Stand Firm In Your Faith!

(Isaiah 7:1-9 HCSB) 1 This took place during the reign of Ahaz, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah king of Judah: Rezin king of Aram, along with Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, waged war against Jerusalem, but he could not succeed. 2 When it became known to the house of David that Aram had occupied Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the hearts of his people trembled like trees of a forest shaking in the wind.  3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out with your son Shear-jashub to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, by the road to the Fuller’s Field. 4 Say to him: Calm down and be quiet. Don’t be afraid or cowardly because of these two smoldering stubs of firebrands, the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram, and the son of Remaliah. 5 For Aram, along with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has plotted harm against you. They say, 6 ‘Let us go up against Judah, terrorize it, and conquer it for ourselves. Then we can install Tabeel’s son as king in it.'” 7 This is what the Lord GOD says: It will not happen; it will not occur. 8 The head of Aram is Damascus, the head of Damascus is Rezin (within 65 years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people),  9 the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you do not stand firm in your faith, then you will not stand at all.

The historical account that we read in Isaiah 7 relates a very common theme in the Old Testament. God’s people are threatened and attacked, they respond in fear, and the Lord sends a word of encouragement through one of His prophets. It seems that after this cycle had repeated itself enough times that the people of God could respond with some confidence. But, once again, we see them giving in to fear.

God spoke very clearly to Isaiah. In response to the threat He said, It will not happen; it will not occur.”  Shouldn’t that be the end of the story? Hadn’t God proven Himself faithful? Didn’t He deserve the trust of His people? Surely so!

Before we condemn these fearful people, let’s get honest about our own responses to God’s commands. Isn’t it true that God has made His will very clear to us? We really don’t have to guess about what constitutes sinful attitudes or actions. And yet, how many times do we just choose to disobey? When it comes to issues of the heart, do we not often do what we know violates His will. What about our finances? Have we become generous tithers and givers in accordance with His word? What about our words? Do we allow cursing and praise to come out of the same mouth? And yet, His word clearly states that this should not happen.

The people in our reading had a direct word from God. It was not ambiguous. Read it again…Calm down and be quiet. Don’t be afraid or cowardly because of these two smoldering stubs of firebrands…” 

To summarize, God had told them to be calm and quiet; don’t be cowardly. Why? Because everything their enemies had threatened “will not happen; it will not occur.” BOOM! There ya go! The Lord has spoken!

But the Lord knew they needed one additional instruction. “If you do not stand firm in your faith, then you will not stand at all.” The victory would become evident in an atmosphere of faith. If they didn’t believe, they would not receive.

This concept is revisited in the New Testament as well. James writes, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8 HCSB)

Does the devil have you backed into a corner? Are you fearful of some threat that has come your way? Take the words of the Lord seriously…. Stand firm in your faith!

PRAYER: Lord, I’m trusting You today and every day! I can do so because I believe Your promises cover every area of my life. Your hand is not shortened that it cannot save and deliver. My hope is in You! Amen.

Put On Your Big Boy Pants

(Joshua 17:14-18 ESV) 14 Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?” 15 And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16 The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” 17 Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, 18 but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”


Whiney people wear me out! How about you? In a recent devotion, I wrote about the MASSIVE list of blessings that were reserved for the house of Joseph. BIG blessings. ABUNDANT blessings. They only needed to take the necessary steps to possess them.

In Joshua 17, Joshua continues to distribute inheritances to the various tribes of Israel. The distributions varied based upon the size of the tribes and the role they played in the progress of the nation. When the people of Joseph heard the description of their inheritance, their tone seemed to imply a dissatisfaction with the details.

  • “Why have you given me one lot and one portion?”
  • “The hill country is not enough for us.”
  • “The Canaanites have chariots of iron.”

Joshua had to help them see things from a God-sized perspective. He reminded them of their potential.

  • “You are numerous.”
  • “You have great power.”
  • “Go to the forest and clear land for yourselves.”
  • “You shall possess it to its farthest borders.”
  • “You shall drive out the Canaanites.”

It appears that the people of Joseph had taken on an attitude of entitlement. Is it possible they felt they should not have to fight anymore? Could it be they felt they deserved to have their blessing super-sized and ready to enjoy without further effort? We may never know, but their words sound an awful lot like disappointment. The reward just didn’t fit their expectations.

I’m reminded of the man who looked to Peter and John for a monetary handout. Peter responded by letting him know that he did not have money to give, but he could hook him up with supernatural healing. If the beggar was disappointed, it certainly didn’t show. He got up and started enjoying his new found freedom!

That’s the point Joshua was trying to make to the household of Joseph. They were blessed! The victory was still theirs for the taking. They just needed to sow the proper effort to reap the promised result.

Today, let’s realize how blessed we are. Let’s focus on the potential we possess. Instead  of getting our bloomers in an upset, let’s put on our big boy pants and show God how grateful we are by living in the abundance He has provided.


PRAYER: Lord, I realize the blessings I’m experiencing have come directly from Your hand. Keep my mind focused on You and empower me to grasp all that You have laid up for me. Amen.

Exhausted? Continue On!

(Judges 8:4 NLT) 4 Gideon then crossed the Jordan River with his 300 men, and though exhausted, they continued to chase the enemy.


 

The Old Testament story of Gideon is very familiar and provides many lessons for the Christian. Trust, self-confidence, sin, calling, anointing, purpose; all are common themes derived from the accounting of this story. There is also another theme that is not often discussed. It is the need to be persistent.

We live in “right now” society that has raised our expectation for immediate results. I was watching a news report just a few days ago that announced Amazon’s launch of a same-day delivery service in many larger cities. We have the capability of placing an order via the internet to places like Sam’s Club that provide same-day pickup, and in some cases next-day delivery. Even groceries can now be ordered by phone and delivered right to our doorstep.

God promised a victory. However, He did not tell Gideon how daunting the task would be until after the assignment was accepted. Gideon and his three hundred men implemented the divine strategy that caused the enemy to become so confused that they ran away in every possible direction. Can you image the thoughts that went through their minds as they watched the enemy scurrying away in panic? What if Gideon decided that since the enemy was retreating anyway, we’ll just let them run? He knew they had to strike while the iron was hot!

Gideon had to walk it out even though the victory was secured by God’s promise. At one point, he sent for reinforcements, who became irritated and wanted to argue over his delayed request for help. All the while, the enemy was getting away. It was as though he was fighting two battles simultaneously; one with his own allies, and the other with the Midianites. Have you ever been there?

Gideon could have become frustrated and returned home before finalizing the pursuit. He could have said, “God, I gave it my best shot but the Midianites got away.” Instead, we read, “Though they were exhausted, they continued to chase the enemy.” Now, that is persistence!

I want to encourage you to stay the course! Sometimes, we become satisfied with momentary peace. The enemy relents for a while and we are just thankful for a time to catch our breath. Had Gideon not pursued the Midianites and finished the job, they could have regrouped and relaunched an attack later. They would have been given the opportunity to focus on a new battle plan to be used in the future. But, by finishing them off, Gideon removed the immediate threat and repositioned Israel for prosperity!

Exhausted? Continue On!


PRAYER: Father, help me to not be weary in well doing. I don’t want to faint in the heat of the battle. Give me strength to persist until the battle is complete! Amen.

You’re Possessed!

(Judges 6:34 NLT) Then the Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon!


 

The dictionary defines the word possession as “the state of having, owning, or controlling something.”

It is in the context of national disaster that we read this statement about Gideon. Once again, Israel finds themselves in a place of bondage because of their rebellion against the commandments of God. Verse 2 tells us that Israel, “fled to the mountains, where they made hiding places for themselves in caves and dens.” The writer of Judges further explains, “The enemy hordes, coming with their cattle and tents as thick as locusts, arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare.” (Verse 5) We are told at this point, “The Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.” (Verse 6) God responded to their repentance by sending a prophet named Gideon to lead them to deliverance.

At first, Gideon resisted the call to lead this deliverance citing his own self-doubt. He argues, “But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” God was not impressed with his assessment. Instead, God reassured Gideon with these words. “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

What happens next is key. “Then the Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon.”  Once God had possession of Gideon, the victory was secured. Remember, possession means, “the state of having, owning, or controlling something.” Gideon’s words, actions, commands, etc. were completely yielded to the will of God. It is important to understand that God did not force Himself upon Gideon in a way that usurped Gideon’s free will. God did not make a puppet out of him. NO! He surrendered his will so completely that all of his faculties were available for God’s purpose.

Gideon knew that his only path to victory was through the supernatural intervention of God. Our unwillingness to submit everything to God is often the only thing standing between us and freedom.

As with Gideon, God wants to possess us so that He can produce the freedom we so desperately desire. If deliverance is what you desire, then pray this prayer with me…


PRAYER: Father, I realize the challenges I’m facing today are subject to my obedience to Your plan. I submit myself to you and willingly ask You to take possession of me today. May my legacy be, “He was a man who was possessed by the Spirit of the Living God.” Amen.

He’s Already Done Did It!

(Psalm 71:3 ESV) 3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.


A few years ago, Donna and I were assigned to a ministry position in West Virginia. During our 6 years there we discovered some new and interesting ways to do life in the Appalachian culture.

Shortly after moving there, we heard of a dog breeder in one of the remote areas of the state. Since we were considering getting a puppy we decided to take a drive to the area and check it out. When I went into the office on Monday morning, one of the secretaries asked what we had done over the weekend. After explaining to her where we had gone, she said, “You should never go there alone again!” It took me by surprise when she told me there were some unusual activities that take place in that particular region of the state. I thought it to be pretty funny since we had met some very nice people there.

We also had to adjust to the “sayings” of the culture. On one occasion, I asked a man when he thought the project he was working on would be complete. His response almost made me laugh out loud! He said, “Preacher, I already done did it!” I have to admit that while I understood the meaning of his statement, I had never really heard it said like that.

I thought of that nice West Virginia man when I read Psalm 71. The writer was encouraging himself by meditating upon the many ways that God had helped him. He described God as a rock of refuge, a fortress, and a continual presence in his life. But the phrase that really caught my attention was, “You have given the command to save me.” Notice, the Psalmist spoke as though the deliverance was already done. Although he was still waiting for the manifestation of the deliverance he was convinced that God had, “Already done did it!”

The sooner we discover that God’s provision is complete, the sooner we can start walking it out by faith. God has, “Already done did” everything that needs to be done to accomplish my victory! That, my friend, is really good news!


PRAYER: Thank you Father for all the victories you have already secured on my behalf. Help me to wait patiently while the details come together. I have nothing to worry about because your answer to my problems is already on the way. Amen

Oh Lord! It’s Another Egyptian…

(Sermon excerpts | 04.10.16)

Last week, we left our corporate worship gathering with a keen awareness of God’s delivering ability. A powerful and prophetic word was given that brought a wonderful spirit of celebration! God had promised a great victory to Israel and had instructed Moses to declare, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14 ESV)

After church, and throughout the day I received several texts, emails, and conversations that revealed several levels of reception of the prophetic word given. Many were ecstatic about new-found hope. Others were generally positive that God would deliver on the promise, while others were doubtful that God would (not could) correct their very difficult situation.

Today, I want to follow up that message with some practical insight on what to expect now, along with the temptations that exist after God has spoken a personal word to you.

First, let me remind you that there are two types of “words” that we observe in Scripture. They are

  • Logos – Which typically refers to the written and recorded word as delivered through individuals who were moved upon by the Spirit of God. It is meant to be considered within the context of history, and is given with specific intent.
  • Rhema – Which typically refers to a confirming unction of the Spirit in relation to a specific command or principle as described in Scripture. It must always be connected to the original intent of the author, but can be referenced by the Holy Spirit to speak to a contemporary set of circumstances.

In our message last week, we discussed the promise given to Israel through Moses concerning the deliverance from, and the defeat of the Egyptians. The promise was given personally to Israel for a set time and purpose. God’s purpose for removing these Egyptians was, at least, two-fold.

  • He needed them out of the way so that the advancement of Israel would not be delayed.
  • He wanted to prove to the remaining Egyptians that He was the only true God.

The promise can also be considered principally by all of God’s people when dealing with similar situations. Let’s not forget that Holy Spirit still speaks today.

Let’s consider four typical human responses that can affect the way we respond to God’s promises.

DOUBT: A feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.

(Matthew 21:18-21 ESV) 18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.

DISILLUSIONMENT: Disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.

We sometimes become disillusioned with God when he does not provide the blessing we hoped for. God provided supernatural manna for the children of Israel. Yet, in time, they came to loath the very thing that came from God’s hand.

(Exodus 15:23-24 ESV) 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore, it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

(Exodus 16:2-3 ESV) 2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

DEATH: The destruction or permanent end of something.

Sadly, I’ve watched people become convinced in their own mind that God is not faithful, He does not save, and He is not worthy of their trust. This is exactly what happened to Judas, who witnessed the prophetic fullment of the long awaited Messiah. Yet, he chose the path that led to death.

Death to faith can happen when we allow experience to determine what we believe, rather than belief determining what we experience.

DISCOVERY: To find (something or someone) in the course of a search. Also, to recognize potential.

Sometimes we struggle because we have misidentified our Egyptian. We waste positive energy fighting battles that don’t exist; against issues that are not the root problem.

(Ephesians 6:11-12 ESV) 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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.

The good news is that we have the ability through Christ to properly identify the real issues and access supernatural resources that will produce positive resolve.


PRAYER: No matter the foe, You have given me Your great and precious promises that are designed to provide a consistent flow of victory. Thank You! Amen.

You’re Surrounded!

(Psalm 32:7 ESV) You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah


Are you aware of your surroundings? Whether we realize it or not, we are surrounded by various stimuli that affects us. Sometimes we see it, other times we feel it, and at other times we are totally unaware of what surrounds us.

With the weather, atmospheric pressure plays a big role in the way the winds move and the way the clouds form. When the atmosphere changes, so does the weather.

In life, the atmosphere around us contributes to our state of mind. If our home life is stable and happy, we to, are happy and secure. If it is dysfunctional, we tend to live in a constant state of uneasiness. The same can be said of every area of our lives.

In our Scripture today, the Psalmist identifies the Lord as his hiding place. The place he could find solace.

I grew up in Southern Illinois. In spring time the atmospheric conditions would often produce a great number of severe weather events. It was not uncommon for tornadoes and thunderstorms to tear through the area on a regular basis. Many people who lived in vulnerable areas had storm shelters they could run to. It was a place of safety and refuge from the storm.

The Psalmist also mentioned that the Lord surrounded him with shouts of deliverance. The New Living Translation reads, “You surround me with songs of victory.” Let that sink in for a moment…

Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we could envision being surrounded by a singing God? God doesn’t sing the blues. He’s not into funeral dirges. No, when the Lord of glory sings over you He is proclaiming songs of victory. In this instance, God is not singing a soft love song. Instead, His song is a battle cry. He is putting the enemy on notice that He is fighting on our behalf. And because He is declaring the victory, it is secure.

The tone of the Scripture is one of declaration. It is a statement of fact. The Psalmist is describing a picture of himself surrounded by Almighty God, who is singing declarations of victory. Since he is surrounded, it means above and below, to the right and to the left, in front of and behind. No side is unprotected! We are completely covered.

As you go about your day, many things will vie for your attention. Don’t let them crowd out the reality of God’s presence. He is there for you and you can hide yourself in Him. Selah!


PRAYER: Father, thank you for the assurance of your presence. Help me today to be aware of Your presence and to tune my ears to the songs of victory You are singing over me. You have declared my victory and I choose to receive it! Amen.

%d bloggers like this: