Help is Near

Psalm 34: 18

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I was very surprised today to realize I had not sent this verse. I would have sworn I had. There is never a time when this verse is not appropriate because we all have need of Jesus’ saving grace daily, we have all suffered broken hearts and unfortunately, most of us have experienced at least one time in our lives when we have been crushed in our spirits. What I hear the most in this right now, though, is the high level of stress and anxiety people are enduring right now. People who were fortunate enough to retain their jobs are now doing the work of three people and they were probably over-taxed before the crisis. Health care workers, dear God, I cannot even imagine their stress load. Then there are the tons of people who are emotionally over stay home orders. They probably don’t even realize how stressed they are.

So here’s the deal, Jesus said he is the answer. No really! I don’t mean that in an esoteric way. The only value is if Jesus is the real and present answer. The reality is that he has promised to save us from everyday work and strain as much as the extreme stress situations. Salvation, you understand, is an everyday thing, and thank God for that. We often limit the idea of salvation to a saved from hell perspective but that is only one piece of Jesus’ victory. He whipped the devil so that we have everyday grace.

I am reminded of this verse, “I’ve told you this so that my peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world,” (John 16: 33 GW). He was saying to us that because he has overcome the world, we too can experience that victory. His victory is ours. Crushed in spirit? Look up! The power and peace of Jesus is at hand to save you from the stress, worry and anxiety. His love and tenderness is on hand to assuage the pain and hardship. You go through nothing on your own. The secret is for us to learn to lean more heavily on his peace. There are some who only know God’s peace intellectually. “Yeah,” they say, “I know about the peace of Jesus.” That is so not what I am writing to you about. I want you to know the peace of Jesus in an experiential way where you would remove the word “about” from the previous sentence. Instead you might say, “Yes, and thank you Lord. I live in the tender mercies of the Lord. I relax in his peace and feel my heart comforted by his love and care.” The higher the stress load, the more peace and grace the Father has for you and the more you should bathe in it.

This is why the Lord is near, to care for you as a shepherd cares for the sheep. Can you imagine a shepherd who sits against a tree and calls out to the sheep, “I care for you,” but doesn’t stir when the wolf comes, nor never leads them to water or pasture? Don’t care about me, care for me. It is different and that is the Jesus difference. Now, let us make sure that we aren’t standing out in the pasture saying, “I know my shepherd cares about me,” but don’t follow him to water or run to him when the predator comes. Our faith and need connect in Jesus. Be filled with his lovingkindness and peace.

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Hope

Acts 2: 26

Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will abide in hope.

It is a horrible thing to live without hope, and yet there are many people who are doing just that. But you don’t have to be without hope any longer. Jesus brought hope into the world. Now you can be free of dejection, depression and sorrow.

When Jesus went to the cross, died and rose again, he accomplished more than salvation for your eternal soul. He brought hope into a dying world. He became hope. He died that we might live. He told us in John 10: 10 that he came to give us abundant life. Jesus conquered hell and the grave that we might live in joy and victory, his victory, the victory that he won for us. When we couldn’t overcome, he overcame for us. When we were downtrodden, he arose, lifting us up with him.

You see there is no reason for you to be overcome with the anguish of this world any longer. Although we know that the world dishes out pain and suffering, Jesus said for us to take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16: 33). You do not have to despair any longer. Jesus has made a way for you to be comforted and enjoy the good fruit of his victory.

My Dad is Bigger

1 John 4: 4

You are from God, children, and you have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

This is one of those verses that we hear often but I wonder if we see the meaning in it. Yesterday we explored the idea of treating the Bible as literal truth. What happens if you do that with this verse?

Who is it that is in us? The verse from yesterday, 1 John 4: 15 reveals that God lives inside of everyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God. Who is “he who is in the world?” This phrase refers to Satan. So rephrase this to read, greater is God who lives in you than Satan who is in the world. Yeah, I guess so!!

There is another group indicated in this passage. The verse says, “you have overcome them.” “Them” refers to those who do not acknowledge that Jesus came from God. The various translations refer either to people or spirits, but we needn’t be confused by that. When we were created, we were called speaking spirits. At our core, we are spirits wearing a flesh robe. The God’s Word translation adds clarity, “But every person who doesn’t declare that Jesus Christ has come as a human has a spirit that isn’t from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that you have heard is coming. That spirit is already in the world ,(v. 3).

So, we have now identified all the parties. You have been labeled an overcomer and God says you have already overcome those who do not acknowledge Jesus as the Christ whether they be spirits or people whose spirit is speaking. We know that the world has trouble but be comforted. You can overcome the world because, as we learned yesterday, you are in God (John 16: 33, 1 John 4: 15).

Now to the nitty gritty. He who is in the world is out there just trying to stir up trouble for you. He is a trouble maker. It’s what he does. Just look what happened in the Garden of Eden thanks to his meddling. You do not have to be a victim to his machinations though because greater is He who lives in you than he who is trying to make trouble. God is big enough for the troubles. We apply the oil of His anointing to the troubling situations and let His grace move the mountains with our faith.

Living in God as He lives in us is one of the key ways to keep the enemy on the run. Our ministry slogan is “Intertwined with Jesus” because that is where your safety and assurance rests. He is our pathway and that path leads directly to our Father who awaits our arrival.

Endeavor to live every day in God. Learn to live to the Spirit rather than to the flesh. Learn what that means if you don’t know. Let the Lord live through you and have expression through you because he has already defeated every foe. The greater one lives in you. Let this speak to your spirit today.

Prayer Cover

Colossians 1: 3

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.

It is important that we pray for each other as we see in the example Paul set for us. We need each other’s support. Jesus said that while we are in this world we will have trials but to take heart because he has conquered the world (John 16: 33). We do not have to crumble at the trials of the world because he has triumphed. He has provided the way for us to triumph over the challenges of the world. One of the tools we have is prayer. We can pray for our own needs and that is good but sooner or later we learn to get out of our little sphere and pray for others. As you sow prayer into the lives of others, you sow into the Kingdom of God. This is a continuing message of sowing and reaping because all of the Kingdom of God works by this principle. And as we sow, we also reap. We do the work of God and God takes care of our needs. As you spend your time planting seeds for the betterment of others, God is at work in your life. As you pray for others, you are forced to turn your mind off of yourself for a moment. That allows God to work for you because you have released your care for your own issues for a time.

Also know that I, following Paul’s example, pray for you every day. Everyone who receives these daily emails gets covered by prayer. Likewise, pray for me, all of you. As you pray for me and keep me built up, I have more to pour out to you. That is how it works. As we support each other, we are each edified more than if we just pray for ourselves.

Partnership Power

1 Corinthians 15: 57

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s verse concludes our series on the armor of God and the necessarily attendant victory in Christ. This verse speaks so loudly and is at the very crux of standing in victory when it feels like all of hell is against you. This, of course, was written by the same person who taught us about the armor, the Apostle Paul. I bring this to your attention because I want it fit in an overall paradigm for you.

All that we do, must be done in and with the Lord Jesus. There is a balance that is a bit difficult to grasp about our role and his. Our Father designed a partnership model. You see it displayed in this verse. God gives us the victory. That’s what it says, right? There is more though. He gives us our victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our victory comes in this partnership. There are many Biblical examples of this model but my favorite is still Moses, God and the Red Sea.

You know the story; the children of Israel were in a difficult position. They had left Egypt in route to the Promised Land. However, the Egyptians pursued them and the Israelites were backed up against the Red Sea, seemingly with nowhere to go other than into the grasp of the Egyptians. In Exodus 14, verse 15 the Lord, said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” Can you imagine your reply to God? I can imagine mine. It would probably sound something like, “I am crying out to you because the Egyptians are almost upon us and they will certainly slaughter us when they catch us. You’ve got to do something God! How shall I tell the people to go forward. There is a sea before us. Do you suppose we can walk on water. Father, if you don’t do something and do it now, we are all going to die. Is that what you want? Is this why you told me to lead them out of captivity.” Fortunately for the entire nation of Israel, Moses was in a better place to listen to the leading of the Lord. In verse 16 we find God’s instructions to Moses, “And as for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.”

As you know, Israel did go through on dry land. Therefore, you know that Moses did as he was instructed. He exercised faith and trust and the result is as it must always be when we follow God in faith and trust. The question I often pose to people is, “So, who parted the sea?” What is your answer? Was it Moses or God? Maybe you chose, “All of the above.” If so, I think you are right and the miracle would not have occurred without the cooperation of God and man.

You, like the Israelites, may be in a position of difficulty. Perhaps you have cried out to God. Have you listened for his response? He may be saying to you as He did Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me?” God has already given us the victory, especially in this post-resurrection age in which we live. Jesus has already won every battle we will ever face but we must do our part. What do you suppose would have happened if Moses had said to Himself, “Oh, God is on the throne. What will be, will be,” or, “God is our deliverer. We will sit here and watch our deliverance” but never raised his staff? What would have happened if Moses did not do his part?

I tell you, “Look around.” You see Christians who are overcoming challenges and enjoying the favor of God. I suspect, though, you see many Christians who are being overrun by the enemy. This is often the case and it grieves my heart to no end. These beloved saints are no less loved by God. They have, perhaps, chosen to believe some lies the devil has proliferated throughout our societies. Others may have never heard the truth. Our job is to stand firm and then help someone else to win their battles. That is why is it important for you to realize we have a real enemy out there but learn how every victory is yours in Christ Jesus. Jesus is not the one wielding the sword. He has given the sword to you. Please let that revelation sink in. I wish we could sit in a rocker on our porch and have success laid at our feet, but that is not how this works. He gave us armor and a sword for a reason. Further, he knew we would need these items. Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world (John 16: 33) but in the same breath he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It all comes together right there. Sure there is trouble, be not unaware. However, in Christ is the victory so be at peace in your heart. Do not succumb to despair but neither surrender to apathy. There is something for you to do. God has given the victory into our hands but like Moses, we must lift our hand. I don’t think this need be frightening. The prospect of parting the Red Sea may be overwhelming but at the end of the day, all Moses really did was to lift his staff. You can do that too. Just seek God and follow his advice. You will have to lift your hand, yes, but I can promise that He will do the heavy lifting.

Take Heart

Luke 10: 19

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

I have written to you recently about the authority of the church over the power of the enemy. This is a delicate and somewhat perplexing topic but by writing to you about it I hope to encourage clarity or at least inspired consideration. The problem is that as a body, we seem uncertain about our position relative to the devil. Does he have any power? Is he a defeated foe? Why is there any Biblical discussion about “the enemy” since Jesus marched into hell and took the keys from Satan?

These are all very good questions and important ones. If you actually have an enemy but are unaware that said enemy is plotting against you, then you are defenseless. If you are conscious of the enemy, is it possible to give him too much credit and subsequently fall victim to another deception, that of chasing demons? We are not naïve. We know by now, and the scriptures inform us, that there is an enemy and his name is Satan. He has been the enemy of humanity since the beginning. The real question seems to be, what power and/or influence does he wield today? The parallel question is, didn’t Jesus’ victory whip the devil forever? Good question – glad you asked.

Today’s verse encapsulates the answer. I will state it this way even though it is a bit of an overstatement, Jesus defeated the devil, but have you? What I intend to imply is that Jesus has done his part but there is still something we must do in order for his victory to be effective in our lives. Look again at today’s verse. Jesus said he has given power to us. Okay, that is easy enough to understand but why need he give power to us if he has already defeated the enemy? He said, “nothing shall by any means hurt you.” There is a huge assumption in this last statement though, the assumption being that we have employed the power he has given us.

Because of Jesus’ victory we too can stand victorious against the devil. Too many of us believe, erroneously, that Jesus’ victory gives us a free pass. That is to say, sometimes we think we do not have to do anything in order to live the triumphant life Jesus won for us. I thought the same thing as a young person. I thought being a Christian meant that I should live a, relatively, care free, trouble free life. Well, I learned better and frankly, that belief is not even scriptural. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble,” (John 16: 33). That is a clear statement of fact. However, it is not the end of the story and here is where Jesus’ triumph over Satan comes in. The end of John 16: 33 records Jesus saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In other words, yes, the world will bring you trouble and you will be troubled all the days of your life UNLESS you apply Jesus’ overcoming power. Jesus said being “in him” is the victory that overcomes the world. This is the key point we must come to understand. Jesus won the victory for us but it is we who must overcome using that which he has provided. In him is peace, perfect peace. So take heart and use all that Jesus won for you.

Harmony

Proverb 22: 24


Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man.

Truth be told, it is no fun being around someone who is prone to angry outbursts. Should it be a surprise that God has specifically given us instruction to avoid associating with these people?

Some people walk around full of anger. They do their best to contain it, they wrap iron bars around their hearts in an attempt to control their anger but it always turns out to be in vain. The smallest thing sets them off and their reaction goes far beyond what is merited. The reason they have such uncontrollable and out of scale reactions is because of the hurt which is within them every minute of the day. They have nursed these hurt feelings for years or worse, have stuffed them down into their subconscious. They lie to themselves saying they have it all under control but you only need be around them for a short time to see that they are far from in control. It is easy for these angry people to become further crippled by substance abuse as well. They will look for any remedy for anesthetizing the hurt.

What happens when you associate with these people? You will get hurt and you will be influenced by their anger issues. You may even find yourself responding in anger because of the need to defend your sensitive spirit from harsh and angry language and behaviors. There is a larger concept involved here too. Jesus is the Lord of peace. A brief search of the New Testament on the word peace yields 93 instances where it was used. I like what Jesus said in Mark 9: 50, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” We are to live in peace. He also said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace (John 16: 33). We could go on and on because Jesus is the Prince of Peace but let me end with something Paul wrote, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8: 6). Here we begin to see the crux of the argument revealed. Jesus is peace and the mind, or the person, set on the Spirit of God is peace. Another way of saying this is that peace follows the one whose mind is stayed on Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You cannot intertwine your life with Jesus and be a person of anger, turmoil and chaos. Jesus brings order and peace. So God recognizes that the person who is angry is not surrendered to the Trinity. These people sow friction and discord wherever they go.

This is not the way which the Lord has ordained for us. We are meant to live in peace and harmony. So, don’t go with a man given to anger. You will not be in the presence of the Holy Spirit but rather with a spirit of conflict. It is not good for you; it is not good for your spirit or even your health. Pray for those people but do not associate with them. So says God.