Always and Forever

Psalm 136: 1

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His faithfulness is everlasting.

I have come to like this psalm very much. Thanks to Psalm Mondays I have gotten to look at it with new eyes and I quite appreciate it. There are twenty-six verses in this psalm. Each looks like verse one with its two phrases, the second of which is always, “His faithfulness is everlasting.” Essentially, the author gives twenty-six examples of God’s faithfulness. They aren’t just twenty-six events but rather twenty-six ways the Lord is continually faithful. For example, some are about creation, some about routing evil kings, a couple about salvation from Egypt, and more. Throughout history God has shown Himself faithful and that is some really good news.

When you are faced with a challenging situation or a friend is, this faithfulness of God is the good news you and they need. God has not left the building. He is still faithful and dependable. What do you need? Get alone with Him and meditate with Him. It could even be that what you think you need isn’t the right or perhaps the complete answer. You will find out that you are brilliant and insightful when you are well partnered.

Teamwork

Joshua 23: 9 – 11

For the Lord has driven out great and strong nations from before you; and as for you, no man has stood before you to this day. One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you. So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God.

I didn’t include this passage in yesterday’s devotion because it was already getting lengthy, but I felt you needed to see this for yourself and us discuss it a bit further. Truly, though, the two go hand in hand.

The key to this passage is the partnership. It is loud and strong. The quick summary is, “The Lord fights for you. Therefore, you will put thousands to flight.” If ever there was an expression of synergy, this has to be it. One of us can put to flight a thousand enemies. That is what the passage says but to read that sentence without its partners is to misunderstand scripture and to misunderstand our God.

Likewise, were we to read this passage and only hear, “For the Lord your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you,” then we fail our faith and understanding of scripture again because it is not only that our God fights for us but that we stand in partnership with Him. Any other reading of this passage is a distortion. The loud message must be “Teamwork.” If you truly want to understand this passage, read the last sentence first. The key language is “Take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God.” That is powerful, powerful stuff!

Do you see how this ties so strongly with yesterday’s devotion on praise, worship and offerings? It is in these expressions of love for our Father that real power resides, and that partnership is utilized. We are nothing, alone. Even Jesus said he could do nothing on his own, but in our Father, we can be very effective partners. He is our source, our strength and our wisdom. You don’t want me to rely on my wisdom for the Word of the Day, do you? Of course not! These devotionals only have meaning if our Father speaks. Further, I couldn’t do this without Him anyway. I would be powerless, empty.

The challenge is for each of us to partner with Him every day, in all we do. When I worship my Lord, when I praise Him, my heart opens to Him and I am able to connect with Him more strongly than ever. Giving a donation does that for my inner self too. God doesn’t need my money, but it is a way for me to connect with His ministry that subsequently empowers my heart.

It isn’t just the warrior who puts a thousand to flight. It isn’t only Father fighting our battles for us. The reality that we are learning is that victory is in our cooperation with the Spirit of God.

I hope this blessed your heart. Email your questions, comments and prayer requests to us at https://iveyministries.org/.

Connected

Psalm 96: 1 – 2

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

I wrote to you last week about praise. This song is titled “A call to Worship.” I think this is worth some thought. As you read further in this psalm the author also says to take an offering to the Lord. This made me think of how we can partner with the Lord in devotional unity against the viral situation we are facing but also unified towards and in one another.

We are living in a historical moment, no doubt. I have asked myself this question, “When I look back at this time, what will my own legacy be? What will be said of me?” I have answered that I want to grow, spiritually especially, and have looked after myself physically with a good diet and exercise. When hardship strikes, one of the ways we can fight back is to become better versions of ourselves. Make a silver lining. Romans 8: 28 promises that God will help us do just that. If we will give Him our lemons, He will make lemonade.

So, what are we going to do during this time of challenge? Hopefully we will never have to experience a time like this again but there will be other challenges in our lives. How do we respond to them? Do we grow or crumble? Can I come out stronger on the other side?
Here is the other question this psalm brings to my mind? Does praying, praising, worshipping or giving offerings to the Lord stimulate Him to action? That is what this psalm seems to suggest. I do not believe that our Father is sitting on His hands. Further, I do not believe there is anything I can do, or need do, to cause our Father to feel compassion. He is the embodiment of compassion. So, why this psalm?

There is something which happens when we praise, worship and make an offering? We are not moving God to action; we are activating our hearts. That is what is so important, in fact, it is vitally important. God’s heart is crying out for people who will connect with Him. We are His hands in the earth. We are His feet. If we fully understood this “partnership” we would be amazed at the power Yahweh has put in our hands. With a prayer you can “put ten thousand to flight,” (Leviticus 26: 8 KJV). Jehovah God has put weapons, or tools, if you prefer, in our hands. I wrote last week (Monday, April 6, 2020) that praise is one of the biggest guns we have (please forgive my weapon analogy but it works in my heart. Translate it to tools for yourself if you prefer). I wanted to disclose in that Word of the Day the strongest of all weapons but didn’t because I did not want to veer from the point of that message. However, I find my greatest tool in the time of great stress is an offering. I pull out my checkbook and give to a ministry. This is not a time I give to the Red Cross or any other worthy charity. I give into the hands of God. For some of you prayer is your biggest hammer. Others are able to release themselves into this partnering with God through praise. My worship and weapon is a check to an anointed ministry which feeds me. It puts power in my hands but more importantly it releases my faith. I feel that I am connecting with my Lord and that I am striking a blow against the enemy. I don’t give hoping something will happen. I give knowing I am impacting the world around me.

So, I think the psalm does make sense. We need to connect with our Father during this time. We might connect with Him more strongly than ever before. Our hearts certainly need it and our world needs it. Perhaps you dedicate yourself to prayer. Maybe it is worship. Some of you will feel empowered and connected with Dad by writing out a big check. Whatever it is, I hope you will make this sheltered time a point in your personal history which you will remember as a time of personal growth. Maybe you will start doing push-ups and can say it began in the midst of a crisis. I hope, and pray, that whatever transformative strides you make during this time, spiritual growth will be among them, because we need you. As this psalm says, “Bless His name.”

Favor and Light

Psalm 44:3

For by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favored them.

Here is a good example of partnership with God and I hope you find it encouraging because the favor of God was sufficient weaponry to possess the land.

What land are you trying to take? Is it a new job, financial security, a big project? How about raising kids? Whatever your big goals, you don’t have to do it in the power of your might. We kind of know that but we often know it intellectually rather than experientially. I find that I can have very strong theology when we sit and chat but that in the moment of everyday happenings, my inner self does not always act out those intellectual beliefs. I may even hold to those beliefs very strongly and would argue adamantly about them but still not instinctively employ them in day to day life. This partnership with God theology is one of the largest ideals I write about. However, the practical application can be somewhat enigmatic. How do we actually allow God to be our strong right hand? How do we come to own Canaan if not by our own sword? Is our Puritan work ethic a hindrance to walking by faith or is it what makes for quality individuals? Better still, do we misuse our work ethic?

I believe in setting goals, determining what is required in order to reach them and then setting realistic activity goals. If one wants X, what will be required in order to attain X? Secondarily, am I willing to do what is required? However much I admire this approach I must recognize that it is still a worldly process. That is not to say that I recommend rejecting it, it just means that it is only the beginning of the method. The more important step is taking all of this to God, talking with Him about it and then, more importantly, listening to Him. If we seek the goals He has for us then we will start off on the right track. Second, once we have God’s vision for our future, then we should enquire of the course. What would He have us do? He will tell us our part if we listen. Then we don’t run off half-cocked making a mess of big dreams.

I want God to win the goal for me. That sounds infinitely better than toiling. God will hand Canaan into our hands if we will follow Him. Most interesting of all, today’s verse reveals that His presence was the key to obtaining the goal. We have only to walk in the shadow of His glory, follow along in the footsteps He leaves as He leads and the next thing we know will be the Promised Land.

What do you want? What do you really, really want? Is there a goal out there that is almost too big to even dream? Maybe your dream is even too big to talk about but the light of His presence can bring it to pass. This takes some meditation. Today’s verse is really poignant, and I hope you will ponder it. When we learn to walk with God such that His hand delivers the victory then all things shall be possible. Remember, the Israelites defeated a city by walking around it. God’s way is not usually our way but we can learn to hear Him and follow His direction instead of launching out in the power of our might and when we do, even those biggest of dreams will be yours!

The Believers’ Rest

Hebrews 4: 1

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.

I find this language interesting. Why should there be any fear related to God’s rest? Verse 3 reveals that God was angry and in His anger He swore that “they” would not enter into His rest. Look at verse three from the Passion Translation, “For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise and we experience the realm of confident rest! For he has said, ‘I was grieved with them and made a solemn oath, ‘They will never enter into the calming rest of my Spirit.’”

Rest comes by faith. God was angry at the disobedient ones (Hebrews 3: 18). The Tree of Life version of Hebrews 4: 1 illuminates the disobedience. It says, “For we who have trusted are entering into that rest.” Their disobedience, then, was that they did not trust God and that is what angered Him. Selah – pause and consider that.

Rest is a matter of faith and trust. People who believe, enter into the promise of rest that the Father gave, and they do so with confident trust. They are persuaded that God will not let them down. Failing or refusing to enter into God’s rest is a slap in His face. It says that we do not trust Him. Instead, we trust our own abilities. We are focused on all we need to do and thus, abandon the idea of a partnership with the Divine.

The Holy Spirit was sent to be our “go along.” His intent is to walk with us, side by side, go along with us everywhere we go, assisting us in all we do. Actually, he is supposed to be our guide. He wants to stand shoulder to shoulder but lead us from that position. That is why I call it a partnership. He wants to intertwine with us in every activity rather than run over us or dominate us. And he will gently step aside if we do not choose to partner with him. However, we cannot enter God’s rest if we do not receive the aid of the Spirit. God grieves when we fail to enter into “the calming rest of my [His]Spirit.” His anger is kindled when we try to do everything in our might. “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience,” (Hebrews 4: 11). Our job is to enter into His rest. Our task is to seek His face. He has people for all of the “work” but there is only one person who can spend time with God for you. Guess who!

Let this sink in today. Ponder these verses and ideas. Can you find the way to let God do the heavy lifting for you at your job? What about all those tasks on your list, can He somehow help those to get done more efficiently? I think you will find the time you spend with Him, seeking His advice and guidance, will more than pay for itself. Find your place of rest. I will give you a hint. It’s in Him.

No Power to All Power

Matthew 28: 18          NMB

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, all power is given to me in heaven and in earth.

So, if, as Jesus said, all power was given to him, then why could he do nothing in and of himself? Is this a perplexing problem or a simple question? Remember from yesterday’s Word of the Day that John 5: 19 records Jesus as saying that he could do nothing of himself. So how was he able to perform so many miracles? The answer is, he was given all power when he was given the Holy Spirit. Recall that the Spirit of God came and rested upon him at his baptism. From then on, he walked in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than in his power.

I hope that brief recitation paints a picture in your mind. It can be very perplexing to think of walking as Jesus did, living as he did and carrying on his ministry, which is what we are all called to do. We try, in vain sometimes, to imagine what walking in and with the Spirit looks like. The good news is that we can look at Jesus. He has already modeled it for us. He was just a man, and by his own admission a powerless man. He couldn’t do miracles in himself. He was so aware of human shortcomings that he said that in and of himself he could do nothing. I can relate to that, can you? Doesn’t it seem sometimes that even the simplest things take more power and energy than we can produce?

The brilliance is in understanding we were never meant to stand on our own. It turns out, even to my chagrin, that individualism is a farce. We are not individuals. We are constituent parts of a whole and meant to be woven into the very fabric of our father. Actually, you know that we are called the body of Christ, each of us an important part of the whole. We are also the house of God; “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 2: 5). Jesus is the high priest who will offer spiritual sacrifices to God in the temple. It turns out that we are that temple.

My point is this. You were never designed to function on your own. That’s like a one person basketball team. You were created to function as a team; with all the rest of us but more importantly, in harness with the Holy Spirit of God. If we, as the body of Christ, as his spiritual house can grasp this, we can, and I mean this literally, change the world overnight. When we lay hold of this concept our lives will change dramatically as well as the lives of every person around us. You will not be able to contain yourself or that power resident within you. You become a world changer like Jesus. Everywhere you go, he will exude from you. I want so much for us to be that functioning body that Jesus is looking for. It isn’t only up to me. More importantly, it is up to “we.” The world changing phenomenon is in us, and we are learning to walk in the Spirit and emulate Jesus. If we are to ever be true disciples, that is what is called for.

Of yourself, you can’t do much, but then, Jesus said the same of himself. He was given a gift, though, a gift which not only changed him but changed the world. That was the gift of the Holy Spirit. If there is any one message of this age it is that we need to embrace the Spirit of God and walk with him daily. We need to meet this third part of the Trinity and know him as we know and love Jesus. Though you can do nothing on your own, you can do all things with him. That includes caring for your family and being successful in what God has called you to do.

Make this your Spirit day. If you don’t feel you have a relationship with him, make this your day. If you know him, decide to go deeper with the Holy Spirit today. Determine to walk every step with him and purpose in your heart that he will be in your every breath.

O My Soul

Habakkuk 2: 4

Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.

Yesterday Habakkuk taught us that God does not want us to rely on our own strength, but rather to trust in His. We talked about partnering with the Holy Spirit, allowing him to guide our decisions and actions. We learned that He is not pleased with our looking to our own strength and skills. In fact, the scripture said we will be held guilty if that is our reliance. I don’t want to be held guilty by God but further, I don’t want to work myself to death when He has sent me His Spirit to do all the heavy lifting. Why would we do that? Why do we do that?

Pride – says the prophet Habakkuk or rather God through Habakkuk. It is vain pride, ego mania, that causes us to focus on us instead of our savior, Father and helper. It sounds ridiculous! Why are we looking to our abilities when our Father is omniscient? Habakkuk says, our soul is not right within us. In the Southern United States we would say, “Something ain’t right!” What a shock for God to tell us it is our very own soul which has gone afoul.

Before we panic let’s ask this question, “How can we get our soul right?” When you were born again, that was a rebirth from above. God breathed new life into you and renewed your spirit. What of the soul, though? Here is the bad news, you are going to have to get your hands dirty. Yep, you have work to do. Now, are you willing? Truth be told, probably only about 20% of you answered, “yes,” so it is to you twenty percenters that I will speak.

Here is the answer. Turn your Bible to Romans 12: 2. What does it say? Here is God’s instruction on how to renew your soul. It has to be retrained by renewing your mind with the Word of God. You have to do this. Before you freak out, though, remember what yesterday’s Word of the Day was about. It was all about partnership, right? There is nothing you ever have to do alone again. The other side of the coin, though, is that God is not going to do it without you. You are partners. Let that sink in. Imagine forming a partnership with Yahweh. Picture yourself shaking hands with Him as you seal your agreement.

Now, here you are. You have a reborn spirit which not only is in the likeness of God but actually is a little piece of Him. He is part of your genetics and your breath now and you are part of His. Our minds, though, are unruly and must be taken in hand. Your spirit in conjunction with Father’s is more than up to this task. You are going to have to spend time in your Bible. I hate it for you, but it is just the truth. It is going to have to be done but it is so easy. Let me help you.

Every week day I send you a Bible verse, right? Okay, just start there. Read the verses around it or read the whole chapter. Or, read it in several versions. Online databases have made this so easy for us. Now, here is the big secret. Do this with Dad’s Spirit, your helper. Start prayerfully. What does that even look like. Well, it does not look like your Pastor’s beautiful seminary prayers. It goes more like this, “Holy Spirit, I want my mind renewed and I have this verse today with which to start. Show me more about it. Speak to me what you want me to hear in this passage.” Keep it simple. The Holy Spirit didn’t go to seminary either. He just speaks plain old language like you. Although . . . he also speaks in picture language so watch the pictures that flow through your mind. Be like a child and just see in your mind what he speaks to you. Maybe that verse references other verses. If you are viewing them online, all it takes is a click and your screen will be painted with a bunch of similar verses. It is so cool!

Look, you can do this. You can get that old raggedy soul into shape and let me tell you a truth, it is fun. Once you know how to do it and know these simple little tips, it becomes such fun. You are going to be surprised at how much the Spirit speaks to your spirit. Hang on to your hat because he absolutely loves this process.

Now don’t be proud. Don’t look to yourself as the one who must heal your soul. That is not your job. It is Dad’s. And don’t be proud thinking you can do this on your own. Don’t look to your intelligence. We’re just not that smart, frankly. I mean really, compare us with God. We haven’t even had enough years to absorb the enormity of material available. Whatsmore, you don’t want to have to sort through the world’s entire database. Just yield, surrender (do you hear the song playing in your head) to the Lord and let the Holy Spirit lead you to what you need. Let God touch your soul with His love. You will be healed, and you are going to be full of His joy. This is the sweet spot. Let the Lord lead you. Let go of vain glory, foolish pride and surrender all. Be renewed in your mind and let your soul breathe fresh air.

The righteous shall live by faith, not by sight. Where there is pride, faith does not operate. Give God your belief and trust and He will be right there with you making the journey fun.