God Sees

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) I decided to read the entire chapter to get a background of this verse. God is giving Isaiah a message to deliver to the Israelites. They observe the fasts as God required, however; they were doing so with wrong attitudes, wrong motivation, and a wrong commitment. They were fasting and observing holy days with an attitude that was not one of complete dedication to God. They would appear to be holy, yet mistreat their fellow Israelite, not feeding the hungry, having an attitude of, “It really doesn’t really matter if I’m totally committed to this, I’m going to do it my way.”

I decided to look up the definitions of attitude, motive, and commitment to be sure I was applying the correct words to the thoughts I’m trying to convey. Motive is defined as, “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking about someone or something…” Commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” In my mind, all of these can be combined in our justification for doing something.

Scripture tells us that God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7) when others see the outside. We can appear to be so holy and yet have motivations and attitudes that are totally opposite from our actions. God was pointing out that they were not totally sincere in fasting and carrying out the observances He required, and therefore, He didn’t recognize their efforts. But if they would change their motivation, their attitude, and their commitment to Him, then He would bless them, He would guide them.

My mind goes to being on the Worship Team. I love being on the Worship Team! God has called me to use my musical abilities for Him, and it’s my outlet to show God how much I love Him! It gives me an opportunity to lift my voice and my instrument in praise to Him for everything He has done for me. But I also have to be very careful, because I can play and sing with wrong motivations and attitudes. Am I doing this for my own self-gratification and to get the accolades of those in the congregation, or am I singing and playing to give honor, praise, and glory to God? Does what I do point others to Jesus or to myself? Every time I get ready to step onto the platform at my church I pray and ask God to check my attitude. Is it proper, does it reflect Him and not myself? I’m committed to playing and singing, but why? That’s where I must look at myself and check that I’m doing this for Him and not me. I must remember it’s all about Him and not about me.

When I am obedient to what He wants me to do, then He blesses my efforts, He blesses my life, and He fills me with joy at having the opportunity to minister to others. He makes my soul satisfied, and I am like a well-watered garden, growing and full of Spiritual fruit. The more I am obedient to what He asks me to do, the more He blesses me and gives me peace and satisfaction. When I have the proper attitude and motivation, He is pleased with me, and my commitment to Him is even greater, and it is a joy to serve Him in everything I do. Doing an attitude/motivation check is a good way to be certain we are in line with God’s will and plan for our lives.

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Teach Me Lord

Today our Bible Journaling verse is Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” (KJV) As we are looking at God’s promises, seeking counsel, and accepting instruction, this verse is such an encouragement to me. As I was thinking about this, the thought came to me that to be taught we must be willing to accept the teaching. There are times when God shows us something about ourselves that is hard, and we don’t want to face.

We must be willing to accept those things, be willing to listen, and be obedient to the Lord in changing those things that need changing. I know for me, sometimes, that is so hard to do. I’ve never been one of those kinds of people that was wild about change, but if it had to be done, I would try and make those changes that were needed.

One time, change was very hard for me. My first husband had just had his first stroke and was in the hospital after having brain surgery. I had been off work for two weeks, spending every day at the hospital with him. When I came back to work there were a lot of things that had changed. Our department was revamping procedures, the station was doing something new and we needed to be on board with it. At about that time things at home were falling apart because my hubby couldn’t take care of it and it was something I couldn’t do. To say I was stressed out was an understatement. The changes at work were like the straw that broke the camel’s back. So much was changing all at the same time and I just couldn’t handle it. My boss was trying to get me to change without throwing a small fit. All I could say was, “Why can’t there just be one thing that doesn’t change?” It was all I could do to keep from breaking down in a crying jag. I wasn’t willing to change what needed to change and I wasn’t happy, and my boss was frustrated with me.

We can be like that with God. We can throw a two-year old tantrum, stomping our feet and telling God, “NO!” All that accomplishes is us being miserable and God being very patient with us. He takes us around that mountain again to learn the lesson we are refusing to learn. It amazes me how patient God is with us! As humans, we would most likely give up after a while and leave the stubborn one to their own devices. Sort of “let them stew in their own juice” as it were. God isn’t like that. He patiently puts us back on that pathway heading for the thing we need to learn, and He keeps putting us in that place until we are willing to learn the lesson. Then, and only then, can we have peace. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (NIV) Deuteronomy 11:13 says, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul,” (NASB) Being obedient, willing to learn, and accepting of changes that need to be made, help us to grow in our walk with God.

We must be willing to say, “Teach me Lord!” and then accept the teaching He gives. We must relinquish control of our lives, let Him lead, guide, and teach us, and then we can walk in peace.

 

Receive Instruction

As we continue to look at seeking counsel this week, our Bible Journaling comes from Ecclesiastes 4:13, “A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king, who no longer knows how to receive instruction.” (NASB) The Christian Standard Bible says it like this, “Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings.”

Part of seeking counsel involves something on our part. Once someone gives us the counsel we are seeking, it is up to us to decide whether or not to receive their counsel. This involves discernment on our part. Is the person giving the information to us someone we can trust? If so, then it is up to us whether we will take what they tell us and use it.

My mother was an elementary teacher for 35 years. For most of those years she taught the gifted kids, but for a while she had a mixture of children who were extremely intelligent and ones who weren’t as bright. Grades ran the gamut, the straight A kids and the ones who were barely hanging on. In some instances, she had kids who were really smart, but for whatever reason, just didn’t apply or accept what she was trying to teach them. The ones who could have done better did not use discernment in receiving what she was teaching them. They didn’t want to be in school, they didn’t want to learn, and they decided they were not going to apply themselves in learning.

We can be just like those kids. If the information is from someone we aren’t sure whether or not to trust, then discernment and wisdom is needed. However, if the advice and counsel is from someone we respect and their ideas make a lot of sense, and we don’t take their advice, then we are like that foolish king in our verse today who won’t take instruction, and like those kids in my Mom’s class who refused to learn.

We can also be like those people when it comes to God’s guidance, instruction, and teaching. When we refuse to take God’s Word to heart and learn from it, we are in rebellion. Just like those kids in my Mom’s class, they rebelled against her in refusing to do the work, we can be stubborn and say “NO” to God in defiance or just decide to do it our own way. Most times that just gets us into trouble. Do we forget that God’s ways are the best for our lives, or are we actively defying God’s instruction? How foolish we are to ignore God’s leading and instruction!

I know in my own life there have been times when I verbally said, “No God, I don’t care what you say, this is what I want!” I found myself in a long time of digging myself out of a situation in which I should never have been. I had to learn the hard way, that my defiance and outright rebellion was going to take me in a path I didn’t want to go down. But, when I heed His voice, when I listen to instruction and follow obediently, then life goes a lot smoother. I begin to learn from Him when I follow His leading! Proverbs 1:5 says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Good words of advice!

Joseph – Obedience in Hard Circumstances

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from Matthew 1:18-25. Today, we’re looking at just the birth of Jesus, not the shepherds or the wise men, but just the circumstances around His birth. The story is so familiar to most of us that I’m not going to include the passage here, and I encourage you to read it for yourself.

The Bible tells us that Jesus’ birth was prophesied long before His birth. According to scholars, the book of Isaiah was written in the eighth century B.C. As I read our passage in Matthew today, I began to focus more on Joseph. We know so much more about Mary, but Joseph is only mentioned in the Bible just a few times, and then we hear nothing more about him. I couldn’t help wondering how Joseph felt when Mary told him that she was going to have a baby. Here he is, engaged to Mary, they have been pure, and suddenly, she says she’s pregnant! I’m sure he had a myriad of questions and thoughts swirling around in his head. At last, he decides to divorce her quietly, so as not to bring her more embarrassment. I’m sure he had a hard time sleeping. God sees his confusion, his hurt, his unsettledness and reassures Joseph by sending an angel to confirm what Mary has told him, and to encourage him to go ahead and marry her. Matthew, the author of the book, confirms the prophesy made by Isaiah centuries before, “this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.” (verse 23)

The Bible says that Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel told him. In the time of Jesus’ day, weddings were different than we know them. The Bridegroom, with his friends, would go to his beloved’s home in the evening and take her from her father’s house. The procession, with lots of singing and rejoicing, would go through the streets to his parent’s home where they would proclaim a blessing over the couple. There would be singing, dancing, lots of games, and a great party. The bride and her attendants were given a room at the parent’s home set up just for her. The following day was the wedding feast with a full day of partying. By evening, the groom comes and the wedding ceremony with vows takes place. Sometime in the evening the couple vanishes to be alone and consummate the marriage. However, the party is still going on for several days, and the couple didn’t have a honeymoon as we do now, they would join in the celebration for the remainder of the time of rejoicing. The Bible says that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus. (verse 25)

As I read about what Jewish weddings were like in Jesus’ day, I wondered, considering the circumstances, if there was any celebration. Did Joseph gather his friends and have a huge wedding celebration, or did he just marry her quietly? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But we do know that Joseph was honorable. It’s possible this was an arranged marriage between Joseph’s parents and Mary’s parents, we don’t know if they knew each other well or not. But what stands out to me is his obedience to God and His plan. He trusted God although he didn’t necessarily understand all that was happening.

Aren’t we like that at times? Circumstances around us have us swirling, sleepless nights, muddled thoughts, being unsettled, and not knowing what to do. Joseph is an example of one who put their full trust in God and His plan, even though he didn’t understand the where’s or why fore’s. Like Joseph, we are to trust God with the situation and the outcome. As hard as that is, we must remember that God’s plan is always perfect and while we can’t see that now, we can trust Him that He has the best in store for us and He is with us. Even Jesus’ name tells us that. The prophet prophesied that His name was to be called “Immanuel, which translated means ‘God with us.’” Jesus means Immanuel. He is with us, through good times and bad, through struggles and joys, daytime and night. Joseph was obedient, in everything God told him to do, up to and including, naming Jesus, because he trusted God’s plan.

Take Account of His Blessings – Part 2

 

Psalm5112Today we’re continuing in this series. Our Scripture for today is Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Uphold me with a willing spirit.” (World English Bible – WEB) Yesterday we talked about Samson and how he lost God’s blessing of power with God. Today, we are looking at David. Psalm 51 is the chapter where David calls out to God in repentance for his sin with Bathsheba and for killing Uriah, her husband. David is in agony. He had lost God’s blessing of the joy of his salvation. His relationship with God was hindered.

David was known as a “man after God’s own heart”. He had a very personal relationship with God, and when he sinned, he lost that close connection. This brought about a very dark time for David. He is crying out for God to forgive him and restore his joy, to create in him “a clean heart.” (Psalm 51:10) David is begging God not to turn away from him and remove His presence from him.

We can lose God’s blessing of joy. God’s joy should be full, there should be “unspeakable joy” (I Peter 1:8), we should have exceeding joy. (I Peter 4:13) When our joy is restored, we receive power from God. We can stand firm in the face of the enemy because God’s joy gives us the power to withstand Satan’s attacks.

Like Samson, David’s fall came about from what he saw, but then David went a step further and acted on what he saw. Actually, I think his fall started when he decided to stay home instead of going to war, “at the time when kings go to war” (II Samuel 11:1 KJV) If he would have done what he was supposed to do he never would have come to this point. Sin will take you down a road you don’t want to go. Your destination will never be what you think it will be. Satan makes the journey look like a vacation, but in the end, the reality is misery and separation from God’s presence and the loss of His blessing of joy.

Losing God’s blessing of joy can come gradually. In fact, it can be so gradual that we never even recognize that we are walking away from God and losing His blessing. We can keep on that trail and then all of a sudden, it seems, we find ourselves at a place we don’t want to be, wondering how we got there. Then, like David, we cry out in agony for God to restore His joy and forgive us so that we can reconnect with Him. This is the time when we need to take account of where we are with God. Take stock of whether we have strayed and lost His blessings, and then repent and keep close to Him.

Sometimes, we can do all the right things, and yet our attitudes are not right. We can be lackadaisical in how we live for God, whether we keep our relationship on a good footing, studying the Word, praying, attending church, fellowshipping with other Believers, and reaching out to those who need Jesus by witnessing of His great love, mercy, and grace.

From time to time we need to evaluate our walk with the Lord. Is our attitude proper…it is all about Him and not us? Are our Christian actions done out of duty or out of love for God and what He has done for us? How concerned are we that people know Jesus as Savior? All these things give us an indication of our heart condition and it also tells us if we have lost God’s blessings. Where do we stand with God? Have we walked away or are we keeping our relationship with Him close and strong? Take stock of your life…where are you with God?

Take Account of His Blessings

This month has been devoted to thinking about God’s blessings in our lives. Today’s Scripture comes from Psalm 103:1-5, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” (NASB) As I was thinking about this section, my mind focused on Spiritual blessings, partly because my Pastor has been doing a series on “Blessings That Can Be Lost”.

I have never realized until this series that we can lose the blessings God has granted. I wasn’t intending to do today’s post on that, but God just won’t let me get away from it. We are given so many blessings from God, that sometimes it’s hard to count them all. When we are in a state of depression or a difficult time, it’s good to think over the blessings God has given us. Yes, the physical ones such as healing, provision, and the blessing of family, but also the Spiritual ones such as salvation, redemption, and God’s love and kindness to us.

Other blessings are experiencing power with God, the joy of our salvation, boldness and testimony for the Lord, and our first love for God. I’m sure there are many more, but these are blessings that my Pastor touched on by using different characters and their stories of how they lost the blessing God gave them. In difficult times, thinking of what God has granted us with, changes our perspective on the situation. And, in the case of losing our blessing, it causes us to reflect, take stock of our lives, and make changes.

The first blessing is power with God. Samson is a case where he should have stopped and taken account of where he was with God. Samson’s mother was barren, and she prayed to the Lord, asking for a child, and she made a promise to raise him as a Nazarite. The Nazarites took a vow never to touch wine, eat or touch any unclean thing, or to cut their hair. They were to remain separate from the rest of the world. Samson’s mother, was not to drink wine or strong drink, eat anything that came from the vine, or eat any unclean thing while she was pregnant with Samson. When he was born, his parents taught him in the ways of the Nazarite. God had blessed Samson with overwhelming strength as long as he followed the Nazarite vow and didn’t cut his hair. God also instructed, that when Samson was of marrying age, not to marry someone who was not an Israelite. This is where Samson started down the long road of destruction. He decided to marry a Philistine woman. The Philistines were wicked people and dreaded enemies of the Israelites. Samson was looking in areas he wasn’t supposed to look, and it started his downfall. It resulted in Samson falling away from the vow he had taken and away from God.

When he met Delilah, he was smitten, but she was from another country and not Israelite and she used her feminine wiles to try to get Samson to reveal the source of his strength so that she could tell the Philistine army the secret of his strength. Samson had gone so far away from God that eventually he succumbed to Delilah’s pleas to know the truth, that he finally gave in and told her. She told the Philistines and they came and cut his hair, bound him and gouged out his eyes. Samson didn’t know that his power had left him. He didn’t recognize that God’s presence was no longer with him. As a result, he was captured and used like an ox to grind grain in the mill in the prison. Samson lost the blessings of power with God by his disobedience. He had strayed so far away that he didn’t even recognize that the presence of God was no longer with him. You can read the whole story of Samson in Judges chapters 13 through16.

We also can lose the power with God we have. We can get ourselves into such a position that we no longer realize that the presence of God is not with us. My Pastor said that when we become like the world, we frustrate the work of God and therefore we lose the power. It’s something that is progressive…very subtly it leaves because we aren’t focused on keeping our relationship with God strong and we walk away from Him, leaving us defenseless against the enemy.

Today, take stock of your relationship with God. Have you strayed? Do you feel God’s presence with you? Are you being obedient to what He has asked you to do? Don’t lose His blessing of His power. Count your blessings.

Angels Around Us

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Exodus 23:20-23, “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you. For my angel will go before you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittities, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, so you may live there. And I will destroy them completely.” (NLT) The Israelites were heading for the Promised Land and God gave them instruction and a promise. If they were obedient and not rebellious, He would guide and protect them, even fight their battles against the many enemies they were to encounter.

I’ve had my nephew on my mind a lot, and my heart is so full to know that God protected him from himself despite his wrong choices. For some reason as I was searching for verses to journal today with this thought in mind, I found this passage in Exodus. It was God directed, I am sure. As I read this passage, what came up almost immediately is that obedience to God brings blessings, and one of those blessings is protection. Now, I know my nephew is far from God as evidenced by the situation he is in right now, but God, in his mercy and love for my nephew, chose to protect him. I am convinced God sent an angel to do battle against the enemy, Satan, who comes to “kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) I’m sure the Devil whispered into his ear at the very beginning of this battle that, “everybody’s doing it, and it will be fun! It will make you feel better.” The Bible says that Satan is the “father of lies.” (John 8:44 NASB)

Obedience to God’s Word and instruction brings blessings. When we listen and are attentive to His direction, He brings us peace of heart, and whether the pathway goes through a rough patch where it seems like nothing is going right or it is smooth sailing, in the end, God’s plans always are for our good, and the peace He brings is more of a blessing than we can ever imagine.

If you look at the Israelites and their wandering in the desert to the Promised Land, they were a rebellious, contentious, complaining lot. Eventually, God had more than He could take…they tried Him to the very end of His patience (which is extremely long) and eventually He had to do the only thing He could, and that was to banish a whole generation of people from entering the Land He had promised them. Because of their disobedience they lost out on a great promise and blessing.

Be assured that with disobedience comes consequences. Yes, God loves us. Yes, He is patient. (The King James Version says “longsuffering.”) But like any good Father, when His children misbehave, He must give discipline. Hopefully, we learn from our sin and mistakes, and walk in obedience from that point on.

When we walk with Him in obedience, we receive His blessings. In situations where it seems like the enemy of our souls is pulling out all the stops and beating us up, God sends His angels to fight for us. When our lives are in danger, God sends His angels to form a hedge of protection around us. When we need healing, ministering angels are sent to help us. These are blessings that, a lot of times, we are not aware of, and yet God, in His love, chooses to bless us. Take time today to lift your voice in praise to the Father and bless His name.