Sunday, August 31, 2014

He Delivers!

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.”
Psalm 34:1

In December of 2005, I was struggling with a heaviness on me, so much that I didn’t think I could take much more.  I prayed Psalm 34 on a Wednesday night and cried out to God with all of my heart.  Nevertheless, the next day was just as bad.  I went to bed feeling frustrated.  That night, however, I had a dream.  In the dream I was worshipping the Lord.  While worshipping a lady from my church came up and laid her hands on me and I fell to the floor, touched by God’s presence.

I woke up the next morning feeling much better.  God had touched me.  It’s not that He completely removed my struggle, but He gave me the strength that I needed.  God’s grace was sufficient for me; His power made perfect in my weakness. (see II Corinthians 12:9) 

Sometimes we may go through difficult experiences and perhaps the only explanation is that we are simply being attacked by the enemy.  We have an enemy and he hates us.  I know, from my own experience, that the weight of oppression and heaviness can be crushing and debilitating.  We need the presence of God.

I have known depression and I’ve known despair.  But I’ve also known God’s presence lifting me up, giving me the strength to carry on.

I believe God has used these times in my life to help me draw closer to Him.  When we seek God during difficult experiences, our walk with Him is deepened.  God also uses the hard times to grow our faith and to form His character in us.  Through it all, He is closer to us than we realize. 

Difficult times in our lives can be because of our own sin or disobedience.  However, very likely that is not the case.  We cannot make the mistake of assuming that just because life is difficult that it means we have failed God or are living in sin.  It may simple be an attack from the enemy. 

Consider these excerpts from Psalm 34:

I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice. (vs. 2)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them. (vs. 4-7)

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry … (vs. 15)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all
... (vs. 17-19)

There are some difficult words in these verses: 
  • afflicted
  •  fears
  •  shame
  •  poor
  •  troubles
  •  brokenhearted
  • crushed
Yet, there is more in these verses that show us we do not have to stay in a place of defeat. 
  • God answers
  • God delivers
  • God hears
  • God saves
  • Angels encamp around those who fear Him
  • God’s eyes are on us
  • God is attentive to our cries
  • God is close to the brokenhearted
King David, who wrote this Psalm, sinned and made mistakes in his life.  But he was a man after God’s own heart; a man who loved God.  Nevertheless, he experienced trouble in life.  He testifies, 4 separate times in the verses I quoted, that God delivers us out of our troubles.  We may go through times where we feel very much attacked by the enemy, but with the Lord there is DELIVERANCE.  We can move on to a place of victory.   

Another word in these verses is RIGHTEOUS.  Life is not easy, perhaps even especially for the righteous.  We need God’s help to overcome our flesh and we also contend with demonic powers bent on our destruction.  We may struggle with fear, heaviness, anxiety, shame, etc.  Yet, God is faithful.  A few moments in God’s presence can change our perspective on life and the circumstances that hedge us in. 

A Scripture that holds special meaning for me is Isaiah 54:10.  It says,

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (vs. 10)   

God’s love for you will never change.  His unfailing love will never be shaken.  His covenant of peace will never be removed from your life. 

Do you feel afflicted, overwhelmed by fear, clouded by shame, troubled, poor, brokenhearted, or crushed in spirit?  Please believe me, I do not want to minimize anyone’s struggles.  I know what it is like to struggle in life.  But I know that Jesus is the answer; God has the answers.  Rejoice in the Lord, seek His face, worship Him, cry out to Him, draw close to Him.  He will deliver you!

Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together. (Ps. 34:3)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

All Things New!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
II Corinthians 5:17

The fall of 2012 was a time of transition in my life.  I met Leslie at that time and then we were married in June of 2013.  The season of transition was not just in the sense of going from the single life to the married life, but also of receiving a promotion from the Lord.  During that time, the Lord spoke to me several times, communicating His heart towards me and confirming His will for my life.  One of the things I believe the Lord told me was that I’d been through a long test, I passed the test, and I’d been promoted.  He also showed me that I was coming out of sorrow and into the Promised Land.  It was, in many ways, like transitioning from an old life to a new life, or at least God cleansing me and setting me free from things of the past.    

Prior to that time, I had gone through a season of real disappointment and discouragement, even, at times, depression and despair.  During that difficult season, I became angry and bitter towards the Lord.  It seemed like His promises for my life were not coming to pass.  I was definitely questioning God’s faithfulness.  But then everything started to change. 

Psalm 105:19, referring to Joseph, says, “Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the Lord tested him.”  I lived that Scripture.  I waited many years on a promise I believed God has given me.  Part of that promise was marriage.  At age 33, and not seeing God move on my behalf in this area of my life, was disappointing and discouraging.  There were other disappointments too.  The Scripture says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Proverbs 13:12).  That’s how I felt, sick in my heart.

Nevertheless, and regardless of my feelings, God was faithful to His Word.  That said, moving forward from the old things of my life and into the new things has not been easy.  The enemy puts up a fight; he does not give up easily.

God’s word has, in many ways, come to pass in my life, yet, I have still struggled, and I still struggle today.  God may say, in essence, “It’s time to enter into your Promised Land,” but we don’t enter into it in one day.  In my experience, it is a process.

Satan certainly does not want to see us move into all that God has for us.  Some of the enemies in my life, such as anger, disappointment, bitterness, do not want to let go.  Even while entering into my “Promised Land,” I’m still struggling to overcome in these, and other, areas of my life.  Moving past these feelings is not easy.  Also, perhaps because of the depth of past disappointments, I have not obeyed, or I’ve at least struggled to obey, instructions from the Lord.  Nevertheless, despite the struggles, God keeps moving me forward into His plan and purpose.

Last November (2013), after getting married in June of 2013, I was cleaning out my old apartment.  Unfortunately I had to keep paying the rent on my old apartment because of the lease, even though Leslie and I were not living there.  So, there I was cleaning out my old apartment.  When I threw out the trash, I threw out the entire wastebasket, not just the trash bag. I realized that was the last place I would live as a single man, and I believe God was showing me that it was time to get rid of old stuff in my life.  There are things I used as a single man that served a purpose, but God was showing me that it was now time to get new things, things that are not just mine, but things that are ours (Leslie's and mine).

There are some things in our lives that are precious and we'll never get rid of them.  Other things need to be discarded.  It's time to be clean and free from all of the old things of the past. 

As I write this, it’s August of 2014, and there are still struggles.  It’s still a process.  There are still these old things I want to be free from.  I wonder how much farther along I might be if I had fully obeyed all God has told me to do.  Yet, God keeps moving us forward into His plan and purpose.

Now that we’re in Virginia, we have our own place (our own apartment), and Leslie is working on decorating the walls with pictures from our wedding.  We were able to spend the gifts cards we received from the wedding on new things for our new place.  We have a new mattress set, with new sheets, a new comforter, and new pillow and pillowcases.  Leslie has lots of new stuff, like pots and pans and knives, to use in the kitchen.  We have a new coffee maker that I picked out.

After living in Texas for almost 14 years and working for the same employer for most of that time, we are now in a new place (Virginia) on a new adventure (law school) and we believe there are new doors God is going to open to allow us have a part in building His kingdom.

We can appreciate and hold on to things from the past that are good.  Hopefully you have many things for which to be thankful.  But there are also some old things that we need to get rid of.  We may have collected junk and garbage in our hearts and spirits.  God wants to cleanse us from those things, and make us new.  He wants to wash away these things in our lives and fill us up afresh and anew with the things of His Spirit.

According to the note in my Bible*, the word for new means, “..unused, fresh, novel… new in regard to form or quality, rather than new in reference to time...”  Through Christ, God makes ALL THINGS new.  We are in the process of being revitalized, restored, healed, delivered, set free, and becoming more like Christ.  As we walk in the New Man of the Spirit, we can be renewed more and more every day.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
II Corinthians 4:16

*New Spirit Filled Life Bible

Monday, August 11, 2014

There is a Place

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
John 14:1-4

this world is full of striving and struggle
but there is a place
this world is heavy with heartache
but there is a place
this world is worn by fighting and war
but there is a place
this world… it is tossed and it is weary
but there is a compassion
and there is a place
in this world you will have trouble, He said
but take heart
I have overcome
in this world you will have tribulation
but look up
I give you peace
in this world you will be hated
and you will be persecuted
but look up and look beyond
I go to prepare a place
in this world you may be weary
weighed down and heavy
gaze out upon the night sky
at the sliver of the moon
there is hope
look across the fields of golden wheat
there is a harvest
yes, let your eyes stretch out across horizons
somewhere, beyond the sky
I am preparing a place
and right here, where you stand
I am there
I am here and I am there
preparing a place, a room in heaven
where sorrow will be no more
where no one will ever again grow old
where never you’ll meet a stranger
and everything broken will be restored
no more sighing
no more pain
no fear, no torment, no suffering
there will be no night there
look up, my friends, and take heart
there is a place

Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow...