A Cast-Down Believer?

Psalm 42:6   O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore, will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.   

Have you ever seen a person in the throes of despair? His back is slumped. His shoulders are heavy. His eyes seem to be focused on a distant object in another world. His head is held up only by his hands which seem to be powerless. Truly this is the picture of a person who is cast down. Yet should this ever be the picture of a believer?   

In our focal verse, the Psalmist speaks of a soul of a believer that is like the one described above. It seems oxymoronic; a believer, cast down. Yet this is the state that describes many a believer today.    

The Psalmist could not rationalize why his soul would be cast down since he was a child of God. He turned to God and forced himself to remember times three times when God's power was clearly manifested in his life. He identified them for us by naming the places. He lists the land of Jordan, the land of the Hermonites and the hill Mizar. 

These places are where David experienced God's power, protection, and provision. These were the times where David experienced God's riches, rewards, and righteousness. These were situations where David experienced God's grace, goodness, and gifts.    

Is your soul cast down? Why?   

He Will Perfect Me

Psalms 138:8   The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth forever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

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If you know me personally, you know I love to cook meals, grill meat, and eat good food. 

When I grill, I know that the preparation of the meat (dry rub, never wet marinade), the arrangement of the coals, the placement of the meat on the grill and the turning of the meat is critical for pleasing the eaters at the table.  These elements are also critical for the satisfaction of the chef in a job done well. 

I will season the meat hours before its grilling and serving. I will prepare the wood for grilling. I will light the wood at the right time. I will turn and move the meat on the grill based on its thickness, composition, and the eater’s preference.

In grilling (Using a gas grill is not grilling; charcoal is grilling; I digress), the meat needs to be moved to the cool spot on the grill. Or, if I am using the second grill, I put it on the other grill for a different temperature range. When I believe it’s nearly done, I will pull the meat off the grill. I know the meat will finish cooking, even when it’s off the heat, to the eater’s desired preference as we wait to serve it. 

If the meat were personified, it might say, “The chef is not using me right now. You see he put me on another grill.”  Or it might say, “He’s got me set aside on this serving plate, but I am not being used. I wish he would hurry up; I’m tired of waiting.” 

Whether finishing in the cool spot on another grill or resting on a plate before it’s ready to be used, the chef knows how the meat will be used. He knows what it needs to be doing now for a perfection later. He knows when it is right to move it, turn it, pull it, and place it in a resting place. He will place the meat into service when he is ready.

The Psalmist wrote about a similar thing. God, the Master Chef, knows how we will be used. He knows where will be used. He is aware of the places we need to be in the process for Him to get the most glory out of us. Sometimes, He places us over the heat directly. Sometimes, He uses indirect heat. Other times, He places us on another grill for a different purpose. Yet sometimes before the actual serving, He puts on a resting plate. He does this to allow for the final cooking. He knows when to pull the foil off us for that prepared place of service He’s designed to have maximum efficiency and glory. 

If you are cooling, resting, or waiting to be placed into service, know this: He will finish the work He began. He will not forsake the work of His hands. He is merciful.

Don’t worry; enjoy this place of rest. Don’t pine for a place of service before His time. He knows where you are. He knows what He needs you to be. He knows when you need to be there. He will perfect that which concerns you. He desires to get maximum glory. He won’t forsake you.

 

 

 

Fat, Dull, and Closed

Matthew 13:11-15

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When questioned by the disciples about His use of parables, Jesus replied that there were three issues affecting mankind’s ability to grasp Him. He identified a problem not just in His time. He did it by quoting a message by Isaiah generations earlier. This moment of teaching lends valuable insight to modern problems on Planet Earth.

The average believer today has the same failure to grasp Christ. Yes, we have hearts, but we have over-indulged in self and have become fat. True, we have ears, but we have allowed God’s Spirit and Word to be ambient noise we tune out so we can hear what we want. Certainly, we have eyes, but they are closed to seeing anything but our preferred mirrors that we select because of their ability to make us look good.

In this season of over-indulgence, let’s pause and examine our hearts, ears, and eyes. Have these portals to the soul become fat, dull, and closed? May we slim down, sharpen up, and see around us what He would have us to learn. It would be a shame today if we missed His lesson for us today because of being fat, dull, and closed.

Follow the Leader

Luke 9:57   And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.    

Childhood memories fade from us rather too quickly. However, most can remember playing the game “Follow the Leader.” Oh, the simplicity of the moment when the leader moved in one direction and the “followers” would move in the same direction.  

“Follow the Leader” should truly be the way we conduct God’s work today. God leads through His word and we should follow. 

However, many “would be followers” have reasons they will not follow.  Three men said, when faced with the opportunity to serve the Lord, “I would follow…but.” One was consumed with his daily needs. Another was burdened with family concerns. The third was prone to delay to avoid possible regrets.   

Jesus knew the things holding each of them back from following Him. He said to the three that there would be no rest, no returns, and no regrets. Many today feel justified by saying, “I just want to make sure I have taken care of what is important to me.” Some have even said, “I have wants, too!” Oh, the selfishness that has crept in God’s churches and workers today!  

What is your reply to His gentle bidding? Is it a response of an unconditional yes? If it is not then you have a heart problem. You can remain unfit for His service or you can rest in His faithfulness and step out and serve.   

Misfits...Unfit for Service

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Luke 9:62    And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Unfit seems to be such a strong word, especially in an age of tolerance and making everyone feel welcome under the tent of compassion. The military can say a person is unfit for duty. An employer can say someone is unfit for a job because of skills. Even teachers are permitted to say, in order to keep status quo, a student is unfit for the general classroom.   

When Christ was speaking to men who were struggling between selfishness and selflessness. Knowing this Christ declared them as unfit! They were unfit for duty not because of skills, ability, or learning, but rather because of selfishness. Many would say “Oh, but in church everybody should be made to feel a part and welcome.” or “Everybody should be given an equal opportunity and the occasion to start fresh!” It is as if they expect the house of God to tolerate spiritual misfits.   

Jesus declared that if a man starts out to serve and looks back from that plow of service, he is unfit! There is no wiggle room for those who seek to cover their sin. There is no way around what Jesus said. A tragedy today is in our Sunday School classes, choirs, and pulpits: we have spiritual misfits.    

The clarion call must be sounded to rid the roles of church leadership of misfits. If someone can be unfit for the kingdom of God, why should they be tolerated to teach, preach or sing in church?    

Are you fit? 

 

A Head Lifter  

Luke 21:28   And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

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In the current economic and political climate, it would be easy to focus on all that is being said in the news and in our communities. However, as a believer, we should consider not what is being said. Rather, we should consider what was said. Jesus said no matter the news, I am to be one who lifts my head. 

In other words, I am to be a head lifter. When troubles come, when anxiety rises, when resources become scarce, lift up your head. 

Lifting our head is a choice and a challenge. It begins with the choice to look up with our eyes, and then, to lift up our head. The challenge is to keep our head lifted in spite of the matters of confusion around us.

Spiritually, in what position is your head and eyes? Oh, let us be the example setters and become the head-lifters He expects us to be.

I Know Him

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I once stood on the banks of the Jordan river where Jesus was said to have been baptized. Thousands of people stood in line as it was a celebration for the Orthodox church. As they milled about, I could tell many were there for a ceremony, but did not know Him

Recently, at church, a visiting missionary sang the song, “I Know Him.” I was well reminded of the moment by the Jordan river.  Thousands knew about Him. Yet I know Him; and, best of all, He knows me.

The words of the song have echoed in my heart this morning as its chorus ends with “...but best of all He knows me.” No matter how far away or near to home I am, the best thing is Jesus knows me.

A Hungry King, Mindful Priest, and a Proud Spy

A hungry king, mindful priest, and a proud spy met in Nob. The meeting was not by chance; it was a meeting of divine appointment. 

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The King’s name was David. The priest’s name was Ahimelech. The spy’s name was Doeg.

David arrived at Nob, while Ahimelech and Doeg were already there. 

Doeg was allied with David’s father in law, Saul. Saul wanted David dead.  Saul lived without the touch of God on his life. David and Ahimelech were allied to God.

Doeg, the spy, is watched as Ahimelech gave David bread and the sword of Goliath. Doeg will carry this report to Saul. Saul will Ahimelech. Saul will authorize the slaughter of Ahimelech and eighty-five priests by the hand of Doeg. 

This was a divine appointment with a tragic ending. David will later write Doeg: “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; But trusted in the abundance of his riches, And strengthened himself in his wickedness.” Psalm 52:7 

David said Doeg chose to live in his strength, trust in his resources, and follow the ways of wickedness. 

What a condemnation! What a great failure!

But, what about me? What about you? What about when we are in sync with the actions of Doeg while spiritually presenting ourselves as otherwise?

God help me when I choose to live in my strength, trust in my resources, and follow the paths of the wicked.

May your prayer be: God help me to make you my strength, trust in your resources, and follow the paths of righteousness.

Lessons from a Hummingbird

I took this picture through our dining room window. 

I know nothing about hummingbirds. So, when these tiny creatures hover, perch, and sip nectar it makes me smile. 

I smile because my mom put out a feeder to feed the hummingbirds. She fills their nectar jar. She watches for them to come. She reports about their activities to me when I come home. The birds do not see my Mom, they just know their needs will be met. 

What do hummingbirds know? They know they can count on my Mom making sure they have a place to perch, nectar to sip, and a safe place to hover. 

Do Hummingbirds worry? Their Creator knows them, cares for them, and provides for them, why would they fear? 

Hummingbirds do not have to worry about these matters. Their Heavenly Father Who watches for their cousins, the sparrows, watches over the hummingbirds too!

What are you worried about? Your Heavenly Father can manage your life and His church. Your Heavenly Father Who deposes the wicked and heals the wounded will help you. Genesis 18:25 assures the reader, the Judge of the whole earth will do what is right. 

I asked above, "What do hummingbirds know?" Now I ask, what do you know? 

Do you know God loves you? Do you believe He provides for you? Do you see He provides your nectar? He gives you a place to rest. Your Heavenly Father has a plan which includes you. He knows where you are and what you need. 

The next time your world explodes around you and you begin to fear, remember your Heavenly Father made you so you can hover near his nectar, perch on Him, and trust His plan for your safety.

Snap Judgments

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1 Samuel 16:7   But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

I saw this truck puttering along on the Interstate. The truck’s character intrigued me. This model represents over 30 years of journeys.  Thirty years of hauling, helping, and handling chores. Has the truck had just one owner? Is the owner frugal or just emotionally attached to the vehicle? Is the paint original paint? How many miles are on the truck? What of the contents in the bed of the truck? What does the inside of the cab look like?

An exterior of anything can be deceiving to the casual observer. We are quick to make snap judgments. Remember in the selection of David, it was not his outward appearance God sought. Rather, it was his heart God saw first.

The assessment of the outward circumstances and conditions do not always demonstrate the true picture with trucks or people. May our judgments be righteous. 

John 7:24 “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

 

Going to Prayer Meeting

Acts 3:1-6  Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;

Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.

And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.

And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. 

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

Peter and John, two-thirds of the Lord’s inner circle, are prayer partners on this day in the third chapter of Acts. They were “together…at the hour of prayer” Prayer by yourself is mandatory for growth, but such sweet times come, when together as partners in prayer, we walk together into the throne room of grace to bow before a thrice-holy God to present praises, seek pardon, and submit our faith-filled petitions.   

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However, in the hastening to be at the service (for it began at the ninth hour) they encountered a man who was used to asking petitions of men. However, this day he would see that sitting and petitioning men brings only silver and gold. In just a few minutes, he would see that he too would join the partners in prayer to walk with them into the throne room of God.   

Peter and John saw the man not as a distraction on the way to prayer meeting, but rather as someone who needed to know the power of God in his life. They ministered to him and then brought him with them. The three were never the same again.  

On your next trip to the house of God maybe those  distractions  are opportunities for ministry to bring someone with you.   

Do Others Hear More of Me or the Master?

Acts 4:8    Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,    

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Peter had just spent the night in prison. Yet a night in prison did not enrage him, as it would have before. All night in prison, my, how his thoughts could have rehearsed what he wanted to tell them. “Tear them up… Condemn them… Curse them…” No, this man had learned the lesson of all lessons in his renewed walk with the Lord. Namely, Spirit-filled words always convict the minds and hearts of man.    

Peter, once a mouthpiece of Self and Pride, now stands as a mouthpiece of the Master. Just weeks before this, he had said that he had nothing to do with Jesus. Now, having experienced a renewed relationship, he has an opportunity to stand before people and tell them of the One of Whom he preached and taught. He could tell them of Whose power it was that he healed the impotent man. He was a Spirit-filled mouthpiece.   

My concern after reading this verse is this: how often are my words after a trial filled with more of ME than the MASTER?   

What Are You Filling Your Jerusalem With?

Acts 5:28    Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.   

Peter and the other apostles had been commanded not to teach, preach, or do anything in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet their hearts were convinced that obedience to God overrode the will and wants of men. The closing verse in this chapter indicates that they ceased not preach and teach.   

However, let us focus on the phrase, “behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” We too are commanded to reach our Jerusalem with news of His resurrection. Yet how many times have we filled the Jerusalem of our homes, work, and community with news of everything else but His resurrection? We are more apt to fill our Jerusalem with earthly delights instead of eternal doctrine.   

It seems we inform the Jerusalem of our homes, work, and community of the evening news with its hopelessness, rather than the hope of the resurrection. We have spoken more of the weather than His work. We have spoken more of sports than we have of His salvation. Hence, our Jerusalems are being filled with everything but doctrine.   

If the world assessed your life this day, would they say, “He is a regular kind of guy, religious but not too pushy?" Our goal is to fill our Jerusalems with doctrine not with delights.  What did you fill the Jerusalem of your home, work, and community with in the last week, Eternal Doctrine or Earthly Delights?   

Prepared for Salvation

Acts 8:30   And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?    

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Phillip was conducting the Samaria Campaign. The persecutions of Saul had God’s people on the move. Jesus’ commission, given before His accession, is now being heeded. Samaria was getting the gospel. Yet God needed to mobilize a man to the desert regions below Jerusalem. This one effort would get the gospel onto the continent of Africa.    

Philip saw the African man God wanted to reach with the gospel. He was riding in a chariot. He was a man of Candace’s palace. He was a man of prestige and purpose. Greater still, he was a man prepared by Holy Spirit for salvation.    

Philip was an evangelist with an inextinguishable burden for souls. Philip’s burden for souls is evidenced by his behavior. He ran to him. He then assessed his situation and preached to him Jesus. (8:35)    

Today there will be people with whom you will come in contact, which God is preparing for salvation. God may have them under conviction by reading a tract or Scriptures or speaking of something they heard on the airwaves or happening with a family member.    

Do as Philip; run to them now; determine what has them searching and say to them, “Are you getting it?”   Then just preach to them Jesus.   

A Course Finisher

Acts 20:24   But none of these things move me. . . I might finish my course with joy. . . 

 Are you a better starter than finisher? Do you use life’s interruptions as an excuse for being a lousy finisher? What courses have you left unfinished? We start our exercise; we stop after a short period of time. We eat right; then we “cheat.” We start our devotions; then we stop. 

Paul spoke to friends and ministry colleagues. (Acts 20:24) His heart was set. He knew what had to be done. He had to finish his course. Nothing deterred him, not even the threat of the loss of life.

Will your activities today help you finish the course God has set for you? Will life’s interruptions hinder you from His course?

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A Friend Refreshing

Acts 27:3   And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.

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Have you ever been in a crowd of people and suffered with an agonizing loneliness? Your heart suffers incredibly with despair as the people you really long to be with are nowhere to be found. You are in a crowd but not a part of the crowd. 

Paul and Luke were in a ship with 276 men who were a combination of soldiers, prisoners, and travelers. They, the early messengers of the Gospel, were in need of refreshing. They had been through great hardships and trials. They were traveling to get to Rome. They were a great distance from the familiarity of friends and the warmth of Christian fellowship. They were in a crowd, but not really a part of the crowd. Their ship cannot provide them the one thing they need the most. Though previously denied this refreshing by their legal overseer, he now provides them an opportunity to receive refreshing and gives them leave from the ship.

Can you imagine what preparations were being made on the other side? When it came to Paul, news traveled quickly. Perhaps they would have had word of the possibility of his coming. Nonetheless, Paul, Luke, and their overseer were confident that the refreshing would be available from their friends. How did the overseer come to such confidence? Certainly, the confidence of the missionaries became his as they spoke of their friends who would be able to provide them refreshing.

Have you a friend who can resort to you for refreshing from his tumultuous journey through life? Can you carry the burdens of his life for just a few moments as to give him the relief and refreshing he needs most? 

Perhaps today you are the one who needs refreshing. Contact your friend today. Tell him the journey has been a little rough and you are in need of some spiritual refreshing. He will respond and help; he is your friend.  What? You say you have no such friend? “… There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Spirit Refreshing

1 Corinthians 16:18   For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore, acknowledge ye them that are such. 

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Have you ever had a week where it seemed there was no time to stop and put your feet up to rest and recover? You know that feeling, don't you? The aching feet, the sore back, and the legs that just don't want to go on any more. These are all the signs we have felt as we have walked along life's path. Your body, mind, and spirit get to the place where they need refreshing. 

This is what Paul was writing about to the Corinthians. He was that weary laborer needing some refreshing. The Corinthians had failed in refreshing him. He wrote about three men that were able to refresh his spirit and not just his, but theirs too. He said these men were able to come along and cause him to cease from movement or labors so he could recover. 

What is interesting to me in this verse is not the correction to the Corinthians (v17), nor the commendation to the comforters (18a), but rather the coaching he gave to the church (18b). His coaching was this "acknowledge them". He wanted the Corinthians to become thoroughly acquainted with the refreshers. He wanted them recognized in the Corinthian church as the trio of refreshers.

Look around you; God has placed people who are refreshers in your life. These are men or women God has placed in your life to be refreshers. When was the last time you acknowledged the refreshers in your life? Why don't you do it today before the sun sets?

The Greater Route of Escape

The Greater Route of Escape

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1 Corinthians 10:13   There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

The day began as any school day. But something fell apart in school that day. I am not sure if it was me or the other fellow.  I was in trouble. I got into a scuffle with someone. I really don’t remember the conditions that led to the struggle. I just remember learning a life lesson that day from my father. 

When I arrived home, Dad took me in his room (which usually was a sign of imminent contact with the rod of correction). I sat down on the bed. He discussed the events of the day. I could sense that this was not going to go well. (He was the pastor of the church’s school I attended.) My frustration was simple: I knew I wasn’t to hit someone, yet I was attacked and needed to defend myself. 

After the discussion, Dad then surprised me. He took his Bible and opened to the verse above.

The essence of his conversation was this, “Son, in every situation of life, God makes a way of escape which allows us to bear it. The tests of life come to all people. Yet we have a faithful God. He will not expose you to a situation where there is not a way out.” 

Stronger to me that day than the sting of his rod of correction, was the salve of the Word of God.  I learned that my feelings of pride and its byproducts, indignation, and injustice, found a self-made route of escape. How could I choose my own way of escape? God had a route out of situation for me, yet I chose my own route.

Do you do the same? Do you choose your own escape when facing conflicts? Occasionally, and shamefully, I still make the wrong choice. It is best when we choose His way. His way is always the Greater Route of Escape.

I read this last year. It really applies. "Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” C.H. Spurgeon

Doing the Will of God from the Head or the Heart?

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Ephesians 6:5-6    Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;    

Many a child of God has been sent on a guilt trip, from the pulpit, in order to compel them to serve. However, our focal verse says to do God’s will from the heart. You see, a deed or service performed not from the heart, ends with its completion. However, a spiritual deed or service performed from the heart, has a sense of eternal accomplishment.   

God’s will is our Master and we are His servants by grace. His will is our objective. We can carry out assignments with a disposition of duty or delight. The choice is ours. The Holy Spirit here is calling upon servants to be obedient to their earthly masters. This obedience is to be done with fear, trembling, without hypocrisy, and unto Christ. Furthermore, we should do their pleasure not only when our Master’s eyes are upon us.    

You see, a servant is to consider himself a servant of Christ. He is to view his servitude as doing the will of Christ from the heart.    

A Bible Studier

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The call to tech support went through after pressing 1 for English, 3 for support, 7 for a domestic agent, and 2 for assistance immediately. The agent got on the line after a short wait. He listened to the situation and replied, “You know, I am embarrassed to say I am not sure how to answer this question. I will need to research this and call you back.” You groan within thinking, “I called to find someone smarter than me. Now, I know, I will never get a call back.” In exasperation, you say, “Why can’t I get someone who knows their stuff?”

Similarly, this world is calling out for answers. The focus verse states the believer is required to study the Word of God. We study it to be workers who need not to be ashamed. How many times have those around us sought answers for life’s difficulties and we have no answer to give. We call a friend, family member, or pastor who we know will have the answer.

The Bible is our sole source of answers in a world full of questions. Are you ready to answer? Choose a doctrine and study it. Find a topical Bible and search for answers. Your daily connection to the Word of God means you will have the answer when the questions arise.