The Good Stretch

Philippians 4:8I did something unusual this morning.  After my usual routine of breakfast with bible reading and devotional time I arrived at work early and watched a video.  This video was by Sean Hyman (who I have written about previously) and was a review of investment positions that included a lot of charts and graphs.  It’s fairly technical stuff but Sean always does a good job for novices like myself in explaining what’s happening, why it’s happening and what it all means for the portfolio.

I admit, it is once in a blue moon that I actually sit down and take the time to watch one of Sean’s videos.  As good a job as he does the stuff that he is talking about is a long way outside of my comfort zone.  I’m not a numbers person and I am not a finance person (although I’ve improved and  hope to keep on improving) and it takes a good 45 minutes for me to get through one.

Here’s the thing though: every time that I watch one of Sean’s videos I learn something and I feel a little bit more comfortable with the subject and a little bit better about myself.  It might have been out of my comfort zone but it was worth doing and hopefully the end result will be a better financial position for me and my family.

Some things are just worth spending the time, energy and effort on.

The apostle Paul said it like this:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippian 4:8 NASB)

Now, more than ever, we as Christians need to “dwell on good things:”.  We are under assault from those who do not believe as we do and by the one who hates God and His children most of all.  I believe that Satan knows that his time is drawing to a close and that he has stirred up the hearts of men to hate, to blaspheme, to kill and to destroy all that is good.

If we let him, Satan would steal our joy and our testimony just as assuredly as he is working to steal the souls of those who have not believed on the name of Jesus.  Choosing to keep our thoughts and actions centered on those things that are “honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good reputation, excellent and worthy of praise” is an excellent defense.  Even if it stretches us in uncomfortable directions and forces us out of the familiar and into strange new areas, it is always worth it.

 

 

Gratitude Is A Mountain To Be Climbed

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, rejoice, give thanksWhenever I begin thinking and praying about a new topic for a post I try to call to mind what I have written before so that I don’t end up repeating myself.  Looking back at the history of this blog it would seem that I write about thankfulness fairly often and therefore I should write about something else this week.  Yet I feel in my spirit that this is where I am supposed to be and that if it were not important to the Lord then He would be leading me elsewhere.

I know what the Bible says about thankfulness, that we are to rejoice always and to give thanks in all things.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) Paul wrote these words:

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Even as these words comfort and encourage me they bring me to a realization: I don’t know what “rejoicing always and giving thanks in everything” actually look like.  As an ideal they are fantastic and challenging.  “I want to be this kind of person!” is what I think to myself.  But my practical mind wants to look around for examples, for some concrete image of what a person who rejoices always and gives thanks in everything looks like.

Let’s be honest, as human beings thankfulness is not natural.  Grumbling, complaining and whining come naturally but rejoicing and giving thanks most certainly do not.  So instead of looking for a human being to be my model for thankfulness I should instead be asking the Holy Spirit to be my teacher and to make me the kind of example that I am looking for.

Please realize this is not an indictment of anyone that I know personally.  Thankfulness is hard.  And it seems like the more blessed we are as children the harder it is.  Because we start off with so much many of us grow up feeling entitled to comfort and with the mindset that everything should come easily.

We grow up and encounter the real world and it doesn’t take too long before adult responsibilities very forcibly show us that most things that really matter aren’t easy at all.  We experience failure, heartbreak and lean times and we allow bitterness and complaint to take root. We become pessimistic and somewhere along the way we forget all about rejoicing and giving thanks.

I know because I have been there.  Not too long ago I was that person.  And perhaps God has me thinking and writing about thankfulness so often because I desperately need the reminders and the encouragement.  Maybe you do as well.

Let me end this by saying the key to rejoicing always and giving thanks in everything is found right in the middle, in verse 17.  “Pray without ceasing” it says.  Without our unceasing prayer and our heart and spirit lifted to the Father above we don’t have it in us to keep on rejoicing and giving thanks in the midst of terrible circumstances.  But with our prayer and our entreaty God can take our weakness and show forth His strength in us.  Oh that we would let it be so!

The Only Question That Really Matters

sin, salvation, the gospel, faithI try not to pay much attention to politics or current events.  I have a friend at work who, I am fairly certain, thinks of me as either willfully ignorant or somewhat uncaring about the world at large.  Whenever he tells me about the latest plane crash, energy crisis or political scandal that is making the headlines my usual response is something like “hmm” or “oh, really?”

It’s not that I don’t care or that I am unconcerned about the world in which I live.  It’s simply a matter of perspective and the difference between mine and his.  He’s a professed atheist and I am not.  I love the Lord Jesus, read my Bible daily and I try to view him and the world around me through the lens of God’s grace and redemptive plan.

He knows that I am a believer in Christ and that I attend church weekly but as a non-believer without a strong biblical background he doesn’t really understand my point of view.  No one can, not unless they are first adopted into the family of God by faith and belief on the Lord Jesus Christ and the washing and remission of sins.

What I would really like to say to him is “God is in control, love and serve Him with all of your heart and leave the rest to Him” but as my desire is not to antagonize Him it comes out as “hmm” or “oh, really”.

I say all of that to say we need to be careful about not getting so caught up in lesser matters.  What exactly is a lesser matter, you might ask?  I leave the precise answer of that question up to your conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit but for me a lesser matter is one that distracts from the message of the gospel and the good news that Jesus saves.

In terms of politics do I want a strong believer in the White House?  Absolutely, I do.  I pray for my country and its leadership often.  But I am not open to entering into political debate on my position because ultimately it is going to lead back to my belief in Jesus Christ and in God’s plan for this world and for His people.

In terms of social matters, do I support gay marriage?  Well, I believe the act of homosexuality is a sin and I also believe that marriage is defined by the Bible as the union between one man and one woman.  However, our lawmakers, the ones in charge, have decided to extend the same rights and privileges to same sex couples as heterosexual couples and now I, as a believer, have a choice in how I will respond.  Will it be a response that is filled with care and concern for the soul of each individual or will it be a bitter complaint against the sorry state of our world?

I will insert here C.S. Lewis’s response to a question about homosexuality just because it is such a good one:  “I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying. Second, our speculations on the cause of homosexuality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why the man was born blind (John 9:1-3): only the final cause: that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”  Notice how C.S. Lewis takes on the question of homosexuality?  By answering it in the context of scripture and bringing the discussion around to God’s plan.  And that is exactly how we should be striving to answer any and all questions about our society and our world.

In short, you can’t expect the unrighteous to live righteous lives and instead of focusing on the fruits of sin and the behaviors of the lost we should instead be focusing on God’s grace and doing everything in our power to point the lost to Him.  I’m not condemning those who get involved in good causes and spend their time and energy to make the world a better place but I am saying that if we lose the message of the gospel or if it gets somehow overshadowed by our cause then we have lost everything that this world really needs.  And at that point our cause amounts to very little.

The world we live in has issues but the reality is there is only one issue: Sin.  And that means that there is only one question that really matters.  Everything we do should lead up to and expand upon this one question.  “Do you love the Lord and live each day to serve Him?”

What Fills Your Thoughts?

Philippians 4:8, thoughts, thinkToday we are going to start with a word and that word is “think”.  We use this word in reference to the inner workings of the mind (what are you thinking about?) and also to talk about the decision making process (What do you think? / I think we should..).  Think can also be used as a substitute or synonym for “feel” but for now I would like to keep the focus on the mind and the mental processes that think refers to.

How we think and what we think about will, in large part, determine how we live and the things that we do.  This is an important truth to realize because there is a very fierce spiritual battle that is being waged for our thoughts and the decisions that come out of them.  One side is fighting for God and all He stands for (grace, peace, love, joy, life, etc.) and the other side is fighting for the deceiver and all he stands for (accusation, guilt, error, fear, death, etc.).

I’ve used Philippians 4:8 in a blog post before but it is worth repeating here because it is so relevant and important:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8) NKJV

In this verse the New King James version (which is the one we used) uses the word “meditate”.  The New American Standard version uses “dwell” in the same spot while the traditional King James version uses the word “think”.  They are all worth mentioning because while similar, all three words mean something slightly different in English.  Dwell means to stay, abide or even live in, as in the case with a dwelling.  Meditate is a deeper, longer version of think.  We might think of something quickly and then go on to something else but generally meditation happens over a period of time and requires effort and will to achieve.

Therefore, think = short term,(possibly even spontaneous) meditate = longer term with more of a focus on effort, dwell = even longer term with a focus on permanence.  The idea being presented here is that our brief, fleeting thoughts should be full of these things, our focused thoughts should be full of these things and our permanent ideas and core values should also be full of these things.  (These things being whatever is noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtuous or praiseworthy).  In short, our thoughts should start, stay and end on good things!

This requires practice, effort and work because it most certainly does not come naturally.  As human beings who are prone to error and sin, we can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit and the surrender of our will to His and by getting to know God and His Word, the Bible.  Day by day, God can transform us and remake us in His image, if we allow it.

I say all of this to say that our enemy is deceptive and clever and his best weapons are subtle and difficult to detect until we are already in trouble.  Our enemy wants our thoughts to be muddled.  He does not want us to focus on God and His Word.  He knows that God’s Word always produces results in us and will always convict a heart and change a life.  If he can keep us distracted and on our computers, phones, game systems, televisions or use any other method to try to keep us out of God’s Word and off of our knees in prayer then he will do so.

It is up to us to recognize his plan and the way that he tempts and deceives us and to not fall for it.  What we think about and the actions that result from those thoughts matter greatly to God and to the world around us.  We must put Philippians 4:8 into practice and do so visibly and joyfully.  To do so would make an incredible difference in many lives.

Suffering Is Spiritual Resistance

suffering, spiritual growth, maturity, painLet’s use our imaginations for a moment.  Imagine a person who is born into a situation where they have absolutely no responsibility, no needs that go unmet and no impetus for movement beyond basic biological functions.  This person has all of their meals prepared and delivered to them in their room and they are not even required to leave their bed if they don’t want to.  They are not made to learn or to go to school.  They are not required to clean up their own space and have no chores or work assignments beyond merely existing.

Growing up like this, what kind of adult would be produced?  What does your imagination tell you about such a person?  Mine tells me that they would be completely unable to function in normal society, spoiled and lacking in empathy and compassion for others.  Furthermore, they would be fairly useless in any sort of constructive capacity.  In other words, they would be of no help to anyone else (and this is important to remember for the basis of our discussion – as you will see in a moment).

The fact is that in this life almost all of what makes us usable and constructive human beings comes from us meeting some kind of resistance along the way and learning to overcome it.  An easy example to use is that of education.  Facts and figures and logical principles don’t come naturally to most of our brains.  When we first encounter a math problem it seems utterly alien and strange but with a good teacher and some practice we can learn to add and subtract and do all of those things that are required for us to learn basic math.  But unless we pit our brains against the problem of learning how to add and subtract and then do the work required to practice and memorize those skills then we will never progress in our education.

And so it goes with our spiritual walk.  We begin our lives in Christ with simple faith in Jesus and what he has done for us.  But to become useful and constructive Christians we have to meet some resistance along the way and learn to overcome it not by our own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name.

Allow me to be very personal here for a moment.  Not because I enjoy talking about myself but just to be as real and as transparent as possible.  The last year or so I have had some physical challenges to face.  I seem to have become progressively more sensitive to certain foods and have spent a lot of time in at least some degree of digestive discomfort with all that that entails.  In the process of learning what I can eat and what I must avoid I have also lost a lot of sleep and developed various and sundry body and joint aches (most likely due to not absorbing my food properly).  I’ve had days where I was sick to my stomach, exhausted and aching in various places and I got up, went to work and did “life” anyway because it was the right thing to do and stopping is not an option.

In all of this I wondered where God was and what He was trying to accomplish in me through this experience.  And to tell you the truth I still don’t know.  There might be an “ultimate” answer down the road or it might be that God is just trying to grow me up spiritually by providing some increased resistance in the form of suffering.  I’ve come far enough to know that I don’t need an answer.  I just need to be faithful and believe that anything that comes against me God has already given me the power to overcome in Jesus’ name.  I can say this with confidence because I’ve come through those days and can look back and see God’s faithfulness and love for me even when I was at my worst.  And I’ve learned to trust Him for deliverance because He has delivered me over and over again as I cried out to Him.

But it isn’t just about me, is it?  The reason is far more important than I.  It’s about me being able to tell you and anyone else who will listen that Jesus is not only savior He is also deliverer and the one who comforts and heals.  And it’s only because I’ve experienced it firsthand that I can now testify to God’s grace and tell you that He alone is sufficient.  The fact of the matter is, God can use one person’s suffering to teach and encourage many souls and the value of that teaching and encouragement has vast eternal worth.

 

The Christian’s Biggest Mistake

prayer, praise, intercessionI knew something was wrong immediately.  I felt it inside.  As soon as my eyes opened and I was aware that it was morning I knew that I was not well.

Physically fit but mentally and spiritually drained, I climbed out of bed and started my day.  I didn’t get very far in to my morning routine before I felt that I needed to just stop, listen and pray.

God was trying to tell me something and I had been so busy over the last few days that I had neglected my spiritual nourishment and now I was paying for it.  I felt disconnected from the source (Him) and that my roots that  kept me grounded to the Truth had somehow weakened.

Not only had this weakened me spiritually, I was not in a good place mentally.  My attitude had become one of complaint and self-pity instead of constant praise and reliance on God.  I had let my joy be tarnished by the cares of this world and I had not taken all my burdens and cast them upon my Savior as I should have done.

God stepped in, as He so often has in the past.  He put a big STOP! sign in my brain to try and get my attention and help me to focus on what was really important.

So I stopped.  And I listened for Him.  And I prayed with all of my heart.  I told Him everything that had been going on in the last few days and I praised Him and thanked Him for always being there for me.  The more I talked the easier it got and I felt my burdens lifted and peace returned to my heart.

I lifted up my brothers and sisters who were sick and hurting.  I prayed for my family and for my church.  I prayed that the lost might be saved and that God would order my steps and use me as His hands and feet.  I sought Him with my whole heart and as much as possible I wanted to be in tune with my Heavenly Father because He is my source for strength and I am sustained by Him alone.

I am far from perfect.  I make many mistakes.  But the biggest mistake I can make in my life is when I forget to include God and to put Him first.  He loves me so much and all He asks is that I love and depend on Him first and foremost and love and serve others just as He did.

Are you in close contact with Him, right now?  Has He heard from you today?  If not, go find a place where you can be alone with God and don’t hold anything back.  Give Him everything that is on your heart, praise Him for who He is and then listen as He speaks to you.

Don’t make the same mistake I did.

How To Win All Of Life’s Battles

prayer, praise, worship, 2 Chronicles 20It seems to be the case lately that God is taking me on a journey of discovery in His word.  Several times in recent memory I have been reading a Sunday School lesson or studying for a blog post when a verse or group of verses will seem to leap right off of the page and into my heart and mind, grabbing my attention and imprinting a vital truth in the process.

This seems to happen in spurts and although I don’t know exactly why it works that way, I just do my best to listen and to learn.  These teachable moments sponsored by the Holy Spirit are precious to me and I hope that they continue throughout this lifetime and in to the next one.

That being said, I believe that God works and reveals Himself to us in unique and individual ways just as we are all unique and individual.  Such “inspirational” moments may not happen to you in the same way but I do believe that, based on the promises in the Bible, reading, studying and meditating on the good book will cause us to change for the better.  We truly have all of the resources we need in God’s word provided to us by the Holy Spirit and that includes help in all of life’s battles.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 20 we see a glimpse into the life of King Jehoshaphat as the Ammonites, Moabites and inhabitants of Mount Seir arrayed themselves against God’s people.  To really get the full picture of what is transpiring here you should read all of 2 Chronicles 20 but focusing in on the following verses we see something really amazing happen.

 18Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

Jehoshaphat knew that a battle was coming.  He knew the enemy was coming against him and he didn’t run from it or try to hide from it.  He faced it in the best way possible.

 Notice in verse 18 of chapter 20 that the first thing he did was fall on his face before God.  He called all of the people together and as one body they fell on their faces and worshiped the Lord.  After praying and worshiping he encouraged his people to have faith in God (verse 20) and then he did a very curious thing (verse 21).  He put the choir out in front of the army!  And of course you can read the result of this unorthodox battle strategy: the enemy turned on each other and was utterly routed in defeat.

Jehoshaphat and the people of Israel were victorious because they let God fight and win the battle for them.  They were careful to call on His name in faith and then they trusted God to see them through.  They began with prayer and worship and then praised God to begin the battle.  And on hearing the praise of the true and living God the enemy was defeated.

For me, this was a powerful and meaningful lesson from the Lord on how to fight and win the battles that I face in life.  That doesn’t mean that I will always understand every outcome or that things will always go my way but that as long as I am trusting the Lord and fighting with worship and praise then the result of the battle will surely belong to the Lord.

Fighting our battles with prayer, worship and praise as a three pronged strategy is a tried and tested method straight from God’s word to us.  It is a strategy that I have implemented lately to wonderful results and I would encourage you to do the same.

Among The Highly Favored

highly favored, salvation, BibleI’ve mentioned Sean Hyman on this blog before.  He is a former pastor who has gone on to become a financial advisor with a focus on teaching Biblical principles for money management and investing.  Sean’s book, Six Keys to Financial Success, has been reviewed on this site previously.  If you haven’t already read that review, I would highly recommend checking it out and then picking up a copy of the book.  You can find that review here.

Watching one of Mr. Hyman’s video updates recently, he said something that I think needs to be shared and expanded on.  He said, “I try to show people a way to think and handle their resources in a way that makes them highly favored because they are following Biblical instruction and teaching”.  Those were not the exact words, but he did use the phrase “highly favored” in regards to following Biblical teaching and that stuck with me.

First of all, do we realize that if we are saved children of God, we are already highly favored?  If God has seen fit to call us out of sin and darkness and redeem us with the blood of Jesus unto eternal salvation, then what an amazing position we occupy!  In both Psalm 17:8 and Zechariah 2:8, we are referred to as “the apple of His eye”.  God truly loves and adores His children and stores up amazing blessings for those who are His.  Often times, I don’t think we realize how blessed we are just by being saved and redeemed.

And even though our salvation and eternal life is an unsurpassed gift, God’s favor for His children doesn’t stop there.  He has also given us the gift of His spirit, in our hearts, to live and reside with us during our time here on this earth.  We are free to commune with the Spirit of God and to spend time in His presence and are encouraged to do so by His Word.  The results of which are peace, joy and abundant love that lasts despite our circumstances and remains strong even in the midst of life’s trials.  God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts assures us of His never ending, never changing love for us.

But that’s not all.  The Bible is full of God’s teaching and wisdom which, if we will read and apply it, will cause us to live lives that are highly favored and blessed beyond measure.  Being saved is wonderful and fantastic but if that salvation is accompanied by ignorance of God’s Word and His teaching then we will not live the kind of lives that God would have us to live and we run the risk of doing more harm than good in this world.  We as Christians have a responsibility to know what God says and then to live out His instruction so that we may be good examples to all who know us.

We have a choice to make.  Do we choose to think and act in such a way that allows God to bless us and through us, bless others?  Do we desire to live a life that is highly favored because we are doing what God says and are therefore receiving every gift that is ours to claim?  Or are we simply content with our salvation, just trying to muddle through until our time on earth is over and the Lord calls us home?

I would hope that we see our salvation as the precious gift that it is but that we also see it as a starting point for real growth and the beginning of an amazing life.  I believe that God intends salvation to be built on like a foundation, not sat on like a piece of furniture that never changes.  God desires to take us on a journey towards Him and His heart and we can’t do it by sitting still or choosing to remain as we are.  God’s favor and blessings for your life can grow, but do you want them to?

 

The Most Important Peace

Psalm 34:11-14, peace, repentance, confessionThe correct understanding and application of scripture is of vital importance.  God’s Word is literally life and wisdom incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ.  When we seek to grow in our knowledge of the Bible and to go deeper into the study of the Word then we are really seeking to grow our relationship with Jesus.  And that is an endeavor that will always be worthwhile and eternally profitable.

As we discussed Psalm 34:19 last week I mentioned that the entire chapter was worth careful study and contains wonderful wisdom and encouragement for the believer.  As I originally read through and studied Psalm 34 I completely misunderstood verse 14 and it is that verse (with a few more) that we will be looking at this time.

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.  Psalm 34:11-14

In verses 11 through 13 we have an invitation to listen to the speaker as he imparts Godly wisdom to us.  If we heed his instruction then we will learn to fear (respect and admire) the God of eternity who is our creator.  His follow-up questions to this bold statement are good ones.  Do we desire life?  Do we truly want to see “good” during our time on earth?

If so, we must learn to tame our tongues and ultimately depart from evil and towards good.  Sounds simple but we know, because of human nature, it really isn’t.  Choosing to do good and seek a relationship with God while denying that fallen human nature can only be accomplished with God’s help and through God’s grace.

But what about that very last line of verse 14?  “Seek peace and pursue it”.  At first glance, this bit of instruction seems to come out of left field.  Thus far the speaker has been talking about personal behavior and that which comes from within.  If we take “peace” to mean the absence of conflict and violence then that would seem to point more towards our outward behavior towards others.  And initially, that is exactly how I read and understood verse 14.  But what if the speaker is talking about a different kind of peace?  What if he means inner peace that comes only from being in right relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ?

See, the only way any of us can truly be at peace is when we know our sins have been forgiven and we are walking in the light of His love.  And when we sin against Him and do not confess our sins it creates inner conflict and we are doing the opposite of verse 14.  To “seek peace and pursue it” is to make confession and repentance a priority!

Once I understood what verse 14 was really saying it really connected the entire thought from verse 11 all the way through verse 14.  And because of my initial misunderstanding of verse 14 I almost missed a powerful and life changing truth from God’s Word.  (Thank God that He led me to the commentary of Charles H Spurgeon who’s work inspired me to write this and to share what I had learned!)

Ultimately, the most important peace is the peace of God in our hearts and that peace will guard our hearts and minds no matter what this life might bring against us.  It is one of God’s most amazing gifts to us but it is an easy gift to miss if we don’t make it a priority and continually seek after it.

When the Righteous are Afflicted

Psalm 34:19, David, prayer, praiseLife is not easy.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  Striving to live a Godly life is not easy.  Trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the perfect Son of God, is very difficult indeed.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is coming against us.  As if every obstacle that could possibly appear has launched a coordinated attack on us, all at once.  I can assure you, this is not by accident.  We have an enemy that is in opposition to God and all that is good.

And when we visibly declare our allegiance to Jesus Christ and try to stand up for good then we have drawn a line in the sand and planted a flag of battle that the enemy can’t help but see.  As we strive for good the enemy will come against us and will seek any and every way to afflict us, discourage us and try to get us to leave the fight.  (As an aside, I think it’s important to note that evil has no real power over the redeemed child of God.  God holds the lives and souls of the redeemed in His hands and nothing can ever pluck them out or change their ultimate destiny.  God is always sovereign no matter what it might feel like at the time!)

King David, one of my favorite Biblical heroes, knew affliction firsthand.  He had enemies that wanted to kill him from both outside his country and inside his own family.  He struggled with doing the right thing and with his own faith even while trying to lead a country and be true to God and what he knew was right.

In Psalm 34, David speaks about affliction but he also talks about the victory that we have in God alone.  When you have a few minutes you should read the whole chapter.  It isn’t very long but I promise you that it can change your outlook for the better if you read it and let it really soak in to your heart.

Here’s the verse that is the key idea for today:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.  Psalm 34:19 (NKJV)

What a statement!  What a promise!  If can’t help but get a little bit ecstatic when I read it.  Yes, David says, we will be afflicted.  And not just a little bit.  Our afflictions and our trials will be many.  There will be a multitude of things that come against us and no it won’t be easy to be in the midst of the turbulence.  But!  But!  The Lord delivers the righteous out of ALL of his afflictions!  Not just some.  Not just one every now and then.  Every single time we encounter trouble we are promised victory and the power to overcome simply because the Lord has declared it to be so.

You might have many troubles.  And some days it might feel like there is no end in sight and no victory could possibly come from what you are facing.  But take heart, Child of God.  You are not forgotten and God is not a liar.  He has declared that He will deliver you out of that trial and that someday, perhaps soon, your current affliction will be no more.

And when that day arrives you will know that God has delivered you and you can voice your praises to Him and tell others how God won the victory in your life.  This is what happens when the redeemed gather together and tell their stories of redemption!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34:1-3) NKJV