Quickly Defeated Foe

Psalm: 11 – 14          God’s Word

But my people did not listen to me. Israel wanted nothing to do with me. So I let them go their own stubborn ways and follow their own advice. If only my people would listen to me! If only Israel would follow me! I would quickly defeat their enemies. I would turn my power against their foes.

What do you hear when you read this passage? Do you see God’s sentiments towards the ancient Israelites? Perhaps you see His message to modern Jews? Perhaps it sounds like a reprimand to the body of Christians or even to each of us individually. All of those are legitimate views but I see good news when I read this.

I do view it with modern eyes. This passage has to do with us both collectively and individually. I see it as good news because even if we have not followed His counsel perfectly in the past, there is His promise that if we will listen to Him, He will quickly defeat our enemies. He will turn His power on all of our foes.

Who are your foes? Perhaps your greatest enemy is a busy schedule. Maybe the foe you have been battling is your personal finances. Or, maybe your business looks more like an oppressor than a blessing. It doesn’t matter what your challenge, God is ready and able to take up the fight for you. For most of us, our foes are less tangible than a personal nemesis. Our battles are with our weight, and hence, our diet, our work life, our schedule, unfulfilled dreams, etc. The first thing we must do is to identify what we really fight against in our lives. Is it depression? Relationship issues? Perhaps you are still carrying around scars from your childhood. Spend some time with the great counselor to figure out what inhibits your healthy, happy life most. Then receive His counsel. He has said if we will abandon our advice in favor of His counsel, He will defeat our foes for us. In 2 Chronicles 20 He showed the Jews that they need not fight their own battles. He is happy to turn His power against our adversaries.

If we will lean on God rather than our own understanding, our own advice He calls it, then He will be the God of our lives and the God that we pray for. As long as we are stubborn and listen to our own “wise counsel” we will remain locked in battle. It would be better that He take charge and rout the enemies in our life. Let’s practice listening to Him. Let’s wind up our engines right now for the new year. Get ready New Year – we are charging in with God leading the charge. Hoorah!

Project Planning

2 Chronicles 31: 21             NLT

Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.

I have written on this verse before and no wonder, it is a very poignant verse. Notably there is instruction to seek God “wholeheartedly” and that is the point I have spoken to before. As I read this passage recently, God spoke it to me differently, as He is want to do.

We may seek God generally, but we may also seek Him in a specific fashion. By this I mean, we may seek Him just to know Him or just to spend time with Him, but we may also seek Him on a particular subject or issue. The way the Lord spoke this to me was that I, as well as all Christians, should seek Him on every new project. When we consider taking on a new project, the first thing we should do is to seek the Lord. Obviously, the first question is, “Father, should I take on this project?” If He responds affirmatively, then we can begin to project plan with Him. Frankly, we are a bit idiotic if we do not do this, but it may not be our habit as I doubt many of us were trained in this practice.

For all us Type A personalities, sometimes we get so caught up in the new idea that we don’t pause even to take a breath. We just throw our full strength into the new project. We are well advised, though, to pause for that deep breath and consider the ways of the Lord.

When you read today’s verse in other translations, you pick up on this idea. In all things Hezekiah sought the Lord with his whole heart and because he did, he succeeded. That also means that we shouldn’t make our seeking half-hearted. It isn’t just step one and so we rush through it to get to steps two, three and four. No, instead, if we will take the time to truly seek the Lord, He may well obliterate five or six steps, or even more so that we arrive at our goal more rapidly than if we just throw the force of our energy at it.

Stop today and consider all of the pies of your life. Are there any of those areas in which you have not sought the Lord’s counsel? It is not too late. Stop the merry-go-round and spend some quiet time with your Father. He will lead you in the way you should go. He will give you favor with the people who are instrumental in your project’s success and He will move the needed resources into place for you. Seek the Lord and succeed.

Wonderful Counselor

Psalm 32: 8

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

This is personal. It’s from God to you. He is telling you that He will give you personal counsel. That is why He says He will counsel you with His eye upon you. There is advice that is good for everyone and which applies to everyone. That is not what this verse is about. This is about giving you daily instruction in the way you should go. Our Father is offering to give you step by step instructions for your plans and your goals. The Passion Translation reads, “I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.” We can see from this version that Yahweh wants to be your partner. He wants to walk with you daily.

Here is the rub, though. How are you at hearing His voice? Okay, here is another question, if God is going to instruct and guide us along our specific life path, then why do we spend so much time worrying and thinking about the choices before us. Yahweh will tell us which choice leads to our goal. He knows what we want and how best to get there. Truly, I find myself thinking that we waste a lot of time thinking about things that are a waste. We could use that time to seek God and get the answers freely. We’re wasting too much time trying to do what God will do for us. This is one of the reasons we find ourselves so busy. We aren’t doing our job and we do not allow God to do His.

If we would dedicate ourselves to seeking God daily, I think we would all find that some of the complexity of life would be alleviated. Much of the drama would disappear and we would live in much greater peace and joy. We wouldn’t be so busy because our Father would show us the ways we should spend our time and He would show us how to proceed in the most timely way. Also, if we spent more time seeking Him and listening for His voice instead of running out the door we would learn to hear His voice better. Sometimes we don’t hear Him because we aren’t listening. Sometimes it is a result of having not spent time learning to hear Him. Either way, He speaks quietly and we must learn to listen in the quiet times of our life.

I have learned that we always have the time to do the things we want to do. For example, we don’t skip a lot of meals, we find the time for them. Our YMCA is packed in the wee hours of the morning. These folks have found time to get their workout in before work. Their dedication impresses me. Perhaps we need to have the same level of dedication towards our Lord.

However, if we truly do not have time to spend with our Father, then it may be that we have too many things on our plate. Sometimes wisdom says we have to eliminate something from our schedule. For myself, I find that I must be more efficient with the time I have. I need ponder time, time just to sit quietly with the Father and ruminate over the things He has been showing me. I cannot do that if I am busy running around all day. So, I try to coordinate my to do’s and errands so that I can get a couple of birds at a time. You may have developed strategies like that too. The bottom line is, our God is daily attempting to lead us in very specific ways that will benefit us. We must be able to hear Him, and we just have to spend time with Him. What good is a mentor or a coach if you never spend any time with them? Carve out some time, every day, to listen to the Father. Get out your pen and journal what He says to you. He is going to save you time and effort if you listen to Him.

Night and Day

Psalm 16: 7 – 8

I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

I have to dedicate today’s Word of the Day to my friend Dr. Charity Kayembe (https://www.glorywaves.org/) who has taught us to pay attention to the guidance the Lord gives us in the night. God uses dreams to communicate with us at night as Dr. Kayembe explains in her book, Hearing God Through Your Dreams.

I think this shows God’s passion for leading us. He doesn’t leave us out in the cold, on our own, trying to forge our way through life’s blizzards. He wants to make our lives less challenging by directing our footsteps. Jesus lived every day of his life walking in step with the Father. The reason this ministry’s slogan is “Intertwined with Jesus” is because I believe it epitomizes this synergy between our lives and Christ’s. In these two verses, David points to a life which exists, at all times, intermingled with the Holy Presence.

Our beloved is with us day and night. He speaks to us in our waking hours and whispers in words and images in the dreams of our sleeping hours. He is before us continually, at our right hand. We choose to put Him in the frame of every picture of our lives. David says, it is the Father’s presence in his life which makes him unshakeable. The God’s Word translation reads, “When he is by my side, I cannot be moved.” David’s level of resilience came from keeping Yahweh present at all times. It is not a skill everyone developed but you can certainly see the fingerprints of God on the lives of people who have chosen to live in stride with Christ every hour of the day, and night.

Let the Lord be your constant companion. Listen to the still small voice speaking in your ear daily and be attentive to the messages in the night. This I know and can attest to, God is speaking to you. The needful thing is to learn how to listen.

Blessed Counsel

Psalm 1: 1

How blessed is the . . ..

Psalm 1, a very good place to start. Most of you realize the psalms are songs. As such they have a different tone and complexion from the rest of scripture. The psalms contain many special messages and they often minister straight to the heart, completely bypassing the intellect.

I am struck by the first words of the first Psalm. I participate in a conference call where we are learning about the blessing. How interesting that the first words of the first psalm are about the blessing. The songwriter is going to tell us how people live in the blessing of God. What comes next? How can we each be amongst the blessed of God?

Here is the first verse in its entirety: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” The first thing we learn about walking in the blessing is what not to do. So, what is this bit of wisdom. First, don’t take your advice from the wicked. I used to think this meant not to take advice from non-Christians. So, I endeavored to hire Christians for everything. However, I made a dazzling discovery. Some of the non-Christians were more ethical than the Christians I was working with. Jesus said we will know the wicked by their fruit. So now I have learned to be a fruit inspector. I would prefer to work with Christians but sometimes my light is better displayed by its exposure to those who need to see Christ alive. Also, the salvation prayer does not include a transformation button. We all have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2: 12). That means that our transformation isn’t automatic. Romans 12: 2 reads, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Transformation is a process. It would be wonderful if there was an automatic transformation but there isn’t. Everyone has to work on becoming the Christ like person God ordained. Checking people’s fruit is a check on their journey so far and their ethics is a part of that journey. So, we are instructed not to take our counsel from the wicked which means we must be certain that the people we look to are worthy to lead us on a right path.

That is true of the next statement as well. Do not conspire or plan with sinners. Who are the sinners? Does that mean limit us to Christians? I wish. Don’t hang out with people who practice sin regardless of their Christian affiliation. Choose to be with people who are endeavoring to live above sin. Jesus gave us his life and victory so that we can be free of the chains of sin but not all who have asked Jesus into their lives have broken the chains of sin. Be wise. Check their fruit.

Last, do not be a scoffer nor associate with people who are. This is a pretty big deal, actually. Scoffers are those who jeer, mock, are contemptuous, and speak derisively. These are people you need to stay away from. I think also of people who are generally negative, contrary and critical. We all have a tendency towards being scoffers at times, but you know there is a difference between occasional slipups and a pattern of behavior.

This first psalm points us towards the blessing. In so doing it alerts us to some easy missteps. If you want to live in the blessing you can’t take your advice from wicked people, scoffers or sinners. Of course, this makes sense. These people cannot point you to the blessing. They cannot teach you or counsel you in how to walk in blessing. They can only teach what they know which is scoffing, wickedness, and sin. None of those are in the blessing. Don’t hire these people, don’t take their advice, don’t let them lead you – even if they do have a fish on their business card or are related to you. Take your counsel from people whose fruit would please Jesus.

Pride, Advice and Wisdom

Proverb 13: 10               NIV

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Among the unpopular topics of the day, this must be one. We have become a proud, arrogant people who value our own opinions above all others and rarely will lower ourselves to receive advice from anyone, even God. We don’t inquire of the Lord because we are smart enough ourselves. Hasn’t God given us wisdom? He has given us brains for a reason, right?

I have observed us become smarter than our doctors, smarter than our lawyers and smarter than our pastors. While no one is perfect and no one except the Spirit has all the answers, surely some people know better than we on some subjects. We have become so prideful that we do not wish to hear advice or even teaching. Learning should be a lifelong process. I heard it said one time that as soon as you stop learning, you die. The point is not that you die physically but rather the person within you begins to decay. How shall we continue to learn when we are unwilling to bow to the expertise of another? Even though the Bible is packed with the wisdom of God, Christians don’t value it very highly. We certainly are not clawing for wisdom. We worship the Bible itself but not the content.

We don’t want to be told what to do, we don’t want to be under the authority of another. To listen to the counsel of another is to raise them above us, and that we will not have. I think, “God, save me from myself,” but perhaps what I should pray is, “Father, save me from my pride.” How do we change this tendency in ourselves, much less in our culture? If we do not humbly seek our God, then how will we be able to receive the wisdom He gives others for us? We talk often about our cultural woes and bemoan how our nations are becoming less godly, but I think people have other things in mind when they decry the current state of the culture. This issue, though, is more dangerous to the fabric of our culture than some of the things people would cite. We need to understand which issues are merely symptoms and which are causes. Pride would seem to be a root cause. In fact, I believe it is embodied in the Ten Commandments in which God told us to have no gods, no idols before Him. Our arrogance lifts us up above God which is the original sin. Satan thought he was as smart as God and his insolence shook heaven. God cast him and all of his cronies out because of his insolence. Then man was silly enough to listen to the devil and elevate himself to godlike status. That is what caused man to eat of the forbidden tree.

Pride certainly does breed quarrels. It won’t allow us to listen to anyone’s thoughts so each person vies for the floor which causes friction. Wisdom awaits those who enable themselves to receive instruction. The question, though, is how to we train our egos to allow advice? What is needful? Perhaps we should throw ourselves at the feet of Christ and ask his advice?

Wisdom is for those who take advice. Therefore, seek wisdom. Inquire of God but also allow yourself to be led by those who have gone before you. If you don’t have anyone who knows more than you, you need some new friends. There is guidance available for those who will humble themselves. I pray that we all can learn this valuable life lesson.  Please think about, or even meditate on, today’s verse and email us with your thoughts.  What can we do to right this ship?  Thank you.

Healed by Grace

Psalm 107: 20

He sent His word and healed them.

Query – does this mean supernatural, divine healing? What comes to your mind as you carefully ponder this verse? I believe in the supernatural power of God to touch you such that your healing manifests instantaneously. I have also learned, however, that there is an additional type of healing that our Father provides.

This type of healing is spiritually significant in that it takes prayer and communication with the Father to effectuate it. As you spend this extended time in the presence of the Lord you begin to learn about changes you can make in your life which will speed your healing on its way. Maybe in your quiet time with the Lord the thought floats upon your mind that you need to drink more water. Perhaps there are dietary adjustments Father would like to make with you. If you begin to feel better; if your joints work better from implementing God’s advice, does that make the solution any less spiritual? I think sometimes we want to continue in abusive patterns but expect the healing power of God to flow anyway. Is it possible that we, by our habits, are interfering with the healing power of God which is flowing in our veins? Worse still, do we pray on Sunday, have God start His flow of healing power and then quench it on Monday morning?

Speaking for myself only, I used to skip breakfast Monday morning, get to the office and start drinking coffee, drink coffee all day, rarely drink a glass of water and if I did it was not from a good clean source; then I would have junk for lunch and sit at my desk for 8 – 12 hours straight. Now, why was I surprised that I was physically challenged? My joints felt like they had concrete in them. It took me several minutes to straighten up after sitting or lying down. Was my problem that God’s healing power doesn’t work? Was it because when He sent His Word and healed them, He skipped me. And now that I have made many changes and feel amazingly better, is it because of my brilliance, my effort or is it simple obedience to God’s Word and guidance? Did He in fact heal me or did I?

Believe me, it has been a long journey back from the precipice and I am not done but I am so relieved not to be where I was. There is healing in the Word. God told us to give Him our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice (Romans 12: 2). Surely, He has also provided the means by which we can do so. He also told us that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth (John 14: 13). Now all truth must mean truths even beyond spiritual things, although, I am not sure that our Father would consider your health anything less than a spiritual matter. In fact, when it comes right down to it, is not everything ultimately a spiritual matter? My point is that the Holy Spirit has wisdom from the Father on every single thing in the world. So, the answer you need for your physical health and well-being may be found in prayer, no doubt, but do not be surprised if God gives you practical, earthly things to do.

You were meant to live a long, healthy life. This rubbish about beginning to fall apart at age 40, 50 or whatever arbitrary date people use is just that, rubbish. Moses was climbing mountains at age 120. I can make you this promise, God’s vision for you includes a healthy, well-functioning body. Now, let’s get in line with His Word and His counsel and grow strong in spirit and body.