Saturday, February 25, 2017

JESUS OUR BREAD OF LIFE

John 6:5-12
(5)  Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?"
(6)  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
(7)  Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little."
(8)  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him,
(9)  "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?"
(10)  Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.
(11)  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.
(12)  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost."

(John 6:35)  Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Just as He fed the 5000, and had some left over, the lesson for us is this...He is the bread of life, and when we eat that bread, it is in us a constant source of nourishment that continually feeds us, just as His Spirit is a spring within us that never runs dry that causes us to never thirst again.  Those who eat His flesh, and drink His blood, never hunger or thirst for spiritual life, as He is in them the constant source of it forever.

We look at the crowds as a problem, Jesus looked at the crowds with compassion and grace, seeing their great need.  He already knows what He will do, yet He wants us to be a part of it and reveal Himself through His servants. Lord, awaken us to the dire needs around us with the same compassion as You! As we give you the little bread that we have, make it multiply to feed whoever has need.

He is sufficient for all our needs. We all have a hunger that only He can satisfy. There is "bread" enough for all and even more with some left over.  This was humanly impossible, but not with God. He only looks for faith - for trust in Who He is, His love, His care, His power, His provision for His own. He is our very sustenance. 

Ironside:
Am I addressing someone who finds himself in peculiarly difficult and trying circumstances, and who is wondering if God has forgotten or if He has lost all interest in you? Let me tell you this: if you have trusted Him as your own Savior, His heart is always toward you, and He knows what He is going to do. He is not going to let you down. He is not going to leave you in the lurch. It may seem as though there is no possible way of meeting your present need, but He knows what He will do. We look at the things that we can see. We can become so discouraged and disturbed as we take circumstances into account, but our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is never affected by circumstances.
...Do you feel like wringing your hands and crying out in despair, “Everything is going wrong. All these things are against me.” Oh, no, they are not. God is for you. If God is for you, who can be against you? Our blessed Lord is for you. “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet apart from sin” (Heb_4:15), because “he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Isa_2:18). And He knows what He is going to do. He is planning for you, my brother, at this very moment. He is planning for you, my sister. Believe it. Trust Him, and be assured that He is going to undertake in His own good time for you.
Think on that today.  Let your heart be open to feast on that true bread, until your hunger is satisfied in Him.  Let your soul be filled to overflow so that there is much left over to share with others as well.

Friday, February 17, 2017

ESTABLISH YOUR HEARTS



James 5:7-8
(7)  Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
(8)  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Ironside:
"So James puts before the suffering children of God the blessed hope of the Lord’s return. Not until He takes over the reins of government will conditions ever be put right in this poor world. So he writes exhorting to patient, endurance unto the coming of the Lord. He uses a little parable to show that Christ Himself is the Man of Patience now while He sits upon the Father’s throne. For just as the farmer, having sown the seed, waits in patience for the harvest, knowing there must first be the early and then latter rain ere a good crop can be assured, so our blessed Lord, having commissioned His servants to sow the good seed waits expectantly at God’s right hand until “the precious fruit of the earth” is ready to be garnered. We, too, are exhorted to be patient, with hearts established in grace, looking up in faith as we realize that the very conditions depicted only emphasize the fact that 'the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.'"

Establish, Webster's 1828 definition:
1. To set and fix firmly or unalterably; to settle permanently.

I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant. Gen 17.

6. To settle or fix what is wavering, doubtful or weak; to confirm.

So were the churches established in the faith. Acts 16.

To the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in

holiness. l Thess.3.

(Psalms 27:14)  Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

How do we "establish" our hearts?  As we wait on the Lord it is He Who strengthens, confirms, fixes our hearts and makes them "established" in Him.  Through His promises He gives our hearts the confirmation we need to walk in faith no matter what is around us, or what in the world is happening.  Is your heart established in the Lord?

There are times when our hearts feel faint.  There are times when our hearts are doubtful of His love to us, His promises to us, or His presence in our lives.  These times come only to drive us to His Word and prayer that our hearts might become established in faith in Him, so that when the dry times, the troubled times, the weary times, or the grievous times come to us, our hearts are already established, fixed, firm, not wavering in our hope and trust in Him.  If we faint when adversity comes and become angry or disillusioned with God, it's because our hearts were not established in His truth, and we did not somehow know Him rightly or perceive or understand His ways.  He wants to teach us. He allows the adversity, many times, to do so, so that we'll run to Him and ask.

There are times of trouble where we need to run to Him, to sit at His feet and learn from Him, to wrestle with Him over our own troubled understanding or thoughts or our will that is stubbornly held onto.  When we come to a place of faith in His perfect ways and will for us, and a surrender of trust to Him, we find peace, and our hearts become strengthened and established in Him.

(1 Thessalonians 3:2)  and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith,

David Guzik: "To establish and encourage you concerning your faith: Paul wanted Timothy to do two things - to establish and encourage the Thessalonians. Both are necessary, but establishing comes first. Encouragement can really only come after we are established in the right direction; otherwise, we are only encouraged in the wrong course."

This was an interesting commentary.  We can only be encouraged in the Lord rightly, if we are established in the right direction.  Many run for encouragement from friends or counselors but they are looking to be built up in their own will or fleshly desires, rather than to be made right in the Lord according to His Word.  So they never become established in the right direction but instead continue feeding their own flesh, encouraging themselves away from God.  To be established in God, is to be brought in harmony with His Word, all things surrendered to Him, waiting on Him and trusting in Him.  Too often we try to find someone who will agree with what we want and will encourage us in the wrong path, even finding Scripture to support it, taken out of context.  We look for someone who will "tickle our ears" and give us what we want to hear. No wonder so many churches that don't preach the Word but preach a self-centered flesh pleasing "gospel" that is not a gospel at all, are so filled to the max.  How many flock to hear what pleases the flesh rather than to come before His light to have the flesh crucified and to be established in His righteousness?

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
(12)  and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
(13)  so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

God's desire for us is to conform us to His image, that we may be holy before Him, being made for a permanent dwelling with Him for all eternity in His presence where we will have constant fellowship with Him.  There can be no fellowship with God without this.  We will never make ourselves righteous or be able to be that perfected person, but we have His righteousness dwelling in us through His finished work on our behalf, when we were born again, of His Spirit.  Now He is continually at work in us drawing us to Himself, opening our eyes, enabling us to see and know Him more and more that we will walk in His ways.

We can only enjoy Him now in this life, as far as we are established in Him.  The more we are "supping with Him and He with us" in His Word and prayer, the more established we become in faith, in hope, in love, and in holiness in our walk with Him, as He opens His Word up to us and makes it living and powerful to effect in our lives what He desires for us to see and understand, and He reveals Himself to us, feeding our hearts, strengthening our faith, and filling us with His hope and joy.  It is not a dead word, but it is a living Word full of life able to nourish and strengthen our hearts.  How sad when we deprive ourselves of it.  How much more sad when we deprive our Savior of His time of fellowship with us, and all He wants to show us of Himself and open up to our hearts and reveal to us.  He loves His time of fellowship with His children, just as we love to have that with our own children.

(John 14:23)  Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

I can't think of anything more wonderful in this life than the Father and the Son making their "home" or "abode" with me.  Nothing else in this life I could enjoy or desire temporarily could compare with that.  If you are His child, isn't this what your heart desires? To abide with Him daily in a close fellowship with Him?  Nothing more will "establish" or "fix" my heart in permanent trust and give peace. I pray the Lord will "fix" my heart permanently in His grace, His love, His righteousness, and His will more and more each day, the closer I come to that day when I will see Him face to face. Nothing more will give that peace and patient waiting and endurance as we wait for that blessed hope. Come Lord Jesus!



Thursday, February 2, 2017

CAST YOUR CARES UPON THE LORD





                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm needing encouragement these days.  I'm needing, each and every day, the courage to go on in the face of so much blatant evil in our world. As believers in Jesus Christ and the assurances He gives us of His presence, His salvation, His care, we have that.  All we need to do is turn to Him, look into His Word, and receive once again fresh Manna that sustains us and strengthens our hearts.

We see insanity and spiritual blindness all around us, and those who don't want to be persuaded by truth or facts.  We see unspeakable violence and lawlessness all over the world by those who insist on oppressing and controlling others and demanding their way, regardless of the cost.  We see strife that grows only worse each day with no solutions only those insisting more violently on having their way, regardless of who they trample on.

So I put together something to hopefully soothe the soul, for those who are tired of it, and want to draw close to the Lord, listen to what He has to say, and truly cast the care of their lives onto Him.  I get an email each day from Grace Gems.  Sometimes I find they are just what I needed to get me through a day of anxiety.  Sometimes I find they lead me to His Word where I am strengthened once again or pulled back up out of the miry clay of life's anxieties.  I put together this little video as a meditation when it's short message spoke to my heart in hopes of sharing it with others to uplift your hearts as well.  I pray that it does that. https://youtu.be/EFrqwinRLdA

      

Monday, January 23, 2017

A NEW CREATION



2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Galatians 6:15  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Ephesians 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 4:24  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 1:16  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

By Him - that is, Jesus Christ, all things were created - those things that are evident to our eyes, that we can see, that we can touch, that we can understand. The invisible things also, the spiritual things, the things we cannot see, or understand, or touch - those things He also created.  The most miraculous creation of all, mankind has a very hard time believing or grasping, because it is unseen, yet the evidence of it is there (John 3:5-8).  It is such a mystery that it is very often totally missed, or misunderstood, even by those who are God's children.  This is the miracle of the new creation that He creates within every man or woman who comes to Him in faith, when they are convicted of sin and their need for a Savior.  He makes an entire new creation in them.  It is not seen.  It is many times not even felt.  But the results of this new creation are just as real and valid as those things He created that we see clearly with our eyes.  It is not a mental condition, or an emotional condition, or some philosophy one has adopted.  It is not of our own works. No human can create it (John 1:12-13). It is not a religion or a new way of thinking, though it certainly does change our old way of thinking.  This new life in us, is an entire new creation, that comes completely from outside of us. 

Many think to be a Christian is to join a church and do good works, live the best you can toward your fellow man, and give to the church or the needy, or to partake of certain rituals.  Some think to just say a prayer to receive Jesus means they are "in" and are assured of eternal life, as though there were some magic in that prayer that the very words spoken obligates God to accept.  None of these things can produce the very real thing that God alone can do in a person's heart, that makes them His child.  Only He can create new life.  Only He is the creator.  The new birth is His creation, and the life that is created is His life, not anything of ourselves.  Just as these bodies of ours are very tangible and cannot cease to exist once born, the new life that is created inside of the child of God cannot cease to exist once created.  It is a very real creation.  It has substance. It is "incorruptible" - since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
(1 Peter 1:23)


What does this new creation bring?  How do we know we have had that happen?  As Colossians 1:16 says, it is created by Him and for Him.  It is His life in us which will produce a new heart, a new will, a new desire toward the things that please God (Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 32:39).  He does not take away our will but regenerates or creates it anew, as we have died with Him to ourselves, and have been resurrected with Him to "newness of life" (Romans 6:7-11). It will produce a knowledge of sin that displeases Him and a desire to please Him. Without that, if left in our flesh, we could not ever please God or desire to (Rom. 8:6-9). It will produce fruit - the fruit of the Spirit that lives in us, which only comes from the Spirit and not from the sinful selfish nature of man (Galatians 5:18-24).  This new creation comes about in us as we respond to the Spirit's conviction, the convincing, of sin that we are guilty of, and the penalty of that sin, and the condition it leaves us in, of being totally lost for eternity and separated from God.  As we respond to that conviction by putting our faith in Who Jesus is, God the Son, Who came as man to take on our sin and pay the penalty, and trust in Him to forgive us, justify us from our sin, and put His Spirit within us to make us His own child, we are then born again.  A new creation has been made - something that did not exist before.  It was not our own doing.  We are now created "in Christ Jesus."  It is such a marvelous thing that we cannot grasp or comprehend it.  We are now seen "in Christ" and He in us.  Christ in us is our hope of glory, not our works (Colossians 1:27). 

Though we have this wonderful new nature, the very nature of Christ living in us, it is a great treasure that is living within weak flesh (2 Cor. 4:7), that has not been yet redeemed - therefore the struggle is very strong.  This in itself is one of the sure signs of the presence of that new nature in us.  There is no struggle between flesh and Spirit unless the Spirit is there striving in you against the flesh. 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
(Galatians 5:16-17)

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:25)

There is still our responsibility to walk in step with the Spirit, to yield ourselves to His working in us, and to trust in Him.  As we grow in our walk we should become more and more sensitive to His moving in us and working in our hearts to lead us.  He is our counselor, teacher, and keeper.   We no longer belong to ourselves and He is jealous for us.  If we grieve Him, He lets us know, and He chastises us.  If we take a wrong path He says to us, "no this is the way, walk here."  He promises never to leave us or forsake us, but that He will be in us forever - "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever."
(John 14:16)

... for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
(Hebrews 13:5b)

When we have confidence in this new creation, this new life within us, having been a creation of God and which is by His power and authority, we have the faith we need to rely on that very life and power in our hearts to be there to enable us to live as He would have us to, rather than seeing our walk as a striving in our own power to live up to His law.  It instills in us a love that grows more and more and causes our hearts to want to please Him more than ever.  There have been times in my Christian walk when suddenly I'll be aware of an attitude in myself that is a complete change from where I once was and it happened so subtly in me that I am amazed and I am aware that it did not come from me, or was not of my doing, but God formed that in me as I simply took in His Word day by day and looked to Him.  It was of His new creation.  I find myself rejoicing in what He did in my heart.  When it is of His creation, you cannot boast, but you can rejoice in Him and His work.  You know that it came from Him, not your willpower or striving to change.  Sanctification is of Him, just as the new birth was of Him.  It is that new creation in you, growing in you, and being formed in You as you learn to walk according to it, nothing less. Christ is being formed in all of those who He called and made new.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
(Romans 8:29-31)

What can we say then? Thank You Jesus for the unspeakable grace that makes me a new creation! With thanksgiving I bow to You in worship and adoration! What was birthed in me by faith, is now also being formed in me by faith, until that day when I will see Him face to face and be like Him, for I will see Him as He is! 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
(1 John 3:1-3)

Ultimately, one day we will be free of these bodies of death, and that new creation will be clearly seen and enjoyed in His presence for all eternity! 

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:49-57)


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

THE HOPE OF THE NEW YEAR




What do you hope for in this new year?  If you voted for Trump you may be hoping for some changes in our government and hoping America will truly be made great again.  If you didn't maybe you are feeling hopeless.  Our true hope in this world for the new year does not lie in any man, but in our relationship with Jesus Christ and His promises. No politician or world leader, or UN decisions or anything else can take away the true hope of the new year.

Romans 5:2  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Ephesians 1:18  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Because we have the light of Christmas, in the coming of our Savior to this world, born into this world miraculously as the God-man, taking on human flesh, taking on Himself our sin, and becoming our Savior, we have the light of hope for whatever this new year brings to us as well.  It is out of the joy of that coming, that we look now to the new year.  Even as the world grows darker and the hate and violence grows more determined to snuff out that light, His light can never be put out. It is a sure hope. It is a hope that will not be disappointed for all who embrace it and receive it by faith.

What will the new year bring to the world? Only God knows.  But His Word tells us His ultimate plan for this world, and how it will end.  We have the beginning and the end told to us.  How we choose to think and act will be determined by how we treat His Word.  To those who embrace it, it is a message of undying hope that is sure, and will produce a genuine joy and peace in the soul.  It will determine how you face your circumstances ahead, how you will treat others around you, and what importance you will give to your time with God and your service to Him.

John 1:4-5  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  (5)  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

We don't have to be overcome if we let that light abide in us daily.  It's not the power of a resolution that will sustain us, but the power of His presence in our inner being, guiding and empowering us to walk according to His light.  Let us be  persuaded all the more then, to be feeding on Him, abiding in Him, and focusing our eyes on Him, as we encounter whatever the new year brings our way.  Will we make it a year of selfish pursuits and worldly gain or will we make it a year of pursuing Him and His glory?  It challenges me to come before Him and ask Him to work His will in my heart more and more.  Paul encouraged the believers to "abound more and more" in all their devotion to and knowledge of God, and in their love for Him and one another (Phil. 1:9; 1 Thess. 3:12). Never are we to settle for where we are at, but to always "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  (Phil. 3:12)

Because of that hope that the light of the Gospel brought to us, we have the resources in Christ to do this.  How appropriate that we celebrate Christmas right before we celebrate the new year.  If we take the time to truly meditate on that Gospel of hope and joy, it brings us new strength to face the new year, and a purpose in it.  It sets the heart in the right direction.  It's the Gospel that propels us into the new year and gives us courage to face it.  We always hope for good things ahead, new opportunities, new beginnings and chances to start over in the new year.  The Gospel gives us all of that.  And if the new year should bring hardship or sorrow, it gives us the hope and assurance we need to face it and conquer it.

My prayer for all of God's children in 2017 is that we will abound more and more, in whatever place we find ourselves, in the knowledge and love of God and to grow in His grace in every part of our lives.  My prayer for those who have not yet come to know Him as their Savior is that this will be the year they do, and that they will find the true hope of life that will never fail them.

I also join in with the prayer in Revelation 22:17 - "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:20 - "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"

May this be the year of  Your coming for Your church, Lord Jesus! Titus 2:13 -  "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."

From our house to yours, I hope you all have a blessed new year!



Monday, December 12, 2016

MY SECOND BIRTHDAY




December 12th, 1971, was a very special day for me. It was the day I was born - born the second time that is.  It was the day I was born into the kingdom of God, the day I became a new creation, an act God Himself did in me, making me His own child. I like to share my story to celebrate my birthday.

As a teenager I had all sorts of problems, as most teenagers do, with peer pressure, temptations, and trying to find my place in this world.  I began to wonder, also, about spiritual things.  Who was I? Why was I here?  Who is the real God?  How do I know?  How do I know which religion I should follow?  Is there a heaven and a hell?  If there is which one am I going to?  Can I know?  All these things, as well as all my teenage struggles would eat at me.  And at the end of the day when I was out with a group of friends doing things my conscience told me was wrong, I would lay in bed and look up at the wall at a picture of Jesus that I had "won" reciting the correct order of the Gospels in Sunday School when I was much younger, and this picture of Jesus had eyes that would follow you wherever you were in the room. I would feel those eyes, and I would sense that God was watching me and knew all my sins, and I would be afraid.  And I would pray, "God, show me the way to the truth."

Soon I began to withdraw from friends, and become sort of a loner.  I tried cleaning up my act, but never quite could.  I would see the Bible that was given to me when I was in 2nd grade sitting on my dresser and it was like everything else in my room was invisible and that was sitting there glowing brightly, drawing me to it like a magnet, and I could not resist picking it up and reading it.  I began in the beginning, where you begin in any book.  I read Genesis and Exodus, and saw the law of God, which absolutely condemned me.  I remember actually skipping school one day to spend the day reading it and praying for God to reveal Himself to me.  I was on my knees in horror as I read the law and saw how condemned I was, and fearful that there was no hope for me.  I had broken the commandments, I had taken the Lord's name in vain, and I was guilty, and no amount of trying to rationalize or excuse myself could be done. It was as though I were in a court before the judge and all my crimes had been named and there was not one word to my defense.  My heart sank, because I wanted to know God. I really did. But how was there any way for me to know Him now or find Him? 

I would stare up at that picture and say, God I only want You as my friend.  Please be my friend, as I felt I had no other real friends (my own doing).  But there was a still, small voice, that would whisper in my heart, "I can't be your friend because of your sin."  So I kept reading, I kept praying, I kept seeking.  I would take long walks and ask God to appear to me, to show Himself to me.  I kept hoping to see an angel or Jesus Himself.  But that didn't happen.  Then I heard there were "Jesus People" in town and that they were on the streets telling people about Jesus.  I sought them out, but never found one.  I prayed God show me what church to go to!  Show me how to find if I can be a Christian or not.  I didn't know if He would forgive me. 

Then one day our social studies class brought in pastors from about 13 different churches in the area, one each day, to speak about their beliefs on marriage.  We were studying marriage and religion.  I carefully took notes of each one, asking God to show me where I should go for the answers.  Then one pastor stood out.  My teacher spoke to us before he came in…"now be careful of this guy, he likes to preach!"  That got my attention.  This pastor came in and spoke of what it meant to be born again, and how much God had for those who came to him in true faith to be born again.  He had an excitement and exuberance about him.  He passed out a book at the end of the class.  My heart was on fire.  I read some of the book, and told myself, I'd visit his church on Sunday.  I walked up to the church to read the sign to see what time their service was.  

The next Sunday, though I had all the intentions of going, I woke up very tired and said to myself, I'll just stay in bed, and maybe go the following week.  But there was a compelling force that I felt all around me urging me to get up and go. I kept hearing "no you have to go today. Today is your day."  So I got up. I told my dad where I was going. He said he'd drive me there and pick me up.  He was warning me about "those crazy people."  But he left me off at the door.  I thought to myself, "hmmm, maybe I'll just walk around and wait for him to come pick me up again."  Again there was the compelling force around me that was urging me strongly to go in.  Again I was hearing, "No! you HAVE to go in. Today is your day."  So scared as I was, I went in.  

There was a lady standing in the foyer, nobody else around. I wondered where everyone was.  She said they were all in Sunday School, which was strange to me.  I thought Sunday School was only for children.  I told her I had heard the pastor the week before in school and wanted to check out his church.  She was delighted and I noticed a  "look" on her face.  It was the same look I noticed on the pastor's face when he spoke. What was that?  How did they do that?  Then I notice some girls from my school come up the stairs carrying Bibles and other material, and I wanted to hide myself, because they were more popular girls, from a whole different group than I hung out with, and I thought they would make fun of me.  But they came right up to me, and said how happy they were that I was there and asked me to sit with them. I did. One of them sitting next to me was praying for me under her breath the whole time.  I didn't know what to think of that!  

The pastor spoke, and I don't remember all he said, but through it all I was realizing this was something I didn't have and needed.  At the end he invited anyone who was not born again, and understood that they needed the Lord in their life to raise their hand.  I knew I did but was so scared of what others would think.  I thought for sure these girls would make fun of me. I was crying… a first for me in church. So embarrassed to be crying in church! What would they think.  But again I felt that compelling force, and almost unconsciously, my hand shot up.  I was shaking.  Then the pastor asked those who raised their hands to come forward. What? Go up there in front of everyone!?  I couldn't!  I just couldn't!  Again I heard, "you don't know if today is the last day you have, you don't know if you'll be here tomorrow or next week, today is the day of salvation."  

Again that compelling force drove me up front and I knelt down, in tears and just prayed.  A woman came up next to me and opened her Bible to John 3:16 and read, and said to me, "put your name in there and read it.  Are you a 'whosoever?'"  I read it, and it was like the light came on. "I'm a whosoever! I can come to Jesus!!  He will forgive me!"  She led me in a prayer of forgiveness and to receive Him into my heart.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
(John 1:12-13)


He came into my heart.  I knew it.  Just as sure as I knew it was Sunday, I knew He had come into my heart.  She told me to go home and write this date down in my Bible next to John 3:16 and to tell someone I had prayed this prayer and received Jesus as my Savior.  I remember the absolute relief and joy I felt in my heart…the huge burden that had fallen off of me when I left that day. A thought came to me, "but what if I sin again?"  And just as quickly another thought came to me, "Jesus is in my heart. He will help me."  I remember spending the next 3 days reading through the entire New Testament. It opened up to me and became alive in a way I had never seen before.  I remember a time when I rolled back and forth in my bed laughing saying to myself, "I'm forgiven! I'm a child of God!"  Nothing was so wonderful as that.  I have had many trials, testings, fallings, and heartaches since that day, but He has never left me or abandoned me, and He has grown me, revealed Himself more and more to me, and made the reality of His presence more and more manifest to me.  His reality, presence, and love is so deeply rooted in my entire being, that it is more real than the world around me at times.  I have found Him to be true and His Word true.  I wish with all my heart I could make others to see Him and find this life as well.  How can you keep such a thing to yourself?  You can't.  I want everyone to have Him!  

Friday, December 9, 2016

MY ROCK, FORTRESS, DELIVERER, REFUGE, SHIELD, STRENGTH, AND HIGH TOWER

There have been times in my life, when I wish I could just have a reprieve from life, a vacation of sorts, or some way to escape all of it… the anxiety of it, the apprehension and uncertainty of the future, the pressures, the problems that seem unsolvable, and so on. The funny thing about vacations, is that you can change scenery, and even get away from some of life's pressures, but they are always there with you in your mind, never really ever giving you relief from them. You always have to go back to them, and many times I've said, "I need a vacation from my vacation," once it's over.

I find comfort and strength many times in the Psalms, and this Psalm especially touched me this morning, as well as some of the commentary I read on it. All of Psalm 18 spoke to me, but especially verse 2.

Adam Clarke:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalms 18:2)

The Lord is my rock -
2. I stand on him as my foundation, and derive every good from him who is the source of good. The word סלע sela signifies those craggy precipices which afford shelter to men and wild animals; where the bees often made their nests, and whence honey was collected in great abundance. “He made him to suck honey out of the rock,” Deu_32:13.
3. He was his fortress; a place of strength and safety, fortified by nature and art, where he could be safe from his enemies. He refers to those inaccessible heights in the rocky, mountainous country of Judea, where he had often found refuge from the pursuit of Saul. What these have been to my body, such has the Lord been to my soul.
Deliverer -
4. מפלתי mephalleti, he who causes me to escape. This refers to his preservation in straits and difficulties. He was often almost surrounded and taken, but still the Lord made a way for his escape - made a way out as his enemies got in; so that, while they got in at one side of his strong hold, he got out of the other, and so escaped with his life. These escapes were so narrow and so unlikely that he plainly saw the hand of the Lord was in them.
5. My God, אלי ,doG Eli, my strong God, not only the object of my adoration, but he who puts strength in my soul.
6. My strength, צורי tsuri. This is a different word from that in the first verse.
Rabbi Maimon has observed that צור tsur, when applied to God, signifies fountain, source, origin, etc. God is not only the source whence my being was derived, but he is the fountain whence I derive all my good; in whom, says David, I will trust. And why? Because he knew him to be an eternal and inexhaustible fountain of goodness. This fine idea is lost in our translation; for we render two Hebrew words of widely different meaning, by the same term in English, strength.
7. My buckler, מגני maginni, my shield, my defender, he who covers my head and my heart, so that I am neither slain nor wounded by the darts of my adversaries.
8. Horn of my salvation. Horn was the emblem of power, and power in exercise…The horn of salvation means a powerful, an efficient salvation.
9. My high tourer; not only a place of defense, but one from which I can discern the country round about, and always be able to discover danger before it approaches me.

Jamieson, Faucett, & Brown commentary: He conceals us (the cleft of the rock) and is an immovable strength in us, He is the power and strength of our salvation. He alone IS our salvation. " The horn, as the means of attack or defense of some of the strongest animals, is a frequent emblem of power or strength efficiently exercised"

He is my "tower" - a high place out of reach of danger. Spiritually speaking, there is no power in this world that can hurt me, because He is all that to me and in me. They may kill the body, but all I really am is His and He is in me. And one day this body will be redeemed as well, and will be untouchable by any evil, just as His is now.

I may not be able to remove myself, physically from this world, or from the pain in my body, or the weaknesses of my flesh, or the trouble that presses in around me, but I do have a place I can go in my inner being, to hide myself in Him, to strengthen my soul, to refresh myself, and to stand strong, and walk. I have His very presence in me that I can turn to, that I can draw from, and that enables me to have insight that I need, wisdom for what I need to do, protection, assurance, and help. His presence alone strengthens my soul. As Christians we have so much yet neglect it, and strive so hard in our own strength and by our own resources all too often instead of learning what it means to be His child and the privileges that go along with being that. We fail to learn Who He is to us, what He is to us, and just what resources we have in Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:3)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

What an awesome, wonderful, faithful, strong and mighty God we have Who does all on our behalf! Teach us, Lord, to dwell in Your secret place, abiding under the shadow of Your wings, that we might always find strength for our souls.