Saved and Healed

Psalm 107: 19 – 22

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing.

Happy Monday all! I pray you are well and longing for a fresh word from the Lord. This psalm is a favorite of mine because it tells of God sending us His Word and the impact it has on human life. The Word heals. Amen.

I have this psalm, specifically verse 20, among the scriptures I give to people when they have need of physical healing. Of course, it is equally applicable to emotional or mental healing as well. I have also used it in the Word of the Day at least 18 times. I believe it has a strong message that will feed life to us. Today, however, I was equally struck by the verses accompanying verse 20 because together they tell a potent story. In context we learn that the people cried out to the Lord in their day of trouble. I cannot think of a period, in my lifetime, when we have been in greater trouble. When the people spoken of in this psalm cried out to the Lord, he saved them from their distress.

This causes me to wonder if we have really cried out to the Lord out of our distress. Do we vent our spleen on Facebook instead of crying out to the Lord with the anguish we feel? Have we actually come to grips with how we feel, or do we sublimate those emotions? It does not seem that we call out to God with the same passion that we give to our remonstrations. Isn’t that the conclusion we must come to since we have not been saved from our present peril? Mustn’t we conclude that either God does not save or we have not cried out to Him? One of the two must be true. I cannot believe my God does not save or that His arm is too short to save. And if that is true, then there must be some other explanation. Looking at this model, I have to presume that the first condition has not been met.

Were you to read the whole psalm, you would see that the author tells of several times when the people cried out to the Lord in their distress and in each case, God saved them. If He saved them, why would He not save us? Did He love them more than He loves us? Were their lives more precious to Him than are ours? Surely not! So, I have to believe that the Lord, our God and Father, is still able and very willing to extend His hand of salvation to us today. Let us not forsake the end of this passage, however. Those saints gave the Father praise and thanksgiving. They sang with a joyful song the good news of the God who saves.

I wish I could get this devotional into the hands of every Christian in the world and I wish that each one of those persons would find inspiration herein that would create a worldwide outpouring of passionate prayer to the Father, who is Lord. I wish that those who may not know Christ personally would turn their hearts, with us, to the one who saves and would cry out for help, and I wish that our lands would be healed, that we would unite under one banner, the banner of Christ, that our eyes would look well beyond politicians, medical personnel, and even friends to be fixed on the one who is well able to rescue us from this present trouble. I wish we would turn off the news and instead search God’s Word and our own hearts for real answers. Give me the good news!!! Tell me what God has to say about the problems which confront us. Demand answers of Him and listen. Join in one voice to the Great Almighty who loves us. Believe with all your heart that He does love us and is willing to save. Call upon Him with an impassioned demand. Let us cry out to our Father. Let’s really do it. Tell all your friends. Stir up the fire in your heart and cry out to the Lord. Father, send your Word and heal us!

Good Prayer

Psalm 106: 4 – 5              God’s Word

Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people. Come to help me with our salvation so that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, find joy in our people’s happiness, and brag with the people who belong to you.

Save me, show me your favor, let me find joy, prosperity, happiness and praise. Not a bad prayer, especially when you consider the psalmist asks the Lord to lead him to praise. All these things; favor, salvation, prosperity, etc. ultimately lead us to praise. Don’t you believe that praise, bragging about the great things God is doing in your life, leads to more praise and, subsequently, to more of those great things? The more I focus my mind and words on praise and thanksgiving, the more praise and thanksgiving well up in my heart.

The petition for salvation reminds me that God brings His saving grace to everything I do. I used to think of salvation only in the eternity context, but Yahweh thinks of it in a day to day perspective. The writer was already a person who knew God and yet he petitioned God to bring him help and he called that help “salvation.” How many times have I prayed, “Lord, save me,” without ever thinking that the noun form of that would be salvation? That is huge!

Within the Lord’s saving help is prosperity in all things; in your finances, sure, but also in your body, mind, health, relationships and every other way you can think of. The end result God wants to bring to life is joy and happiness. Ultimately, that is called Shalom. It is the definitive peace, completeness and wholeness.

I pray favor over you today. In that favor I hope you find complete fulfillment, joy and peace. I pray praise exudes from you from the overflow of joy you experience daily.

I also hope, that despite the coronavirus constraints, you are having a good summer. I have encouraged you to make the most of this time. Use the time you’ve gained to make life better in some way. I am going to take my advice. For the rest of the summer, beginning with this week, I am going to publish the Word of the Day once a week. We will continue our Psalms Monday. The rest of the week I am going to use as a mini sabbatical to devote my time to my studies and projects. It will simplify my life and allow me to focus my attention on a few big goals.

I will continue to be available should you need me. You have my phone number and email address. I will also continue to manage the prayer requests. The prayer team never takes a vacation from prayer so keep those prayer requests coming. Just go to our website prayer request tab and leave your request. Until next Monday . . . Be blessed!

Help!

Colossians 3: 8

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

This is a good word and a good reminder. When we sin, it is often with our mouths. I know I need hear these verses routinely to keep me reminded to watch my mouth. I did an entire series on this one little verse once. It is packed with meaning and when you unpack it, you find these are very powerful words. I am sure that Paul did not choose them lightly.

When you read verse 15 you find that we are supposed to “Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts.” All of the words above stand in contrast to the Shalom of God. Remember, when a Jewish writer, as was Paul, writes about peace they are not speaking only about tranquility. It means wholeness, unbrokenness. You cannot live in peace while giving vent to anger or wrath. Abusive speech is never to exit our mouths, nor slander.

It is easy to read this verse and say, “Yes, I know I should watch this.” It is quite another to unpack this and think about what each of the words means and what Paul is asking us to do. Remember, he was confronted with a new body of believers which included Jews and Gentiles. You know there was much tension. Those tensions show up in the Bible and you can bet it was much worse than portrayed there. People who may not have even spoken to one another before were all of a sudden expected to live harmoniously. Their lifestyles were completely different as were their values. Of course there were disagreements. Paul had to teach them that even in their differences, they were to show each other respect.

The Jews have a principle known as loshon hora. In its simplest form it means not to make any derogatory comment about anyone, even if it is true. So while there were disagreements, the Jews had to learn how to respectfully confront those conflicts. Further, it means we are not supposed to disparage anyone even if what we say is true. Is that a challenge? Everyone has someone in their life who is a nutter but this means you can’t even call them a goof to someone else because it would tend to damage their reputation. Even if it’s true!

All forms of violent, abusive, disparaging, insulting speech are prohibited by this passage. Anger, get a grip on it. If you’re like me, you need more prayer time. Definitely, if we are going to control our tongues, we are going to need more prayer time. You can’t do this on your own. You need help. That person is going to dig right under your skin, so get help. Call 1-800-GOD-HELP and put anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech on the altar.

Motto

Colossians 3: 12 – 14

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

As you may have noticed, I am reading Colossians, the third chapter, and if you look at the digital Bible I am reading from, you will see that almost every verse is highlighted and the only reason it isn’t all highlighted is because I restrained myself. This chapter is a primer for the what the Christian life is to be. Today’s passage really spoke to me and I want to suggest that it is the seminal passage for this time in our history. However, we are so far from this paradigm right now, that I hesitate to speak what alit on my heart as I read it. Then again, many writers of truth have been shouted down throughout history and berated for speaking the truth. Just look at Paul, John and Peter for starters.

In trying times, and these certainly are, the kindness of God and His love are needed above all things. The language of love is what will resonate and it will resound above all else. Love is a hard thing, though, because it does not, under any circumstances, lie. Sometimes the truth is the hardest thing you will ever have to tell someone.

In trying to navigate the stress and to come to grips with a changing world, this advice from Paul resonates loudly. We must approach the changing dynamics from God’s perspective of compassion and love. Life is a challenged right now, I know, and that is why I want to offer this passage. I know some people feel trapped by the rhetoric. The political left has its message but on a different subject we are assailed by the right. Most people in the country can identify with some “ism”. Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and every other identifiable race, excluding whites, has felt the sting of racism. Women have been abused, neglected, marginalized and discriminated against the world over. Even white males get old and are no longer viewed as valuable. It seems most are either the wrong race, gender or age. Then there is the gay and transgendered community. Many people would not think twice about making derogatory comments about this group. Not long ago people were saying that God created AIDS to eliminate them. Wow!

The only real answer for any of this is the love and compassion of God. If we don’t take our stressors to God in prayer and wield the love and patience of God, I fear we will never make any meaningful change. God changes hearts. I want to bring this discussion to a broad market. In response to the corona virus challenge, we all need to apply the love, patience, compassion and gentleness of God. I am not advocating passivity or a lack in your conviction. In fact, I advocate just the opposite. I want people of passion. I just wonder if we are taking our troubles to the Lord or just ranting on Facebook. We are the answer to the problem. If the Christians will adopt today’s passage and marry it with a strong dose, and a continuing practice of prayer, we can effect real change. God can soften hearts and change the course of human history. Whether right or left, the answer is the same – God! Faith only works by love which is why today’s passage is so important.

Paul had to deal with a changing environment too. He lived in very tumultuous times. For goodness sake, the Messiah had just been crucified. Followers of Jesus were facing the same fate. Those are dire circumstances. Yet, he understood that the real power in the community was love, compassion and prayer. Love moves mountains.

There are lots of stressors in our lives right now. Some of you are on furlough and worried about feeding your families. The number of cases of Covid 19 is still rising in some areas. The economy is fragile. People want the economy open; others see that as a risk. We have racial tension, police brutality and in some cases, lawlessness. It is a fine balancing act at this time. And in the wings is a Presidential election with all the turmoil that interjects. We need help.

Please hear me clearly, I am not criticizing anyone’s reactions to the situations or stress in their lives. I am recognizing that people are under enormous stress. The purpose of this writing is to suggest that God is the way and that we need Him like never before. Regardless of our beliefs, there is one constant and one ultimate truth: our God. This, then, is an appeal to adopt this language from Paul as our refrain and further, to passionately and resolutely take our problems to God. As we meditate upon these ideals, what will God speak to our hearts?

There is no one on the planet who has not been affected by the circumstances of 2020. God cares what is going on in your heart. He cares about your pains and worries. He cares that you feel stressed to the point of breaking or that you have been isolated from friends and family for months. He knows of your anxiety and is compassionate. He wants to aid you.

Let’s just look at this one more time – “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Though I have not written, specifically, on them, let us not overlook the words kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and unity.

No matter where we stand politically or on any given issue, we are all those “who have been chosen of God.” We are the people God has in the earth. We have an awesome ability to take everything to Him in compassioned prayer. Let us not miss our calling oh chosen ones of God. Let us recommit ourselves to prayer and remember, that person across the aisle may not think like you, but they are, none the less, a child of God and valued in His sight.

Hidden and Revealed

Colossians 3: 1 – 4

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

We talked about seeking on Monday. Here Paul tells us what else we should seek. So far this year, we have seen that we are to seek the Lord, His strength and His face continually (Psalm 105: 4), His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6: 33), and now the things which are above. The shorthand is, fix your eyes on Jesus. Keep looking at him because in him is all that matters. All the universe is in him because he is the light, the life and the way.

Seeking is a very important scriptural and spiritual concept and I wouldn’t minimize it in any fashion. Reading this passage, though, one surely is gripped by our death in Jesus, which brings us to the next thought. We need to be resurrection conscious. By this I mean that by now we should have died to ourselves, died with Christ and been raised up with him in a resurrected life. If, then, you have been raised up with Christ, don’t keep looking back at or longing for the old, dead man. Leave the things of the earth to the dirt they are born of and set your heart on the things above. Does that mean you cannot enjoy any of the good things on the earth? No, absolutely not. God has given us all good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6: 17).

At some level this is about our values. I think of saints I have studied or known about and the over-arching similarity is their devotion to Christ. They buried the old self with its desires and arose with a new value system. It is just fine to enjoy a new car, a new house or a nice vacation. We know that God gives us those things to enjoy. Dying to self means those things no longer occupy the space they once did. In the resurrection life, God is the center of the universe. If our life is truly hidden in God with Christ, we will have made some choices about what is most important to us. These are choices made with the heart. The lover of God could not choose earthly desires over His longing for God because his heart compels him to seek the face of God. This is about loving God above all else. Some of those old saints I have read about would more likely forget to eat than to miss a single day spending time with God. They needed it, craved it.

We love God too but perhaps our zeal is not as vibrant as that of some of the people we read about. However, we can be as impassioned as anyone. We can have such zeal for God that nothing stands in our way when it comes to our devotionals. We too can have an unquenchable passion for the one who loved us first. I know I want more of that passion in my life. I am sure you do too. As we focus our attention on the thing we want, we draw ourselves towards it. Discipline helps too. The use of discipline helps us to develop a lifestyle that later becomes a part of us. As we discipline ourselves to do what we choose, we begin to enjoy the fruit of those disciplines so that we come to desire the thing we had to almost force ourselves to do previously.

Still, it begins with a decision born out of love for our Father. We choose to die to self and the passions of self and instead live to Christ. This is really some heady stuff, very idealistic and not too common. The modern church certainly is not known for its disciplined devotion to Christ. None the less, we are true believers with a love for Christ and we are finding our way into deeper and deeper ways with him. We are products of the past and the teachings of our time. We have journeyed through many aspects of knowledge and balance. I believe we are beginning to long for more of Jesus and Father. We need more of them in our lives, in our very breath and we are leaning forward into them where the life we live is a product of their lives; us in them, them in us. The great news is, they are leaning toward us too. They are calling for us to come into the deep water, water which is over our heads. As scary as that can be, it is a wonderful place to be. With Christ, hidden in God is our life, our old life having been buried.

Where is your heart? What do you want? Tell the Lord and ask him to lead you. This is a new level in Christ and a very safe place.

Year of Jubilee

Leviticus 25: 14

In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.

Well, we certainly did return to our own property and stayed there. 2020 is the year we will not forget. Many people have surrounded themselves with more deep thought and philosophy in the months since the corona virus invaded our lives than perhaps in entire years. Here is the question, though, what do you want to be able to say in say, 2022 when you look back at this year? Will you be able to say that despite the monumental challenges, the unprecedented impact upon our way of living, that you, none the less, were able to come out the other side having gained something important?

This could be our year of jubilee despite the trials. It could be the year of redemption. Perhaps this is the year you drew closer to God. Maybe you want to use this time to get in better shape, read a book, do that project that has been neglected. Maybe it is time to work on a degree or undertake a crazy idea for which you have not had time. This might be the year your prayer life takes on a substantial change. There are all kinds of things you can do to redeem this time so that positives come out of this time.

Romans 8: 28 says that God will take whatever lemons life hands you and make lemonade from them. Of course, it is a partnership, right? You and the Lord. Together you can find ways to redeem the year that the locust has stolen. I live by this verse. It is a promise from our Lord, so I am always looking for lemonade, and I love lemonade.

Another philosophy of mine is that today is January 1st, every day is January 1st. By this I mean that we get to treat every day as if it is the first day of the year. We get to start over whenever we want. So, I am suggesting today is January 1st. You are confronted with life being very different. What do you want to do with it? What do want to say about you and your life when this is all said and done? This year has been very disruptive but what can you do to redeem the rest of the year?

What if you decided to write a book? I want you to think big and decide to be better coming out of this year than when you began. I hope you will have grown spiritually as well as personally. Write the book, read one. Paint, workout, walk, learn to play bridge, sit outside, talk with your Father. What will be your silver lining? What will you say you got out of this year?

Let’s all share our thoughts. Leave a comment to this post. We can use this forum to encourage each other to make the best out of a difficult year. Let this be our Year of Jubilee where we redeem the land we lost.

Seeker

Psalm 105: 4

Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually.

Perhaps the most important, certainly some of the best advice in the Bible, this verse speaks the essence of the intertwined partnership, a valuable life model. Seeking Yahweh’s face in every event, even in every moment of life establishes a life lived with God Himself. It is the epitome of Christian experience.

The keyword in this verse is, “continually.” Seeking God’s face continually implies an action and denotes where our energy is spent. However, the precursor of seeking God’s face is staying our thoughts upon Him. Having God constantly on our minds is the underlying requirement of seeking Him continually. Seeking the Lord moment by moment can only come to those who are truly enamored with the Lord. In other words, God is already on your mind. So, when you face a situation or question, it becomes a simple thing to inquire of Him because He is already on your mind. It is natural to seek His strength and knowledge because He is already in the room with you.

Think of spending all day with the Lord Jesus or being aware of the Father’s presence all day. Perhaps, though, this is not a day of meditation. Maybe it is just a normal workday, but all day long you are conscious of God’s presence with you. Doesn’t that sound nice? That continuing presence is the fruit of the meditative times you spent alone with Him. Learning to reside in His continual presence is a process the same as learning anything. The practice of communing with God is forged in some of those quiet hours of meditation. It is wrought in the times of intense seeking and it bears fruit in the day to day existence. Truly, nothing is greater than residing in God’s presence. We all know that. Getting there, however, is not always easy. It isn’t a push button system. Living in that knowing presence of God comes from the times of seeking, but before you know it, you find He is nearby all the time.

There will be periods of intense seeking of the Lord, times when you need a specific answer to a specific problem. There is, though, also the day to day abiding with Him, seeking His face continually and that becomes a very comfortable existence. Seeking His face, not only His power, reveals and intimacy and relationship. God isn’t sought only for what He can do but merely for His presence. We can become accustomed to His presence not for what He says or what He does but just because we enjoy being with Him. Seek His face continually and you will enjoy greater and greater companionship with the Lord.