moves and rescues His child and his hope turns heavenward. Not only is he rescued, he's given firm footing; a solid foundation to stand on. Likewise, God moved in our marriage by bringing healing and freedom where it was needed. He pulled us out of the pit and gave us a firm foundation to stand on in our marriage, the solid rock of Christ!

In verse 3, David has cause to rejoice. Fresh mercies equate to a new song of praise to the Father in his heart. It's a song that no doubt has changed his countenance, and caused others to take notice. His deliverance encourages onlookers to ask questions, hear his story, see his passion and resolve to put their hope and trust in the LORD too, whatever pit they might find themselves in. I love that part! God gets all the glory.

We pray that the new song He gave us in our marriage has, and continues to, put the gospel on display. Our desire is to point others to Christ. He is our only hope. He is still in the rescuing business. 

Though it may feel like He's tarrying in your life, He will not delay. He always moves at just the right time. And when He does, may it prompt a song of praise!

Thank You Jesus for hearing my cries all those years ago, and moving to answer at just the right time. Looking back, I realize sometimes You don't answer immediately because You have a work to do in me in the process. But when You move to answer, wow! You rescue mightily from the pit! It's like giving a step up to a new, even firmer step to stand on. I thank You for making my footing sure and giving me cause to rejoice. May my life ever be a song of praise that points to You, my faithful God. I love You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hospitality is About the Heart

"He said, 'If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and go on your way - now that you have come to your servant.' 'Very well,' they answered, 'do as you say.'" Genesis 18:3-5

Abraham, known as a "friend of God," had a servant's heart. He looks up from the door of his tent and sees these three men standing nearby. As was custom in his day if the guests were distinguished, he hurried to greet them, bowing low to honor them. He counts it a blessing to be able to serve them, that they might be refreshed along the way, and hurries to do so. "When he saw them, he meet them." (v. 2)  "...Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. 'Quick,' he said...bake some bread." (v. 6). "Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it." (v. 7). He then brought milk and butter and the food that was quickly prepared and set it before his guests. This was not a grand feast, but a hearty meal. He and Sarah were attentive and hospitable, offering the best of what they had. Abraham happily waited on his guests, entertaining strangers, who just may have been angels! 

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have 
entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

Many times we hesitate to entertain guests offering a variety of excuses: my house isn't clean enough or pretty enough, I don't know what or how to cook, I don't have enough extra to go around, it's just not my gift. But being hospitable is more about the company than the atmosphere or food. It doesn't have to be elaborate. This passage reminds me of a time years ago when my husband and I invited our Bible Fellowship teach and his wife - dear friends - over for lunch after church. Our budget was incredibly tight and we lived in a very small, old home, but I didn't want that to keep me from the joy of having company. I prepared a chicken enchilada soup and then realized I didn't have much to go with it, and no means to go to the store and buy something more. So I decided to pair it with grilled cheese sandwiches made from ingredients I had on hand. Though the meal seemed a bit meager, I set a nice table, we made our guests feel welcome and we had warm and wonderful conversation. I distinctly remember our friend Clark saying matter of fact, "I never thought of serving grilled cheese and soup!" I just smiled. I think he realized it was our best at the time and by all indications, he and Leslie left satisfied. We would share many more meals with our friends over the years, and still find great joy in doing so.

Father God, help me to remember that hospitality is not so much about the food as it is the heart. More than anything I pray that guests feel "at home" in my home, that they sense Your presence, and they leave feeling taken care - whatever I have to offer them from the kitchen! In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Silencing Your Fears

"The disciples went and woke Him, saying, 'Master, Master, we're going to drown!' He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 'Where is your faith?' He asked His disciples." Luke 8:24-25b

So often when storms and trials arise, and the least bit of fear sets in, we forget Whose we are, and Who is in control. He has always been faithful, but how quickly we forget. Most often the anxiety that results when the winds and waves pick up is rooted in fear. Fear of death, fear of disease, fear of the unknown, fear of ________________.

We must remember that Christ has power over all things, even the wind and the waves. And all things serve His purposes. Satan raises the storm, but Jesus lays it down. He can bring calm, even in the midst of it. That calm comes from trust rightly placed in Him as we cast our fears and anxiety on Him, and results in the peace that passes all human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). It is a choice to live by faith and not by fear.

"The way to have our fears silenced is to bring them to Christ, and lay them before Him." (Henry) The Freedom in Christ ministry offers an incredibly effective prayer that helps recognize and silence the fears in our lives:

Dear Lord, 

I confess and repent of the fear of _______________. I have believed (state the lie you've been believing related to this fear) _______________. I renounce that lie, and I choose to believe the truth (state a truth from God's Word that opposes such a lie) ________________. I also confess any and all ways this fear has resulted in living irresponsibly, or compromising my witness for Christ (be specific, listing ways you've lived according to the lie vs. how you should live believing the truth) ________________.  I now choose to live by faith in You, Lord, believing Your promise that You will protect me and meet all my needs as I live by faith in You. 

                                                                                                  In Jesus' trustworthy name, 

Once we give our fears a voice by openly admitting them to the Father, choosing to lay them down and replace them with the truth of God's Word (2 Corinthians 10:5), He sends the calm. He may not take the storm away, but He will give the peace needed to endure it as long as we are trusting in Him, with our minds fixed on what He says is true. How thankful I am to have an option! I'd rather live according to God's Word, in peace...

*** Freedom in Christ is a ministry of Bell Shoals Baptist Church. Prayer excepted from Ministering the Steps to Freedom in Christ by Neil T. Anderson. For more information on this 7-step discipleship process, please feel free to message me.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Muzzle My Mouth, Lord!

"I said, 'I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.' But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased." Psalm 39:1-2

The tongue is a powerful persuader. It can cut to the core or build up with encouragement. Most importantly, it can point people to Christ. What comes from my mouth is an indicator of what is in my heart. "For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34b) If I want to live a life that is pleasing to God, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin." Like David, I resolve to be ever mindful of what I do and say - to walk circumspectly - that my life would line up with God's Word. 

     circumspect -adjective

          1. watchful and discreet; cautious; prudent: circumspect behavior. 
          2. well-considered: circumspect ambition. 

          Synonyms: considerate, guarded, safe, vigilant, deliberate

David remembers his covenant "against tongue sins - that he would not sin with his tongue, that he would not speak amiss, either to offend God or offend the generation of the righteous (Psalm 73:15). It is not so easy as we could wish not to sin in thought; but if an evil thought should arise in his mind, he would lay his hand upon his mouth, and suppress it, that it should go no further." (Henry)  He "muzzled" his own mouth to prevent his tongue from committing sin; to prevent sinful thoughts from coming out of his mouth. When I find the need to muzzle my own mouth, I must take this as an indicator that I have a heart issue to deal with. I should evaluate and repent of any sin in my heart that is muddying up my mind.

David was particularly diligent in watching his tongue in the presence of the wicked. As he pondered their pride and prosperity, he was more apt to speak amiss, therefore he had to be doubly resolved to take care with what he said. "If good men fall into bad company, they must heed what they say" so as to not cause the hearts of the wicked to harden all the more toward God or give them occasion to blaspheme. (Henry)

In bridling my tongue, I must be cautious however, not to run to the other extreme: not saying anything good. In David's mind it may have been "an easy, safe and effectual way of avoiding sin, if it did not involve a neglect of duty which he owed to God to speak well of His name. ...A sound course of action [can] be pushed to extreme and become a fault." (Spurgeon)  While being resolved to be watchful with my words even in the midst of wickedness, I must not grow silent. God's Word instructs in Ephesians 4:29, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." My words are meant to edify, to build others up, and to glorify the Lord. Resentment harbored will turn to bitterness and burn within. I should always take such feelings to the Lord. As I consider speaking up, I should pray for God's grace with my words. I am not to speak about indignation as though I am above such things, as I too have been in need of much grace, but speak in a way that points to the Grace Giver, who is also our Righteous Judge. 

Father God, You are the Grace Giver. Thank You for the undeserved grace You have shown me. Help me Lord to be a minister of grace to those I interact with. Prompt me to muzzle my mouth, I pray, before thoughts not of You pass over my lips. Help me to keep my heart in check so that out of the overflow of it, I speak words that give life vs. words of destruction. I ask this in Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Under God's Blessing

"And Abraham said to God, 'If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing!'"
Genesis 17:18

Abraham has just received the news from God that his wife Sarai's name is to be changed to "Sarah" which means princess. He is reminded of God's promise that she will bear him a son, and he is to be called "Isaac" meaning laughter. At this, Abraham fell facedown and laughed because Sarah was 90 years old. While he believed God he didn't want Ishmael, his son by Hagaii, to be overlooked. So while he had the Lord's undivided attention, he asked that Ishmael might live under His blessing too. And the Lord agreed.

As a parent, it is my God-given duty to pray for my children just Abraham did for his. To pray they too would live under God's blessing...

     - walking in grace before Him with an upright heart
     - keeping His commands
     - spiritually blessed

Father God, I'm not always as faithful to pray as I'd like to be for such things. I often feel I pray the same things over and over for my family. I ask You to give me wisdom, insight and understanding so that I can pray more specifically for what's going on in my children's hearts. I pray my children would love You like crazy and serve You with their lives. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.