Psalm 107:15-20

15 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 16 For He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two. 17 Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorred all manner of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. 20 He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  (Psalm 107:15-20)

This section parallels the previous situation in terms of souls who are surrounded by adversity and distress.  Again, God’s children are disobedient and are distressed and are afflicted.  We see the depth of the despair and the urgency of the situation in that those needing deliverance here are at the gates of death.

In Christ Jesus, we can have confidence and assurance in death.  We should not be afraid of death as it has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).  The image we should have is of a door.  It was taught to me that both our birth and our death are doors we have to go through.  We are born through our mother’s womb and we all must one day die in the flesh as the spirit departs and returns to the Father.  That is a door we have to go through.  But in Christ…when that door opens for us, Jesus will be standing on the other side and He will be welcoming us Home.  What a relief and what a source of peace.

Conversely, finding ourselves in a state of rebellion and outside the comfort and security of Jesus, it is no wonder we find distress and fear of death…whether it be afar off or right before us.  Again, our comfort is one word away…if we cry out to our LORD in trouble He will save us…through the power of His word and its healing power.  God, through His word, will deliver us.  This is a fact and one documented in God’s inspired word over and over again.

I would say it is probable we will find ourselves in this distressing situation at one point or another…maybe multiple times.  I can say with absolute confidence that we do not need to stay there because our God will save us.

15 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  …and He saved them out of their distresses. 20 He sent His word and healed them, andelivered them from their destructions.

Psalm 107:8-14

8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. 10 Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons—11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and despised the counsel of the Most High, 12 Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help.  13 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces.  (Psalm 107:8-14)

There can be times when we are faced with adversity or our hearts could be filled with darkness because we have taken our eye off God and are following our own will instead of His.  This can take many different forms but it involves being “bound up” in our affliction. This brings to mind 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

Like us, the sentence of their transgression or the consequence of their rebellion (sin) was more than they could bear and so they called out to God.  Again, if we call out to God, He will hear us.  We can be confident in that because we read here that He heard them, and their souls were filled with the blessing He gave them.  Their lives turned around.  They found a life full of joy rather than despair…freedom rather than bondage…because they called out to Him and His mercy provided what had been missing or what was needed most.

Let these verses call to mind the redemptive power and His willingness to deliver you from what ever is holding you captive and away from the peace He promises.

8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.

Actions Get Results

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”  41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10: 38-42)

We can all be very busy and often times we are.  I know I am.  I sometimes get so busy and am doing a lot of things that I lose track of time and can get off track of what I really need to be doing.  For me, that manifests itself in fatigue, a short temper, less communication with loved ones/brethren, reduced prayer/bible study, a higher dependence on “tomorrow” instead of “today”, procrastination, etc.  These are the results I get when my focus turns from what I need (Jesus) and either what I want and/or think I need to do.  It is what I call a death spiral…I get so focused on something other than Jesus that I begin to lose altitude and gain speed subtly and before you know it I am about to crash.  I have become distracted with much serving and the fruit/results I am getting are not leaving me at peace.  That is not where our Abba Father and Elder Brother want us to be.

They want us to bear fruit of the spirit which is a result of living a life for Jesus.  22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23).  These don’t all come at once.  It is a sustained life for Jesus…consistent behavior over time…that produces these fruits and gets us the results God (and we) desire.  5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1: 5-8)

We can examine the results we are getting from our actions/behaviors and know if we are on the right path and focused on the one thing we need.  We must do this…it is a continual process and if we are not self aware and/or continually check ourselves against the scriptures, eventually others will and we might lose an opportunity to serve and share Jesus.  I know that is not the result we are looking for.

 

Belief in Jesus

One thing is needed…

Jesus is our one need and allowing Him to fill it shapes everything else in our lives.  Learning about His life, death, burial and resurrection teaches us about our need for Him in order to be saved from our sins.  This knowledge and our reaction of obedience to it shapes our beliefs as disciples of Christ.

What can we believe as Christians who know what our one need is and rely on Jesus to fill it?

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy (because he set us apart) and beloved,

We know, believe and have confidence in that we are the elect of God and the Holy Spirit wants us to know and believe first and foremost that we are chosen, we are holy, we are beloved.

Why has God chosen us?  Why are we holy?  Why are we beloved?  Why are we forgiven?  We are all those things because He loves us (Eph 2:4-10).

And because we have been saved as a result of our obedience and God’s great love for us, we can be motivated by God’s GRACE (12-15), His PEACE (15), the WORD (16), and Jesus’ Name (17).

Jesus fills our greatest need and when we let Him, we become His special people.  This changes our thinking, our beliefs, and understanding and motivates us so that …whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  (17)

We can believe that what we do and say matters and what Jesus is telling us here is that we need to remember who He is, who we are and if there are thoughts in our minds that Jesus wouldn’t think then we don’t think them and if there are words coming out of our mouths that Jesus would never say…then we need to stop saying.

Our beliefs have to change so that our behavior will change.

It is a high standard that whatever we do in word or deed is done in the context of the person, nature, character, and authority of Jesus.  But because we have experienced and believe in the grace of Christ…we have enjoyed the peace of Christ…. we have been enriched by the word of Christ and we have been ennobled by the name of Christ.  And knowing and believing that will motivate us to honor and glorify Him and that will change our behavior, our life, and the lives of those around us.

House of Mourning

1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth; Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-5; NKJV)

Today we will gather to celebrate the victory in Jesus of our dear sister.  It is indeed a celebration and that was what she asked we do today.  There will be sorrow to be sure because we miss her.  She lived a life that is amplified in the lives of the ones she influenced and participated in.  And today she will give once again as we reflect on her life in Jesus and draw encouragement and example in continuing to strive for the gospel.  Her name is a good name.  Her life wisely lived.  All of which echos in eternity.

The book of Ecclesiastes provides us a vertical and heavenly perspective as we view the horizontal nature of our lives on earth.  It is a lens that reassures us that all things matter because this life is not the end.  Our eternal life with God and the eternal nature of our relationships and actions here are earth are called into view.  Everything we do has an eternal impact and everything God is doing is about the salvation of souls.  Life.  Death.  All of it demonstrates a patient and loving God who is singularly focused on saving.

The house of mourning is not a place that we, by nature, would prefer to be but our Father says different and that we should go there and take to heart the eternal nature of our existence.  There is salvation in Jesus and destruction without.  It is the center theme to our lives here and in eternity.  It is what will be before us today and worthy of our consideration.  It is an opportunity to draw closer to our Savior, celebrate victory in Him and be encouraged as we leave and go back into the world knowing that everything we face is worth it when our race is run with Jesus and we go home to a loving God.

Finally, I want to share these passages as they were shared with me.  They are offered to help us as we work to understand God’s perspective for things that happen here, deal with the resulting emotions and search for peace and trust in God’s power.

Psalm 13:1-3; Romans 8:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 14:12-13; John 14:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10; Philippians 1:20-30; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Encouragement

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their GodAnd God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Revelation was written to encourage the 1st Century Christians as they suffered under the severe persecution of the Roman Empire.  There is much to study and to learn from the book and I believe it is also given as an encouragement to us.

There are many of us who have loved ones that are very sick, hurting, or are otherwise in a very tough spot.  We love them and we want to help them but in truth there is only so much we can do.  Cancer, mental illness, physical disabilities, emotion abuse are the ones that come to my mind as I think about those I love who are either suffering or have someone who is suffering.  It breaks my heart overall and as I consider each case and the impact of the situation hurts me even more.  I dare say it makes me mad on some level though that is a fruit of the flesh and not the Spirit.  The Spirit, if I am focused as I should be, brings me peace, comfort, and encouragement.

As I think about it, I hurt because of the pain but I rejoice because I know that in the end, every person on my mind who is suffering is going to be ok when they go home to Jesus.  With that said, as I turn to those that are caring for them, love them, or otherwise affected by their loved one’s suffering…what can I do there?  Of course I can say encouraging things, I can pray for and with them, I can just generally be available, compassionate, and loving.  That is a lot and I should do more.

What I also want to do today is encourage everyone who is reading this to take time throughout the day and pray for those we know are suffering physical, mental or emotional pain.  Pray that even though they may not be able to pray or read scripture, that verses like these would fill their heart and God would comfort them through the power I know He has and will use for His children.  I believe everyone that is in Jesus is going to be ok in eternity and I believe our God is willing and able to comfort His children who are our loved ones in ways we cannot see or fully understand.  I believe that and I think we can find comfort in it.

It is not about us and it is not about now.  We cannot do it all and thankfully He has done it all.  Take heart and pray with me for all our loved ones and their families in these difficult times.

Anchor

19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20; NKJV)

There is a hymn that is probably familiar to many of you titled “Will Your Anchor Hold?”.  The chorus is:  “We have an anchor that keeps the soul.  Steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.”

There are so many great thoughts throughout the song about our Anchor being in heaven, that the cable of the Anchor passes between His heart and mine, that it is in the Savior’s hand, anchored fast to the heavenly shore,  that it is safely moored in the bright harbor to the city of Gold and much more.

The song also talks about the billows of life, strife, rising tide, strain, and raging tempests representing our struggles and challenges in this world.  Still, the Anchor holds beyond the veil in heaven where God is and we have access to divine power.

Of course others can’t physically see our Anchor or the cable passing between Jesus and us.  But they can see us holding firm with hope and peace even though the life around us is raging and hard.  They might not be able to see our Anchor but if we hold fast because we hold onto Jesus, there is a good chance someone is going to ask us how we could possibly be ok and then we get the chance we are looking for and just maybe the whole reason the storm is raging in our life in the first place…to share Jesus and our hope in Him.

Our Anchor is true.  We just need to stay connected to it and tell others why we do.  Hold fast brothers and sisters!

Thankfully Praying

Continuing on in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, we read:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NKJV)

This brings to mind a similar instruction from Paul in his epistle to the Philippians:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9; NKJV)

Take some time and consider the key words in these verses:

Rejoice, pray, thanksgiving, will of God, Jesus Christ, peace, true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, praiseworthy.

Evaluate your life today through the lens of these words.

Are you rejoicing in your own life and with those you care about or are you letting the bad things distract you?

Are you spending time in prayer whether it is a time you have set aside or continually conversing with your Father through the good and bad of your day?

Do you see the will of God today?  Do you see Jesus?  Are you trusting God is there and working?  Does this bring you peace?

Are the things you are thinking about true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy or is satan filling your mind with distraction?

God is a builder.  Satan is a destroyer.  Fill your heart and mind with the building materials of God, trust His will, feel His peace.  That is what He is shouting from Heaven.  That is my prayer for you and for me today.

Stand Firm. Be Sure. Shine Light

This week we have thought about the fact that we can stand firm and secure if we are faithful and hold onto our Abba Father and Savior Jesus.  From here, we can live a bold confidence that when our time is over here we will be with our Father and Elder Brother in Heaven for all eternity.  These thoughts are awesome and life changing…for our own lives and the lives of those around us…especially your families.

Living this way, however, will certainly stand out in the world we live in and will be a light shining into the darkness many of the people we meet are experiencing in their own lives.  We can and do shine the light of Christ into other people’s lives if we are standing with Him and living for Him.  A light that we hope will illuminate or even expose so that people we interact with will see Jesus and see themselves and understand that sin is keeping them from being reconciled to the Father and Jesus can remedy that with His blood.  This shining of light is a powerful thing, but it comes from a power source we do not directly possess and can only have through Jesus.  For us to be fully charged we have to continue to be in contact with the power source and we do that through God’s word, prayer, meditation, fellowship…by staying plugged in or said another way abiding (John 15).

There is so much encouragement in God’s word and God has given us all we need to be charged and to emit.  We just have to stay connected.  I know many of you have your own way of doing this but today I am going to invite you to read Revelation 21-22 and consider what God has told us about Heaven, what Jesus is doing…today…and how that can translate to a great hope that is infectious even if every indication we are getting from others is that it repels.

Here are some highlights from chapters 21 and 22 that I find awesome and encouraging in terms of our home and how active and involved and interests our Savior is in ensuring we get there.

3…“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21)

 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

 4 They shall see His face

 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

 7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

 12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

 16I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”  Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let that be your response today.  Be filled.  Shine your light.  Be ready when someone can’t help but ask “why”…and start with “Have you heard about my Jesus?”

Stand Still–Stand Firm

David writes in Psalm 18 about the words he sang on the day God delivered him from all his enemies and the hand of Saul.  David writes:

1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.  2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.  (Psalm 18:1-3; NKJV)

Peter, after being arrested for preaching the gospel and speaking to the Sanhedrin says of Jesus… 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12; NKJV)

I thought of these verses in thinking about what kind of husband and father to my daughter I want to be.  There are a lot of different challenges to being a good Godly husband and father.  One of the most challenging for me is to know what the right thing is to do for my wife or my daughter at any given time.  What I want to do is rescue them from whatever is troubling them.  I want to be the knight in shining armor, the fixer, the “man”.  But I will tell you, this approach often has unforeseen consequences and the disappointment I feel when I get it wrong is crushing at times…and if nothing else confusing and can lower my confidence in myself and what God wants me to do.  In the worst case, I get angry and blame my wife or my daughter for not getting me or appreciating me…me, me, me.

What I think about in this context about these verses is this.  If I believe that God is my rock, my fortress, my stronghold and His Son Jesus is the chief cornerstone of my salvation, then I need to stand upon that Rock and be strong for my wife and my daughter.  If I holdfast to God and receive from Him the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, longsuffering, strength, peace…if I get all these spiritual blessings and more from Him and know that He is with me and will not forsake me…then I am free to just stand there or said another way I am free to just “be there”.  As I stand solidly on my faith and demonstrate the firm ground under my feet in Jesus, my wife and my daughter will take notice.

Standing on solid ground, I can be there for them to lean on when they need me.

Standing on the Rock of Jesus, I can stand firm if they need to climb up, lay down, and rest or just get a hug or a warm touch.

Standing firm in God, I can be an example they can look to or point to in difficult times and be encouraged.

If I am standing with Jesus, I will be what God wants me to be for my wife and my daughter.  It isn’t about what I am getting from my wife or my daughter, but what I get from my Abba Father and Elder Brother that matters.  When I get that spiritual strength through faith and abiding in Jesus, I then can give of myself in a way that is most beneficial to my wife, my daughter and my family.

Sounds crazy, but give it a try.  The next time things are going crazy, the house is hectic, there is more to be done than hands to do it…just stand still with Jesus and holdfast to Him as you hold onto her and that will make an eternal difference.