Finding Strength in God’s Presence

 

9-9-19 God is near2 Timothy 4:16-18 (NLT)
“The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.”

Ever felt so very alone in the midst of a really hard season? Here’s Paul, a former murderer of God’s people, now conspicuously representing the same faith as those people before a secular judge. And those people He was identified with, defending the same faith? They all left him at that moment.

But God.

The presence of God is supernatural, able to comfort us more than any human ever could. Paul was strengthened by God’s presence and he knew that the LORD was with him and that He rescued him. But more than that, Paul did not look to the future fearfully. He knew the same God who was with him in the valleys and the mountains would be with him no matter what the future brings.

I identify with Paul in this passage. No one went with him when he was brought before the judge. I remember such a time when I was standing before a judge by myself. The feeling of being defenseless and defeated overwhelmed me. It did not seem like truth and justice would prevail. Where was God?

With me. With you. Emmanuel. God with us. He was with me when I lost and with me when I won. In all of it, He gave me power and strength. What about you? Do you feel alone in an area of your life? Isolated and unseen?

God wants us to abide in Him so we are never alone.

Being by ourselves when we are facing the really hard moments of life that makes us feel particularly vulnerable. There is something about the company of others that helps us feel stronger.

But the company of the God of this universe surpasses any human comfort. Our God is for us, in us and with us! Praying you feel His presence today. 

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 16 – Protection

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Threats loom around every corner, but so does the grace and protection of our living God.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Thessalonians 3:2-3

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!”

We live in uncertain times, but perhaps every day in this world has been uncertain in the minds of men. Threats loom around every corner, but so does the grace and protection of our living God.

Nothing is hidden from God’s view, but man does not know what the future holds. This truth keeps us humbly in dependence upon our God for His protection and guidance. Trapped in this capsule of time and surrounded by unredeemed flesh can be a scary thing if it were not for God’s promises and purposes, which are never thwarted.

I delight in how good our God is. Perfect in all His ways, nothing escaping His notice, we who are in Christ truly have nothing to fear. This does not mean that sorrows and hardships might not visit us, but it does mean that the LORD Who is over all things knew it ahead of time and supplies the grace, strength and mercy needed in each waking moment.

God protects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. He surrounds us with His presence and gives us His favor. If. If we are in Him. If we are obedient and trusting in Him. His lavish protection guarding our minds, souls, our entire being – is one of the greatest benefits of being a child of God.

When I look back over the blessings and chaos in my past, I see the fingerprints of my God. Even in the most painful moments where I wondered where God’s protection was, I now see how very much He was present and guarding my heart and life. The times when I despaired because of the attack of men I now see as wasted time that I could have surrendered to God and trusted in His protection.

It has been said that we have no idea how very much God protects us on a daily basis. Near disasters avoided because of God’s protection or God orchestrating circumstances for His glory and our good – perhaps His overarching protection is undetected, but nonetheless every moment is held in God’s hands.

Lord, thank You for your constant protection and sovereignty in all of life. Our hope for safety is in vain if it is not surrendered to Your perfect will. Help us to fully trust You, for You are able and Almighty God.

Scriptural Saturday: Inner Strength

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Inner strength is not built ~ it comes from within.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Sam 30:5-6

5 David’s two wives had been taken captive–Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail the Carmelite, Nabal’s widow. 6 David was very upset, for the men were thinking of stoning him; each man grieved bitterly over his sons and daughters. But David drew strength from the LORD his God.”

2 Timothy 1:7

“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4:13

“I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.”


 

The pressures of this life can leave us flat out worn out. I can just imagine David being surrounded by a bunch of tough guys ready to stone him. Talk about stress. But He simply drew strength from God. How?

Scripture says he asked for the ephod and sought the face of God for direction and guidance. Back then, the Urim and Thummim (gemstones) were carried by the high priest of Israel on the ephod/priestly garments, which was used by the high priest to determine God’s will in some situations.

David knew his strength came only from God. Anyone who would sling a stone at a giant obviously relies on God instead of his own strength.

Many years later Paul, Timothy and the disciples followed suit. Nothing was deemed impossible if one relied on the Holy Spirit, given to us for strength and insight.

Feeling weak, discouraged, unable to do the task before you? Jesus understands and He walked the most difficult path of all with joy set before Him. Wow.

Just because a task or situation is difficult does not mean it has to steal our joy.

His strength is enough. Enough for day-to-day drama, illness, court, accidents, any trouble. We don’t use an ephod, but today we have the living Word of God we can run to for grace, wisdom and strength. Run to Him, friend. He is enough and His strength is all we will ever need.

Lord, thank You for your amazing grace and strength. Grant us a willing heart to cry out to you and to never give up.

 

Mundane Monday: Security in Insecurity

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We could never be more secure than in that moment when we understood our great need for salvation and accepted it. Loved. Sealed for eternity.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Samuel 25:29 (NLT)

“Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the LORD your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling!”

1 Samuel 2:9 (NET)

“He watches over his holy ones, but the wicked are made speechless in the darkness, for it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.”

David was no stranger to enemies, like the persecuted church today. Far beyond what we normally call enemies today in our sanitized world and vain imaginations, enemies are very real, nonetheless.

In pursuit of God we have the enemy of our souls and our flesh to deter us, let alone people who want to bring us down. But there is an understanding that transcends our circumstances and gives us security when life feels insecure.

Abigail entreated David to consider that despite the evil intent of those around him, he was indeed secure. Not because of alarm systems or body guards, but because the God of this universe had his back. God would take care of those who stood against David in His perfect timing and way. It might have taken 15 years for Saul to be deposed, but the character gained in those years could not be formed otherwise.

Hannah saw this same security from the strength of her living God who granted her deepest desire to have a son. Her security came from an insecure place, and God met her there. Her need for God’s provision and security through family caused her to go deeper with God and to rear a son who would be a mighty prophet for God’s people.

This insecure world invites us to accept the challenge of the difficulties around us and to place them at our Master’s feet.

Maybe you are hated. Maybe people are jealous of you like they were of David. Maybe it is an unbeliever hating you for your faith in Jesus, or maybe it is believers who are caught in a mire of covetousness who slander you to elevate themselves.

Either way, none of this is new underneath the sun. We can expect adversity if we are seeking to do God’s will, but that need not remove our security that we have in Christ.

We could never be more secure than in that moment when we understood our great need for salvation and accepted it. Loved. Sealed for eternity.

All the security we ever need is found Jesus, Who perfectly accepts us and heals our wayward souls. Our eternal security cannot be provided in anyone else.

But the temporal burdens in this world which frighten the human soul long for something more tangible. We want to be free from all fear and terror. How does this eternal security impact the temporal station where we reside?

It is in the recognition of the brevity of life that we see how all we are investing in the here and now impacts all of eternity. 

The suffering, the joy, the blessings and burdens all are a part of living. We cannot avoid pain, but we can call on El Elyon – the Eternal God Most High – for grace and strength while we battle through this life to live in a way that pleases Him.

For if our goal is the removal of fear or suffering we have set our bar too low.

To be secure in the security this life offers does not prepare us for eternity.

But to live this insecure life with abandon before our King, fully trusting and seeking to glorify His Name – this is really living a secure life, no matter what life brings.

Lord, You are awesome and Holy, our living Refuge! Help us to live lives that are radically transformed and surrendered to You.

Worshipful Wednesday: Surprised by Joy

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The very act of worship when we don’t feel like it is where God takes our act of faith and creates joy within us.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 100:2-3

“Worship the Lord with joy! Enter his presence with joyful singing! Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

One of the first things satan wants to steal from us when we are saved is our joy. Nothing as potent at killing the message of the Gospel as joyless believers wandering around this earth telling everyone they need to be saved. Who wants that kind of salvation?

We all want joy. We want to be able to celebrate this gift of life but get dragged down by obstacles and circumstances as if they were supposed to bring us joy in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong – to be human is to feel – and life hurts sometimes. But joy does not have to be connected to that feeling of disappointment. It is when our life is in the gift instead of the Giver of those gifts that we forget our original source of joy.

I am not talking about living an inauthentic life where we go around with a plastic smile saying everything is great when it isn’t. But joy in the LORD isn’t dependent upon our circumstances. That would not be real joy, after all. Just temporary happiness.

So how do we access this joy when life just doesn’t feel very joyful? Worshiping God. With joy. Not the answer you were looking for? Does it seem impossible to worship with joy when you don’t have any? But the very act of worship when we don’t feel like it is where God takes our act of faith and creates joy within us. For it is what we were made to do.

If worship is a sacrifice of praise, then it is in the moment of resisting our flesh and worshiping God anyway that we rise above our sorrows and discover a real abiding joy in Jesus.

When we focus on all our concerns and burdens, it is a joy killer. But when we come to worship God, remember all God has done for us and focus on Who He is, joy just invades the soul. You cannot contain it. Try it.

Each Wednesday I want to share a cover of a worship song at noon EDT on my Seeing Deep Facebook page from our worship set that captures what God has placed on my heart here. This week it is: “No Longer Slaves”. If that does not bring joy, I don’t know what will. We are no longer a slave to fear – we are His sons and daughters! We are no longer lost, but found. We are surrounded with God’s love and will enjoy all eternity with Him. Joy indeed.

Worship God with joy today. You are loved with an everlasting love that has no end. The joy of the LORD is your strength.

Oh Lord, we worship You! Set our gaze on You – for You are lovely. Transform our worries into worship and cause us to rise above it all and be filled with the abundant joy You provide.

Worshipful Wednesday: Our Strength

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The admission of our inability is the beginning of our ability in Christ.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 59:9-10

“You are my source of strength! I will wait for you! For God is my refuge. 10 The God who loves me will help me; God will enable me to triumph over my enemies. 17 You are my source of strength! I will sing praises to You! For God is my refuge, the God who loves me.

When my heart is overwhelmed like the Psalmist’s, I have learned to look to the Rock, Who is higher than I. He is not surprised by our weakness or the new storm swirling about us. He is waiting to hear and answer, for He is glorified in our weaknesses when we recognize our need of Him.

In the past, I sought God for strength but did not understand that I needed to wait on Him. This required more patience than I wanted to give in the moment, but when I have truly rested before Him and sought His strength, I have been empowered on high.

The admission of our inability is the beginning of our ability in Christ.

Whatever the strength we need – strength to walk faithfully with God, strength to handle emotional upheaval, hardships or the greatest sorrows – in all these, how amazing to consider that the Almighty God of the universe – stronger than anyone else, notices us. Even more amazing – this God loves us and Scripture says He WILL enable us. It is a promise for those who wait on Him. We, small creations of the Most High God, who were once His enemies, can call on Him at any time and get strength!

How do we access this strength? Singing and waiting. As a worship leader, I really like the singing part. 🙂 There is a component of faith as we approach God and ask Him to take what is too big for us. But even where we lack faith, we can ask and He will give liberally.

Lord, thank You for being our source of strength. Help us to always run to You when we are weary and weak. You are enough and we worship You, our strong God!

Mundane Monday: The Measure of Our Strength

1 Thessalonians 3:2-5

2 “We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For in fact when we were with you, we were telling you in advance that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened, as you well know.  5 So when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter somehow tempted you and our toil had proven useless.”

Acts 14:21 22

“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.”

Psalms 34:19

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-11

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.”  Jerry Falwell

The early leaders of the church were not wooing new believers to their meetings with promises of donuts and coffee, nor making their time of worship more appealing with seeker sensitive or culturally relevant ideologies.  In fact, they promised affliction and hardships for those who recognized their need for a Savior and chose to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Wow.  Hardly seems like a way to share the Gospel to us today.  Our society longs to make things easier – in fact, we worship at the altar of comfort and ease.  Now, I am not saying we cannot offer pleasantries to make the Gospel attractive to unbelievers, but the power of the Gospel is enough and the Word of God is living, active and powerful.

I confess that I have worried about new believers doubting their new faith when troubles enter in.  I want to protect them, but realize that God is better suited for that role than I am.  And when new believers see other believers who have weathered difficult storms and glorified God in the midst, that witness speaks volumes more than any program ever could.

Jesus promised that we would have troubles and demonstrated how to walk through them in victory.  Genuine faith does not mean we will not have times of fear or of great sorrow, but it does mean we have One Who walks with us through life’s tragedies and triumphs, breathing grace into our souls.

If our faith is so fragile that we doubt the very goodness of God when life hurts,  we have been deceived and been lulled into a superficial faith based on the idolatry of pleasure.  But if from that place of fragility we look upward and ask God to strengthen us, we become overcomers in Christ.

Authentic faith is not easily shaken when the storms blow, nor crushed by sorrows.  It is a quiet confidence that stands up to fear and bears burdens firmly trusting in God’s promises, even when it hurts. God mercifully died for us, chose us for salvation and will not leave us when the wind blows.  He loves us and we can trust Him.  Perhaps our view of suffering might be altered in the midst of God’s enablement through it.

Affliction surprisingly offers a promise.  That we will be more like Christ, that we will be comforted by God Himself.  That we will know and understand Him more.  That, when we have been tested we will come forth as gold.

Lord, give us Your perspective and understanding.  Our lives are Yours.  Every blessing and every hardship we pour out at Your beautiful feet.  Blessed be Your perfect, awesome Name.

The Strength of Weakness

Photo credits www.prweb.com

Photo credits http://www.prweb.com

Galatians 4:13

“But you know it was because of a physical illness that I first proclaimed the gospel to you, and though my physical condition put you to the test, you did not despise or reject me.”

Weakness.  Despised by our culture and not something to be proud of.  Yet it was physical infirmity that first propelled Paul to share the Gospel with the Galatians.  Paul’s weakness is not known – perhaps the recent stoning he was subjected to, or a sickness of some sort.  Either way, it was an uncomfortable distraction that God used.  God had chosen to use weak vessels before.  He even came as an infant Himself – the most fragile state of humanity, in a crude rustic dwelling.  Why?  It does not make sense to our sophisticated culture or ways that God, Who is Almighty God and Creator, would allow Himself to be taken care of by weak humans.

But the wisdom of God confounds our supposed insight and ways.  It seems to me that Paul could have done even more for the kingdom of God if he were physically well, but then sometimes when we operate in our own strength we do not see our need of God and take for granted the health we do have.  Sickness humbles you and that is a gift in disguise.  Oh, I know, I sound so pious saying it is a gift – surely I cannot mean it.  But it is, in fact, in the midst of some of the most humbling health challenges that I have felt the closest to God.  Now that makes it all worth it.  Add to that being able to help another soul struggling along because you have been there – incomparable to having a perfect pain-free life. 

Oh, sure, it hurts, and sometimes I wonder why.  But the struggle is part of living – the highs and lows, the joys, triumphs and sorrows.  Where would I know the comfort of God if it were not for those precious moments of deep pain?   Oh, I could wish that I would not have to feel the throbbing sting of impertinent diseases, but I trust my Savior’s hand, and I know that I know He will never let a trial or a pain go unused for my good and His glory.  I find myself in a similar situation as Paul. God still births songs and devotions in my heart to share with people, and simultaneously I am battling physical battles, as well.  I am not sure if autoimmune diseases were around in Paul’s time, but whatever affliction Paul had, it was significant and it affected him.  His illness made sharing the Gospel harder, but it was also a catalyst for his mission and the growth of the church in Galatia.

Why does God allow in sickness, hardship, things which are a stigma in our culture?  The rain falls on the good and the bad.  Now, I am not calling myself good – God calls righteous those who are covered by the blood of His Son.  If unbelievers see the rain falling on Christians, who turn around and praise God while it is raining, doesn’t that provide a beautiful display of God’s grace in the fire?  So it’s raining right now, and I am choosing to sing in the rain.  My body hurts and it makes it harder to do normal things, but I will praise His Name and look for His deliverance!  If you feel like you cannot keep going on, lean harder on Jesus and know that He is able to grant you strength beyond what you could ever imagine.  You never know, you might even find yourself doing something crazy like thanking Him for the very thing you despised.

Jehovah Rapha, I thank You that You are my Healer.  You have healed me before and I look to You again as my Healer – spiritually and physically.  I thank you for this thorn in my flesh and pray that You are honored and glorified in it.  Please help those who are hurting and doubting Your goodness when life is challenging.  Give them Your hope and joy.

 

You Have the Strength

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By: Denise Pass – © 6/4/14

Judges 6:12-16, 22-24 “The Lord’s messenger appeared and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, courageous warrior!’ Gideon said to him, “Pardon me, but if the Lord is with us, why has such disaster overtaken us?’…Then the Lord himself turned to him and said, ‘You have the strength. Deliver Israel from the power of the Midianites! Have I not sent you?’ Gideon said to him, ‘But, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Just look! My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my family.’ The Lord said to him, “Ah, but I will be with you!’ . . . When Gideon realized that it was the Lord’s messenger, he said, “Oh no! Master Lord! I have seen the Lord’s messenger face to face!’ The Lord said to him, ‘You are safe! Do not be afraid! You are not going to die!’ Gideon built and altar for the Lord there and named it, ‘The Lord is on friendly terms with me’”.

 

This message is for the fainthearted today who do not think they can even crawl out of bed, much less make it through a day or cry out to God one more time. Like Gideon, do you find yourself in a place where disaster has overtaken you? Gideon is honest about his doubts of victory. I love our Lord’s patience with Gideon while he takes awhile to figure out that God is enough. I remember not being able to feel my hands or feet due to anxiety – fear and dread over what next thing my enemy who was once my friend would unleash upon me. In the depths of my despair I cried out, “Lord, why must I suffer for another man’s sins?” “I did not complain when I bore yours – my grace is sufficient for you” was the response. In that agonizing place sometimes hearing that we have strength is not enough or believable. We tend to focus on the problem or on our weakness.  Gideon did, too.  But when God says it, and He promises to supply us with the strength and grace we need, then if we just step out in faith, He will do it – through us. People have said I am strong, but I know the truth. In my weakness, He is the strong one. Gideon named His Lord aptly – how amazing that He is our friend. As we walk with God in relationship, not religion, we begin to know His character. How amazing that we can know God – the Creator of the world! He is my Shield and Protector, my Defender. He was ‘the God who sees me’ to Hagar, ‘The God Who provides’ to Abraham. Who is God to you?

Lord, help us to realize that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Grant us strength to accomplish what you have called us to and faith to do that work.