Have you ever experienced something that made it look like God was nowhere around? Even worse, in the battle of good vs. evil, does it appear evil has won?
There is an historical account of Israel fighting the Philistines in 1Samuel 5-7. The first time Israel went into battle against them, Israel was defeated. After much deliberation, Israel decides to bring the ark of the Lord with them into battle, reasoning that if God was with them, they would be victorious. Nevertheless, they are defeated again, only this time it was worse. In that battle, the Philistines capture the ark of the Lord and put it in their temple of Dagon. It appears God has been defeated and humiliated by the enemy. However, this is not the end of the story. God allowed them to be defeated and allowed the Philistines to capture the ark of the Lord. He used these events as an opportunity to show His power to the Philistines and to bring Israel to repentance. Two days in a row, the Philistines went into their temple to find Dagon face down on the floor in front of the ark of the Lord, the second time with its hands cut off. 🙂 The Philistines became fearful of God and the ark of the Lord was eventually returned to Israel. The reason Israel had been defeated is because they had allowed the false gods of other nations into their lives. In the end, Israel cries out to God. They confess their idolatry, remove and destroy the false gods and return to worship the one true God. God then defeated the Philistines and restored to Israel all they had lost. There are such good lessons found here. First and foremost, things are usually not as they appear and we should trust God regardless of the circumstances. I recognize that it is easier to say that, than to do it. However, when things happen that we don’t understand, It’s important that we think about the faithfulness of God and his nature, which should lead us to the conclusion that we can trust Him. I think another lesson learned here is that we should routinely examine our hearts and lives to see if we have allowed sin to create a stronghold in any area of our life. Remember, God is love, He is faithful, but He is also Holy and Sovereign. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10 Let’s pray today and ask God to reveal these things to us. “Search me, oh God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 If you are struggling today and you have examined your life and find you are in right standing with the Lord, don’t give up. You can trust that He is at work and He will give you the strength to endure. The apostle Paul put it this way, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Listen to song: https://youtu.be/xCpVJ4hUO6s
Jesus sat around a table sharing his last Passover meal with his disciples, whom he loved. Passover was the greatest celebration in all of Israel, because it was a time to remember and celebrate how God told their ancestors to put blood on the doorposts of their homes and Death passed over them and they were saved. Afterwards, God delivered Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. That evening with his disciples, Jesus said something that many at that time would consider blasphemous, but was actually prophecy. He said “This bread is my body and this wine is my blood. As often as you do this (gather together to celebrate the Passover) do it in remembrance of ME.” He said this because, JESUS CHANGED EVERYTHING. He was about to willingly hand over his body to be beaten and crucified. He was about to shed his blood so that not only Israelites, but all mankind could be saved from slavery to sin and the death it will bring. The Passover and the deliverance from Egypt was actually a foreshadowing of what Jesus was going to do! No longer would Passover be the greatest celebration, BECAUSE OF JESUS, we celebrate Easter! Jesus died, got the keys to Death and Hades, (Rev. 1:18) and then rose again, just like he said he would. From that moment on, and today, we break bread together and raise a glass in remembrance of Jesus. Because of Jesus, we can be saved and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can walk and talk with God like we were created to do. One day we will see him face to face and share eternity with him.
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him, would not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” John 14:6
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Close your eyes and listen. Worship our Savior!
For the last few years I feel like I’ve been living in the wilderness, kind of like the Israelites. On my journey, I have been doing my best to “Live by the Spirit”
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25
Like the Israelites, while I’ve been in the wilderness, he has protected me, fed me, clothed me and guided me. He has even showed himself in some amazing ways. All the while, he has also been proving me, trying me, testing my heart and my mind.
“Prove me, oh Lord, and try me, test my heart and my mind, for your steadfast love is before my eyes and I walk in your faithfulness. “ Psalm 26:2-3
When you are in the wilderness, there is a lot of time spent waiting on God. So much so, that sometimes it feels like you could use the word wilderness and waiting interchangeably! What Do you think waiting on God is supposed to look like?
“As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.“. Matthew 25:5
“ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13
I think what scripture is telling us here, is that waiting on God, should mean watching for God. We should be standing at the ready, waiting and watching for what God is going to do next and what he wants us to do. As you read the next scripture, pay close attention to how many times it says stand.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to STAND against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to WITHSTAND in the evil day, and having done all, to STAND firm. STAND therefore…..Galatians 6:10-18
Putting on the armor of God implies there is going to be a battle! For me, living by the Spirit requires patience and trust in God. Remember the scripture said, “Also, keep in step with the Spirit.” At first glance I thought that was redundant, but at closer inspection, keeping in step with the Spirit is very different than living by the Spirit. To keep in step with the Spirit, it requires faith and courage, because to keep in step means there’s no pause, no fear, no doubt. When he moves, you move. It requires complete faith and courage. Now, about this battle, let’s read Deuteronomy 9:1+3
1) “Hear, oh Israel, you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. 3) Know therefore today, that he who goes before you as a consuming fire, is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. SO, you shall A) drive them out and B) make them perish quickly. As the Lord promised you.” Deuteronomy 9:1+3.
I could write whole blog about driving out the enemy and killing it quickly from our lives but, for now, I’ll leave it.
This scripture says HE will go before us and destroy and subdue the enemy, we must drive them out and make them perish quickly. It’s a fixed fight, but it is still a fight! It is a fixed fight. You don’t have to fear, but you do have to fight, in order to have the victory. How do we fight?
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness, given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert, with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:13-18
During this journey through my wilderness, God has been proving me and trying me and testing my heart and my mind. Do you remember in Genesis 33 were Jacob wrestles with a man he learns later is God? I have done my fair share of wrestling with God. I have prayed for my will/desires, which I’m sure is his will too! Ha ha. Seriously, I have prayed for God’s will, but at times, I’ve told him just how he needs to accomplish that will. I’m sure you’ve never done that! But here is the beautiful part of that story; at the end of the chapter Jacob/Israel builds an alter to the Lord. In the past God has been called the God of his fathers. The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac. Here at the end of this chapter, after wrestling with God, he builds an altar and calls it “El-Elche-Israel.” This time he’s no longer just the God of his fathers, but now he is the “God of Israel.” He has become HIS God.
I think God is calling me out of my wilderness and into the battle. He is calling me out today, tried and tested, ready for battle. I have wrestled with him in my wilderness and he is no longer the God of my parents. He is now my God, my father, my Savior and has even become my friend.
“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him and he makes known to them his covenant.“ Psalm 25:14
I am confident that he is not done trying me and testing me, but I am ready to keep in step with the Spirit, fighting the enemy for what I am certain will be a victory!
“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.. 1Peter 5:10-11
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal wait of glory beyond all comparison.“ 2 Corinthians 4:17
The Lord is (my protector, my caregiver, my provider, the lover of my soul) my shepherd, so I shall not want (or need anything that is of real value because it is all found in him.) He makes me lie down (and rest) in green pastures (of blessing). He leads me beside still waters, (to rest and contemplate and listen to him). He restores my soul. (He encourages my heart and draws me to him). He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake. (Thank you Lord for all these things and ministering to me and through me!) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (evil) I will not fear evil. (Psalm 27:1-3 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evil doers attack me to destroy me, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. (Even) Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; (even) though war arise against me, yet, I will be confident.) For you are with me; your rod and your staff, (your Word, worship and prayer) they comfort me. You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies! (You feed me, cause me to grow, mature and strengthen me and meet my needs, even in the midst of the battle!) You anoint my head with oil. (claim me as your own and consecrate my life). My cup overflows! (Even in the valley!) Surely, (because of you) goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and (the best part) I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!
As we approach Christmas on the tail end of this crazy Covid year, there are many in my circle with heavy hearts. Maybe you find yourself in similar circumstances. Would you take a few minutes with me to turn our minds away from all that is going on around us and take a quick journey to what this holiday really means for us?
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (Holy Spirit) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. John 16:7
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” John 16:33
When we face difficulties and can’t or don’t know how to pray…
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. 2 Cor. 4:17-18
But now thus says the Lord……
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…..Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you… Isaiah 43:1-4
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more boldly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12-9-11
He is our light in the darkness.
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. Ps. 25:8
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path. Prob. 3:5-6
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face Lord, do I seek. Ps. 27:8
Show me your ways oh Lord. Teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me. For you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long. Ps. 25:4-5
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. Ps. 25:14
The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid? Ps. 27:1
Though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. Ps. 27:3
Indeed none who wait for you shall not be put to shame. Ps. 25:3
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Ps. 23:3-6
Are you still waiting on God to answer a prayer? If you are anything like me, you have an idea of how he can solve your problem, all worked out in your own head.
As I wait for my answer, and wait, and wait, I have seen God work in my heart and in my life. This work he’s done in me, wasn’t part of my plan or my prayer. With God, many times things are not as they seem and are not as simplistic as we think they are. There are layers and multiple agendas. God is most definitely working on my prayer request. He is also working on me while I wait and pray. He is probably working in others who’s lives touch this matter. It’s complicated. His thoughts are higher than mine. (Isaiah 55:8) He is working things out for a glorious result in many lives. My goal is a simple answer to prayer with a quick result. He, however, is in it for the long game. His answer to my prayer will have multiple layers and have touched many, by the time it’s done. I can see that in my own life already.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
I have a sign in my house with that verse written on it. It has helped sustain my faith. It reminds me that he is working in the waiting.
I just read the account of the birth of Moses in Exodus 2. His mother did everything she could think of to keep her son safe. It took a HUGE amount of faith and trust in God to put her son in that basket and let him go. I can imagine the immense pain her heart was in as she let him go, coupled with fear and hope, all at the same time. She was living in a hell on earth, where they were all slaves and the male children were being slaughtered. In the natural it was hard to see Gods plan, but he DID have a plan. The mother of Moses had no idea, nor could she have imagined such a plan! All the way back at his birth, God had a plan for Moses. That plan touched many lives. Moses wasn’t perfect. He even committed murder before he found his destiny with God. That should show us all that just because we make mistakes along the way, or circumstances get worse, it doesn’t mean the story has to end there. There is a line in the song “The Fathers House” by Cory Asbury that says, “Failure is never final, when The Father’s in the room.” I love that!!! The point I’m trying to make here is when we pray about something, we need to not look at the circumstances, but trust that God is working, even if it takes a long time or things take a turn for the worse. God is working the long game. Sometimes it’s not simple and it can take time. It’s not always just about the one person or part of the puzzle we are focused on. God will not waste anything. If we are seeking him and reading his Word, he will teach us and mature our faith while we wait and pray.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
If you are waiting on an answer to your prayer, don’t give up.
“Our unbelief is always wanting some outward sign. The religion of many is largely sensational, and they are not satisfied of its genuineness without manifestations, etc.; but the greatest triumph of faith is to be still and know that he is God.” A. B. Simpson Streams in the Desert December 7
“Ye shall not see wind, neither shall you see rain; Yet that valley shall be filled with water, that you may drink….” 2 Kings 3:16
He’s in the waiting.
In this fallen world, bad things can happen to innocent people. It’s hard for our brains and hearts to process it. In Genesis 30-50 we learn the story of Joeseph and how evil served up injustice to him. God did intervene to spare his life because killing Joeseph went against Gods plan for Joeseph. He did not however, completely stop all the injustice from happening, because this is a fallen world. God was with Joseph every step of the way. Joeseph made the choice to lean in to God and trust him instead of leaning in to the darkness and being bitter. His faithfulness and trust in God brought blessings in the midst of the injustice. God worked in the situation and because Joseph trusted God, God brought blessings to Joseph and his family, along with provision, forgiveness, redemption and restoration. Sometimes bad things happen to innocent people. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us. When something bad happens because of the evil in this world, God can heal, redeem and restore us if we lean in to him, instead of leaning in to the darkness that brought it about. God can make beauty from ashes. He raised up Joseph to a place of authority in the country. It reminds me of Psalm 23:5 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Joseph’s life DEFINITELY did not turn out the way evil planned for it to! What altered the course for Joseph, can alter anyone’s course. Don’t let evil win. Choose to trust Gods love, his faithfulness and ability to work a transformation from whatever situation you find yourself in.
Isaiah 49:23b-25 “Those Who wait for me shall not be put to shame. Can the prey be taken from the mighty or the captives of a tyrant rescued? For thus saith the Lord: “Even the captives of the mighty will be taken back and the prey of the tyrants rescued. For I will contend with those who contend with you (if that is not enough, I will also…) and I will save your children.”
In this world of instant gratification, it is easy to become impatient. We may even give up on a good thing because we are not patient enough to endure and work through things to get to the victory at the end. We see this impatient mentality all around us today. We see it in relationships, careers, faith and so much more. There was a saying I heard growing up that says,”Anything worth having is worth working for.”
Numbers 21:4-5 “From Mount Hor they (the Israelites) set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became inpatient on the way, and the people spoke against God and against Moses.”
The Israelites complained about the food and water God had provided on their journey to the promise land and even said it would have been better if they had stayed in Egypt as slaves. So, God sent serpents that bit them and many died. (vs.6) This shows you how the Lord feels when we complain! Their journey was hard and long, BUT God had provided for them, sustained them and given them victory in the battles they had faced along the way. Does that sound like your life? Have you gone through or are you going through a difficult time? Has God sustained you and helped you survive? Maybe he hasn’t waved a magic wand and made the journey EASY, but you are still standing.
Numbers 21:7 “The people came to Moses and said, we have sinned, we have spoken against the Lord and against you, “Pray to the Lord that he may take away the serpents from us.“. So Moses prayed for the people.”
In verses 7-9 we learn that God did not remove the serpents, but did offer the opportunity for forgiveness and salvation from them. He told Moses to make a sculpture of a snake and put it on a pole. If they were bitten they could look at the sculpture and be healed.
God didn’t remove the serpents. He just made a way to survive them. By choosing to remember Him and his promise and in obedience and faith, they needed only to look at the sculpture to be saved. How many times have we prayed and asked God to take away our problems instead of asking for the strength and wisdom to survive them?
Sometimes we need the presence of the serpents, to be reminded of the power and faithfulness of the Savior.
Prayer: Lord please help us to keep our eyes on you and our minds on who you are in the midst of our journey. Please strengthen our faith and encourage our hearts and help us to not complain or give up, but push through to the end and see the salvation of the Lord in our lives. Thank you for you love and your faithfulness.
Isaiah 40:23 “He will bring the enemy to nothing and make them as emptiness.”
Isaiah 41:11-13 “All Who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded. Those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you but you will not find them. Those who war against you shall be nothing at all. For I the Lord your God hold your right hand, it is I who say to you, fear not, I am the one who helps you.“
Isaiah 49:23b-25 “Those Who wait for me shall not be put to shame. Can the prey be taken from the mighty or the captives of a tyrant rescued? For thus says the Lord: even the captives of the mighty will be taken back and the prey of the tyrants rescued. For I will contend with those who contend with you and I will save your children.”
“Whether it was two days or a month, or even a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out.” Numbers 9:22
How nice to have such clear direction. They of course, still could have ignored it, but it was obvious direction! Sometimes the direction of the Lord doesn’t seem so obvious, Or is it that in the lack of direction, we are looking for a sign to affirm our own desires, when actually no direction means stay where you are and walk through it with him?
Another option is that he is speaking to us but we are not paying attention. Maybe we have our lives so full and so noisy that we don’t hear or recognize his voice from all the other voices.
I want to spend enough time with the Lord that when he speaks, I recognize his voice.
It’s a relationship like any other kind. We must spend time together to establish a covenant of hearts. We must pour out our hearts him, and allow him to pour out his to us! How do we do that? Worship. Pray. Read. Repeat. The repeat is vital. What kind of relationship do you have with someone you only spend time with occasionally?
A close, intimate relationship with God, is the sole purpose of our creation. It is what God wants and why he created us. Sure, our sin ruined the perfect plan, but it didn’t stop THE plan. It didn’t stop the opportunity to have that relationship with him. He made a way through Jesus.
We can’t remove the sin from this world. He will do that at the appointed time. Nevertheless, we can still have the relationship! It is completely up to us. He is there, beside us, waiting to talk, waiting to listen, waiting to help us, waiting to bless us. Let us not ignore him! Let us not have a one-sided relationship, where we do all the talking. That is like sitting in a Ferrari but not starting it, or sitting in it, starting it, but not driving it. There is so much to experience if we will be purposeful in engaging with him. Let’s pursue a relationship with our God and Savior. Worship him. Pray to him. Read his Word. Then repeat as often as we can. The more time we spend with him, the better and fuller our life will be, for having him in it.
Worship. Pray. Read. Repeat.
Passing the Test
Often times in life we find ourselves in a trial of one kind or another. The Bible calls it “testing our faith.”
A silversmith puts silver into a crucible to be melted down so he can remove the dross. We go through times of testing to remove the impure elements that are in our hearts and lives.
How will we respond to the testing? If we are stubborn and refuse to learn, spending our time wallowing and complaining, we exasperate the situation, yielding only misery instead of taking the opportunity to grow and learn as a person. A far better response is to trust God and lean into him. If we get into his Word and study it, it will give us knowledge and wisdom. It will encourage our hearts and strengthen our faith.
If we want to pass the test, we must study!
“ Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15