Psalm 34:4 NKJV – Help for my fear

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

There are some things that frighten me. There are some things that consider scary. But then there are a few things that I am fearful of. One of them is a real fear of dentists and any dental care. Some of you might think that is ridiculous. A grown man fearful of dental care. Yes, I am. I’m being transparent and in this case, it’s no joke. I’ve had terrible dental experiences, most if not all of them when I was very young. The dentists caring for me were not compassionate at all with children and I virtually was terrified of them. The instruments they used, the BIG light, the fact that I couldn’t see what they were doing and their disregard for a child’s fear. I am NOT condemning dentists or the dentistry profession. I’m talking about what I experienced. As a child, I was in deep fear.

Well on a trip to the dentist’s office this past year, that childlike fear came back to haunt me. I was fearful. I knew what needed to be done and I had all of the necessary information that assured me that the dental team would make it as painless as possible. But yet I had that same gripping fear. The kind of fear that makes you want to run and hide. The kind of fear where your preservation instincts kick in. What got me through the ordeal of dental extractions? Well, I leaned on God. “Well, duh! You should have.” Yes I should have and we should as well when fear grips us.

Not all of us will have fear of dentist’s like me and I’m not trying to trivialize fear. But our fears are real and the enemy uses those fears to paralyze us. To cause us to run and hide. The Word of God says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) That’s the truth. The spirit of fear is a scheme of the enemy. But what we possess in Christ Jesus is the Spirit of Power and Love and Wisdom. These things come when we say, “Lord, I need You. I can’t do this on my own.” And at that exact moment of time, the Lord responds.

What is your fear? What grips you and wants to make you run and hide? You and God know what they are. Would you like to call upon the Name of the Lord and let Him know you need Him? Today? Right now? You can do that.

Dear Lord, thank You that You are always close by when we need You? When we are fearful, You are near. When we call upon Your Name, You respond. Deliver us Lord from all our fears and replace it with the peace that surpasses all understanding. May we rest in the knowledge of Your everlasting love and protection over us. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Psalm 1:1-3 NKJV – A troubleshooting plan

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

I love how this psalm starts out by saying, “Blessed is the man…”. Isn’t that just what we want from God? The word “Blessed” in this verse literally means “How very happy is the man”. The psalmist goes on to expound upon how this occurs. The writer intends to show that the person who devotes himself to living a godly and righteous life is the one who finds true happiness, while the one who lives without regard to God is the miserable person. The result is the ability to withstand challenging and difficult times. This makes me happy.

This psalm reminds me of a manual to life. Kind of “if I do this”, then “I can expect this.” It’s a troubleshooting plan in today’s language. I have needed to pull out the manual or the instructions/troubleshooting guide of various things I possess to try to figure out why it isn’t working as I thought it should. I’ve looked at the manual for our DVD player, our computers, my gas barbeque grill, certainly my lawn tractor. Usually at the back of the manual, right before you get to the alternate translation, you will find a “Table” called the “Troubleshooting Guide”. It lists various symptoms of failure and then gives you the most likely solution. For example: If my lawn tractor doesn’t start. The list of solutions may include:

  • Ensure there is enough fuel in the fuel tank
  • Ensure that the cables to the battery are fully connected
  • Ensure that the clutch is fully depressed
  • Ensure that the blades are disengaged

These are all helpful solutions. If any of these are not in the affirmative, then you need to fix the solution before your problem is fixed. The same here with this psalm.

The Problem: Wickedness

Solutions:

  • Ensure the advice you get is from the righteous and not the basis of bad advice. Really this means “advice of the ungodly”.
  • Ensure that your lifestyle matches the advice you have received.
  • Ensure that you abide in Christ.
  • Ensure that you delight in the Word of God.
  • Ensure time is set aside to meditate on the Word of God.

What remains is the “then I can expect this” part.

Result:

  • Refreshing nourishment to one’s self.
  • Strength and stability to continue on during the storms of life.
  • Encouragement to others.

So let me ask you, “What should we be praying for?” Well for starters, thank the Lord that we can receive the promises of His Word so that when He says, “Blessed is the man…” we can say, for Your Glory Lord. Next, ask God to lead you in the path of wisdom and to have godly council in your life. Pray that the Lord would reveal His Word to you in new and exciting ways and that He would open up your eyes to the truth within it. And finally, that you and God would dwell together in conversation and meditation each and every day.

This is just one chapter in God’s troubleshooting plan. There are many more within the Word of God. Each of these chapters is easily accessed if we choose to take the time. “How very happy is the man…”

Dear Lord, thank You that Your Word is filled with instructions that can answer and solve our many questions. Thank You that as we read and meditate on Your Word, we are fed, we are strengthened, and our walk with You can encourage others. Help us Lord when we try to fix problems on our own. Turn us, Lord, to Your Word. In Jesus Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

John 11:25 NKJV – Will we believe?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

This is one of my favorite verses of God’s Word. It is one promise that I hold on to and bring back to my mind whenever I am in a place of defeat and discouragement. There are certain things that I have come to know, that I know, that I know in my walk with Jesus. As God’s child I have learned that when I pray, God listens and answers my prayers. I have learned that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His Word is the truth and through it I have been set free. I have learned that God loves me with an everlasting love and nothing can change that. Ultimately, I have learned that in Jesus is life.

When Jesus walked this earth, He took on flesh and dwelt among us. He encountered the world as any man would. He felt pain. He felt grief. He felt disappointment. He felt every emotion that man has. He was tempted in every way. But He was obedient to His calling. He was obedient to the cross. Though fully God He lived and walked and suffered and died so that we would live.

Earlier in this passage, Martha says something very interesting to Jesus regarding her brother Lazarus. She says, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:21-22) I believe that Martha at this time did not equate Jesus with being One with the Father. Her faith was not questioned, yet her statement was one of belief that God would answer Jesus’ petition. My question is where is our faith? I can’t answer that for those of you reading this. But I can tell you that I have at times not had the faith that I have wanted. And I have believed the enemy when he called me a hypocrite.

Jesus Christ is who He says He is. The Word made Flesh who bore our sins and paid for them in full at the Cross of Calvary. And when He rose from the dead, sin and death cannot ever hold us down. “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

This devotion is short. I believe there is not much more that needs to be said. What’s left is for us to believe.

Dear Jesus, thank You for being all that we need. For being the only answer. For never changing and for dying for us. Forgive us Lord when the obvious turns into the not so obvious. Help us Holy Spirit to understand that it is not us who live but Christ in us. May You be forever glorified. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Ephesians 3:14-21 NKJV – Running on empty

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Have any of you felt that your personal “gas tank” is getting low and you are running on empty? What I’m talking about is your body’s gas tank. I’m sure you’re all saying, “I’ve been there.” Me, too. The world as we know it is a very busy place and our days are very busy days. We have learned to adapt and try to keep up with the pace. I endeavor each day to complete my “To Do” list. This list is a way for me to keep track of the highest priority things that I need to accomplish. I grade each item as to its particular importance (A1,A2,A3, B1, B2, B3…etc) and I go about my day. I’m a little geekish when it comes to organizing. But if you looked at my desk, you wouldn’t think that. Oh my!

You know, running on empty is one of the most successful, yet devious schemes of the enemy. The enemy will use strategies of organization to keep your list full and to get you to strive to complete it. If you’re not careful, the enemy will get you to believe you can squeeze even more into your day and have you believe it’s because you’re a master of getting things done. When he does that, it directly attacks your pride cells in your brain and the vicious circle begins. The more I do, the more I can get done and the more I can get done, the more I can do. Etc, etc, etc. Whoops!

Sometimes that scheme works its way into ministry for the Lord. I am sure you’ve heard someone say, “I just got burned out serving.” What that statement really means is “I didn’t see what the enemy was doing and I didn’t go to God to get refilled and refreshed.”

These Scripture verses encourage me. It’s a prayer for those who serve. It’s a prayer as to where we can get restored and get our “tanks filled up again”. Paul is praying for believers in the church to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in might. In other words, all that the Holy Spirit has. And directed to the inner man so that the power of the Holy Spirit grips them to maintain the faith in Christ. Then he prays that they would be empowered to grasp the extent of God’s love by which they have been saved and made secure and filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Hallelujah!!! Giving God the glory that He is able to go above and beyond anything they can ask or imagine according to the Holy Spirit power that lives in them. Again, Hallelujah!!!

In the same way, as Paul prayed for the church, we also should be praying not only for ourselves, but for others who serve God. For other believers so that they too would be strengthened. We should be praying for our pastors. We should be praying for Sunday School teachers. We should be praying for our Deacons/Elders. We should be praying for our Trustees. We should be praying for our ministry leaders. We should be praying for the church staff. We should be praying for our missionaries. We should be praying for all those who serve. Daily prayer for those who serve the Lord is fundamental and essential.

Before I conclude, I have another thought when I read these verses. It doesn’t matter how often we need to go back to God to be refilled and refreshed. We can come to God over and over and over for a touch from His Holy Spirit. There are no boundaries. These verses are promises encapsulated within a prayer. For within prayer is the power to release God’s promises. Let’s not look to other ways to be refilled and refreshed. Let’s look to God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, Oh Lord, for Your Word and the promises that live inside of it. Help us understand that we are not made to keep going and going and going until we are empty, but that we can come to You for refilling and refreshing. We accept and submit to Your call for our lives and we eagerly serve for Your glory and honor, but we rebuke the scheme of the enemy that would lead us to believe that we would be more effective serving You by doing it all. We humbly receive our strength by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Refill us Lord today with Your fullness and help us comprehend the magnitude of Your love for us. Do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ever ask or think in our lives for Your glory and in Your Holy Name, Jesus. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Luke 19: 41-42 NKJV – Missed opportunities

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

I read this scripture passage and my heart grieves. The triumphant entry of the true King of Kings was not recognized by Jerusalem. They did not know of the time of the visitation of their Messiah. The opportunity for peace had come and Israel said no.

How often do we miss opportunities that God places before us? I don’t have an answer for that question. But I know I’ve missed opportunities to share the truth about Jesus as our King of Kings. You know, when we pray for God to lead us to or give us individuals that need to hear about Jesus; when we ask God to be a lighthouse for Him and to enable us by the Holy Spirit to tell the world about Jesus, do we really understand what we’re asking?

There are two specific times that come to mind where I missed it. I missed my opportunity. They are seared into my memory so that I won’t ever forget them. The first was incredibly sad. The second was incredibly tragic.

Opportunity #1 – I was driving through town one afternoon, headed to an appointment with a pastor at my church. I was a little bit late so I was kind of in a hurry. I was meeting this particular pastor to let her know of my desire to partner with her in an evangelism ministry outreach. So as I was driving, my mind was on the meeting, yet something caught my eye. There standing on a corner of town, by the bus stop was a young lady who may have been 18 or 19 years old. She was wearing all black. Her face was pale and it caused me to see that she was weeping. Black streaks were running down her cheeks. At that instant, the Holy Spirit interrupted the moment and asked me to stop and ask the girl what was the matter. I heard the Holy Spirit as if He were sitting next to me. The traffic light turned green, I continued to drive, and I didn’t stop to ask. I was headed to a meeting on evangelism to tell the world outside of the church walls about Jesus and I didn’t stop. My thoughts were not on this girl’s eternal well-being. My mind was on getting to a meeting. As soon as I entered my pastor’s office, I sat down and began to weep. She asked me what was the matter. I told her I needed to confess to her and to God that I had turned my back on this girl when God gave me the opportunity. I didn’t know the time of His visitation with her. I had missed my opportunity.

Opportunity #2 – At one time I was a successful real estate agent working in our local community and in the tri-county area. I had a very nice office that was provided to me and my relationship with the other agents and brokers was exceptional. Everyone in the office knew that I called Jesus my Savior. Some embraced that knowledge while others just set it aside. There was one particular agent whose name was Tommy. For some reason, I felt Tommy was special and we always had a mutual respect for each other. From almost the first day I met Tommy, the Holy Spirit tugged on my heart to share the truth of Jesus Christ with him. I knew Tommy’s mom really well. She was also a real estate agent and we were friends. So when I began to feel the Holy Spirit prompting me, I thought thank You Lord. This one will be pretty easy. I already know the family. And I also knew Tommy didn’t know about Jesus. Here is where the tragedy begins. My pride got in the way of where my heart needed to be. I had seen Tommy over and over in the weeks ahead. Each time I told myself I’ll talk to him the next time we see each other. One Monday morning, I came into the office as usual, but something was different. I felt a heaviness. There was sorrow surrounding me. I found out that over the weekend, Tommy had taken his life with a single shot from a gun. Tommy was 19. My whole being felt the grief. Every bone, every cell, every part of my body grieved. I went to Tommy’s wake a few day later and as soon as I entered the room, I began to weep uncontrollably. I hugged his mom and some of his relatives that I knew. I stood against the back wall of the room and continued to weep. The weeping didn’t end at the funeral home. I carried that with me for the next week as I wept each day at home. On Sunday morning, I walked in to my church’s Senior Pastor’s office and asked if he had time to talk with me. He said yes. I think it was because he realized I had been weeping. I asked him if I could address the congregation sometime during his morning message. I didn’t know what that message was, but I knew I had to ask. I told him this story. He said his message was on the opportunities God gives us to share the gospel with the lost. So he gave me time to speak to the congregation. I challenged the congregation to never pass up the opportunities God gives us. Later, I asked forgiveness from some of Tommy’s family who attended to our church that morning for not speaking to him and telling him about Jesus.

Jesus was entering Jerusalem as a proclaimed king but was not recognized as the King of Kings. Even though He was being praised as Hosanna, He knew He would be rejected. As Jesus approached the city, He wept over Jerusalem. By rejecting Him, Israel had chosen the way of judgment. It had missed the day and the moment. To miss Jesus was to miss the time of visitation and face accountability before God. And Jerusalem did.

I’ve grown in my walk with the Lord. God did not take away opportunities to share God’s love and the need for Jesus with others. God forgave me. His mercy has overwhelmed me. His grace has been undeserved and abundant. Will I miss opportunities again? I pray that I don’t. You see, every single person that walks and breathes on this earth is God’s creation and He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4 NKJV) Let’s not miss it. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV)

Heavenly Father. Thank You for Your mercy and grace. Forgive us Father when we let opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost go by the wayside. Help us to discern when those opportunities arise and anoint us by Your Holy Spirit to be obedient to Your call. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Psalm 147:3 NKJV – Our heart specialist

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

In the world and especially in the United States, there are doctors for any ailment that you can think of. Our education system teaches and trains individuals from every corner of the world to be doctors in many different areas of medicine. I have my “regular” doctor that I go to every 3 months for care and then there are the “specialists” that he sends me to when more specific care is needed. I’ve had doctors that I liked and doctors that I didn’t have much good to say about. I feel comfortable with my “regular” doctor and he handles just about everything. I’ve been a patient of his for over 10 years. We call each other by first name and I respect his opinion and what he prescribes for me.

I also have a cardiologist. He is one of those specialists. I also trust him and feel he cares for me very well.  I’ve been a patient of his for 20 years and I can call him by his first name and I respect him. But as talented as my “regular” doctor is and my cardiologist is, they can’t fix a broken heart. Oh, they can fix a heart that is not working like it should, but they can’t even come close to fixing a heart that was damaged by emotions, or hurt, or circumstances, or even death.

Sometimes we feel we’ll just get over it. Or we push it aside and hide it in the deepest part of our hearts thinking it will never expose itself again. But we’re wrong. A broken heart is something that needs care. Just like anything else. It needs to be healed. I’ve had my heart broken and it was always painful. I’ve suffered years with a broken heart because I refused to have it cared for. I tried in my own way to seek from others the necessary medicine to heal my broken heart. They tried, but nothing was ever permanent. It would hurt again and I would be taken back to the place where it was broken.

But then I found another “specialist” whose love, grace, and mercy was applied to my heart and I was healed. He looked deep into the corners of my heart and healed my hurt, my emotions, my circumstances. But He also healed one part of my heart that was the hardest to get into to. He healed the corner of my heart where unforgiveness lived. You see, the root of my broken heart was taking residence in my inability to forgive. I think you already know who my “specialist” is. His name is Jesus.

Unforgiveness in my heart took root over many years. Within that unforgiveness was anger, rage, wanting to be right, wanting revenge. So when Jesus applied His mercy and grace along with His blood, I got a transfusion. My heart was healed. His mercy and grace enabled me to see His love and that He loved me for who I was. And His blood applied the needed medicine for complete healing. My recovery began and it included forgiveness of others and of me.

Our foundational Scripture above is short and to the point. It’s a promise that we can hold on to. When our heart is broken, we have the person of Jesus who we can turn to. He heals the brokenhearted. He  is our ultimate “specialist”. Our Jehovah Raphi. The God who Heals. “…for I am the Lord that healeth thee.” (Exodus 15:26b)

Thank You Lord for being our Healer. Thank You that You promise to heal the brokenhearted. Thank You for healing my heart and revealing the cause of its brokenness. Help me Lord to continue to come to You when I feel hurt so that You can provide Your medicine of Love, Mercy, and Grace. Heal the hearts today Lord of those who are reading this devotion. Draw them to You Lord so that You can bring permanent healing. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV – What got me interested?

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

What got me interested is a curious title. Interested in what you might ask?

I am not a man whose attention is captured very easily. To get my attention, something has to be special or unique or beautiful. That something has to cause my eye to take a closer look. That something has to cause my mind to think twice about it. I have to be able to see relevance and need. Well, some of you may think that I’m shallow because of these “guidelines”. I’m not shallow at all. But I am kind of regimented. I have a particular personality trait that some people like, while others have said it drives them crazy. You see, I have to analyze everything.

When I say something has to be special. What I mean is it must cause my inner being, my heart to be moved. It’s that feeling that I have when I see a child’s smile, when I see the American Flag presented in a parade, when I hear the voice of someone obviously gifted, sing the National Anthem.

When I say something has to be unique. What I mean is it is different. Its qualities cannot be seen in other things. I call the birds that I love unique. I’ve shared before my love for bird watching and how I care for them in my backyard bird sanctuary. Though there are over 50 species of birds that come to our feeders, each of them is unique to me.

When I say something has to be beautiful. What I mean is it causes my head to turn. First and foremost, this defines my wife Nancy. She is the most beautiful woman that I have ever encountered, both inside and outside. Her outer beauty takes my breath away and her inner beauty makes my heart smile.

But this devotion is not about patriotism, bird watching, or even my wife, Nancy. “What got me interested” is really asking “What got me interested in Prayer”. And the answer is that I am the direct recipient of fervent prayer and the life that I lead is a result of that prayer. I pray because I was prayed for. The day that my dear friend took my hands to pray with me, my heart began to be changed. The day that same dear friend knelt with me in prayer, I experienced the addictions of this world being delivered and the truest love anyone can find wash over me. I pray because God Himself was a participant of those prayers. And when I pray now, God actively participates in each prayer. It doesn’t matter if the prayer is for me or for someone else. God is actively moving in that prayer to answer it. You might ask does Prayer meet my guidelines. Well, yes indeed.

Prayer is special. Any time you can spend with God in conversation and petition is special. God won’t reject you and He is always ready to hear you and engage you.

Prayer is unique. Having conversation with our Almighty Creator is definitely unique. Who else spoke ALL things into existence? Who else is all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere all the time.

Prayer is beautiful. Prayer brings me into the presence of God which takes my breath away and causes my heart to smile.

Prayer deepens our relationship with God. Prayer brings us closer to Him. He created us with a need for connection, and prayer is connection. Praying is talking to the Lord, just like friends talk to each other and are brought closer together through their sharing. When we pray, we share our innermost being with Him. Through prayer, we are transformed and renewed. Prayer reminds us that we are dependent on God and not on ourselves. Prayer draws us closer to God.

But listen, I desire to pray. I want to have a conversation with God. I want Him to know all about me. I want to learn all about Him. I want to take a hold of His hand and walk with Him in the cool of the day. I want to rejoice with Him. I want to weep with Him. I want our hearts to be entwined together so that my heart beats with His heart.

Join me in prayer, will you?

Great and loving Lord. Thank You for the relationship we have when we talk to each other in prayer. Thank You that You always have time for me. That I am not an interruption to You. I desire Lord more time with You. I ask You Lord to help my friends open their hearts to You in prayer. I ask You Lord to bless them and prosper them and find favor with them as they share what is on their hearts. Lord may my friends grow more and more each day with You as they pray. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!