Strength Through Weakness

I have been going through a health trial and it has caused me to face things in a way I have never had to before. It truly is a testing of my faith and my genuine dependence on my Shepherd.

As I go through this trial, the one thing people say that gets under my skin is, “Be strong!” “Stay strong!” “You are strong!”

I know they mean well, but the truth is I am only strong by the Lord’s power in me.

The apostle Paul told us, he delights in weakness, for when we are weak, then we are strong.

He also told us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

THROUGH CHRIST is the key words, and what does “through Christ” look like?

Jesus humbled himself, submitted to the Father’s will, suffered and died.

Are we above the Master?

Paul said boast in the cross and boast in our weakness. Nothing was ever said of boasting about our strength.

We are not to show the world how strong we are, but how in the midst of weakness, we are able to keep going and fight because the Lord is sustaining us, it’s His strength that picks us back up when we get knocked down time and time again.

Rocky Balboa had some words of wisdom: “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees, and keep you there if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. “

James 1:3 tells us, “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

So with the Lord, yes we are strong!

Ephesians 6:16 says, “Be strong IN the LORD and IN the power of HIS might.”

The next time someone says, “be strong!” I will respond with the only way I know how to do that, and that is, “IN the LORD.”

Ephesians 6 goes on to instruct us on how to be strong in the Lord, by putting on His armor.

The language here is interesting, it tells us to put on the armor and then it tells us to just stand firm!

Our fighting is in our obedience.

“Put on! Stand firm!”

“Put on! and “Stand firm!”

I will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever

The end of this beloved Psalm sums everything up for us. What is it all for? What is the purpose?

What does dwelling in the house of the Lord look like?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism question number 1 asks,

“What is the chief and highest end of man?”

Answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.”

We have come full circle. The first verse of this Psalm, said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

We are told what our chief end is NOT. It is NOT to find happiness and comfort in this world. It is NOT to fulfill all our dreams. It is NOT to have family and friends. It is NOT to do good deeds.

These things are not necessarily bad. Even the sheep that don’t follow Him, by way of His common grace can enjoy this, but these things aren’t the chief end of man.

Simply put, we were made for Him!

I think it’s easier for us sometimes to get the glorifying God part. We might view this as: living righteously, being obedient, and serving Him in various ministries, These things are all right and good; yet I want to take a closer look at “enjoying Him”.

What does enjoying the Lord look like? I have a sign on my kitchen window sill that reads, “don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

I had the thought of the story of Martha and Mary; this is not a story to make service to God look bad, but it is showing us the contentment and pure joy of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus and getting fed. She was feasting at the King’s table. We can get so busy FOR the Lord that we have no time to ENJOY the Lord.

Jesus told us in John 15 that we are to abide in Him and He in us so that our joy may be complete. I like to think of it like this, we are made to be “in joy” with Jesus! We are “in” Him and He “in” us, and as a result our joy is full and we are free to enjoy Him!

Jesus also tells us “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Abiding in Him will result in glorifying Him in all we do. We cannot bear fruit apart from The Vine. Glorifying God and enjoying Him are two sides of the same coin. They cannot be separated.

This Psalm has a spectacular crescendo of our life as a Christian. With fireworks, it closes out with the ultimate goal of this race! We live by Him. We live for Him. We live unto Him.

If we believe that this is the chief end, how are we living this out in our daily lives? 

The way we enjoy Him deeper and more intimately is to continually give more and more of ourselves away and seek Him above all in prayer and His Word.

God richly blesses those who earnestly seek Him. He is our dwelling place forever!

Psalm 27:4

“The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.”

Surely Goodness and Mercy

We all suffer but, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Psalm 23:6

Goodness and mercy can be wrongly identified with lacking in trial and suffering. Can there be goodness and mercy while in the trial and walking through suffering? When God allowed Satan to afflict Job, was this goodness and mercy?

James 1 tells us, “Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. “

We know that trials are working for us our good, but is it merciful? When we have to go through pain and suffering, we wonder where is the mercy in that? If we think that mercy only means being spared from trials, then God is a liar and the cross is not merciful but rather an injustice.

We need to back up the lens from the zoom setting of our own little world. God is always good and always merciful no matter our circumstance and I will show you with a wide lens.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 9:10

We are all born under the wrath of God because of original sin.

“For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5

Apart from Jesus, our own goodness is filthy rags. It’s impossible to please God when left to our own devices.

In the last devotional we saw the way God dealt with the sin problem; It was not until God, Himself entered into humanity in the person of Jesus, to be a ransom. Jesus came so that He could die so that we could have life everlasting, restored fellowship with God. We would no longer be under the wrath of God.

This is goodness and mercy!

If this is all the goodness and mercy we ever see, this is abundantly far richer than we could ever imagine.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” I Peter 1:3-4

So we see the greatest goodness and mercy, but even in our everyday life, as we walk this pilgrimage, we cannot always see all the goodness and mercy God is giving us even in the midst of our deep suffering.

When Corrie Ten Boom and her sister were in the Nazi prison camp, the fleas were so bad in the cell they were in, but what was realized was the guards stayed away from that cell because of the terrible infestation. They were thankful for the fleas. The fleas were a mercy.

In your suffering you don’t know what greater suffering he may be protecting you from. We also know that God is glorified and exalted in our weakness not in our strength. Yes, we can count it all joy because the joy of the Lord is our strength. He is glorified!

“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

We, who are in Christ Jesus are in the refiner’s fire. Are we learning to love this fire, knowing that it is in this that we are being purified and He is glorified?

The wide lens shows us how infinite the goodness and mercy of God is. Are we willing to lose in order that we gain Christ?

This is goodness and mercy!

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

You Anoint My Head with Oil, My Cup Overflows

The King’s table is available now!

By faith, we enter in. Yes, there is a feast celebration to come but there is a feast now.

In the Old Covenant tabernacle, we see the great lengths that were made to go into the presence of God. At the consecration of Aaron, the high priest; he was clothed in special garments from head to toe to prepare to enter into the Holy of Holies. In this ceremony, Moses anointed Aaron’s head with oil. This was to set him apart from the world. He was being prepared.

In the Old Covenant, no one could enter into God’s presence without the new garment and the anointing, but it was in the sprinkled blood of the sacrifice that atoned for sins. This atonement was never enough. The sacrifice was never great enough to deal with man’s sin ultimately.

In the New Covenant we have direct access to His presence because of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross. He was the ultimate sacrifice. All who confess their sins, turn from them and place their trust in Jesus have the blood of Jesus as their covering. He clothes us with a new garment which is His righteousness and He tabernacles with us. We now can come boldly to the King’s throne through Jesus.

The table is available now!

The woman at the well, found the King’s table. It was revealed to her that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus told her “those that drink from the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14

In the midst of her confessed sin, Jesus filled her cup to overflowing. The woman questioned Jesus about the whereabouts to which she should worship, she had the old covenant knowledge, but Jesus told her a time was coming that people would worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.

The table is available now!

Those that put on the Lord Jesus are anointed with the Holy Spirit. You are set apart. You are made holy.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” I Corinthians 6:19

Do you have a new garment? Have you been clothed in His righteousness? Have you been anointed with the Holy Spirit?

Be warned, don’t be found trying to enter the King’s table without His new garment. It is through Jesus’ shed blood that we come to the throne and have access to the banqueting table.

Wherever we are and no matter what trials or suffering we may be going through, we can feast on Him. His mercy and grace will surely follow.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

The King’s table is available now!

Enter in in Spirit and in Truth!

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

The setting is one of royalty, majesty and honor.

The Good Shepherd has reserved a place setting for each of His own at the banqueting table. The King’s table is of the highest authority, it’s sovereign over all, it’s decked in the finest of royal splendor honor and glory. His presence is full of love and joy and His children are joint heirs with the King!

“And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.“

Romans 8:17a

The second half of the above verse reads like this, “But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.”

To know Him in His love is to share in His sufferings.

Yes, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

You may ask, but how do I feast through the sufferings? His banner of love is over me, that’s how. He is always leading us by His love but in our trials and suffering He will lead us to His table in a deeper way than we could not know without the trial. We have His presence with us no matter what enemies of this world we encounter. It’s in the valleys that we are humbled and it’s there that he draws us ever deeper into His presence.

The King is inviting you to His table, you who have heard the Shepherd’s call and put your trust in Him. His feast is available now, in the midst of whatever you are going through. His banner of love will cover you.

The King has been abundantly gracious with us, this should be our motivation to spread the good news. Remember the woman at the well, she was invited to drink, and when she drank, in that moment she knew the presence of the King! She went and spread the word.

Yes, only the King knows all the names of His royal heirs and we do not, but we are told to go and invite! Tell them about the hope we have and the great love of our Good Shepherd. Tell them about the feast of the Lord that is available to them now and tell them of the hope of the glorious coming feast.

We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus! The world, the flesh and the devil don’t have a chance with the saints of the King.

Let us remember, It’s only by His love and grace that any of us are led to the King’s table.

Let us give thanks and feast on Him!

He is with us always!

“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” Song of Solomon 2:4

Your Rod and Your Staff, they Comfort Me

There is great assurance in the rod and staff, and when we have assurance we have comfort.

Why is the rod and staff comforting? The rod and the staff are used for our protection.

First, the rod is used to keep the wolves and any other danger at bay. The staff is there to pull us back into the fold when we are wandering astray.

In the story of the Good Shepherd, Jesus shows us that He calls His sheep by name and leads them out. His sheep hear His voice, and they follow. If you have heard the Shepherd’s call, and have followed Him, there is nothing that can snatch you from His hand.

The protective rod is used against all enemies that seek to rob, steal and destroy His sheep. The saving staff hooks our neck and pulls us back into Himself when we stray.

“He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.” Psalm 121:3

This is great assurance!

Salvation is not you knowing Jesus, it’s Jesus knowing you.

“For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me…..” John 6:44

It’s not about our knowledge of Him and what we may do in His name. Many performed deeds in His name, but Jesus said, “depart from me. I never knew you.” Matthew 7:23

These people were following Jesus for the wrong reasons. They wanted all the benefits and none of the submission. They did not find comfort in the rod and staff.

The rich young ruler knew of Jesus. He knew the 10 commandments and seemed to follow them to the letter, but Jesus knowing his heart, said “sell your possessions and follow me.” The young ruler went away sad. He didn’t find any comfort in the rod and the staff.

Is your assurance placed in what you do for God, or what He did, does and will do for you?He laid down His life for His sheep.

Are you comforted by the hand of grace always working to correct you, keep you protected from the enemy, and lead you. Are you fully in submission to the Shepherd? Have you found comfort in the rod and the staff?

The disciples asked Jesus after they heard the exchange with the rich young ruler, “Then who in the world can be saved,’?”

“Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Mathew 19:25-26

Though I Walk Through the Valley

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

I’m learning that going through the valley is part of the restoration process. When we are sick and diseased, we know the doctor may have to do some temporarily uncomfortable procedures to get to the restoration. We know that healing most often doesn’t come without the difficult.

All my trials and valleys are beings worked together for my good, they are not meaningless. Our Master Jesus went to the cross and suffered. Are we above our Master?

“Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” ( Matthew 16:24) This is only way to becoming purified resulting in being more like Christ.

As believers, this is the race we are on. And in that race we can expect to share in His suffering. At the final finish line, we will have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but death will not have the final say. Death is swallowed up in victory! We will put on immortality! We don’t have to fear death. It is just a shadow to those who trust in the Shepherd. The sacrificial Lamb of God took the curse of sin and death upon Himself at the cross.

“O death where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55)

There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. In Adam we are born in our natural body, in the second Adam, Christ, we must be born again. Jesus gives life to the spiritual body. We can’t take this sick, diseased, sinful body to heaven. You can’t put new wine into old wine skins. (Matthew 9:17)

We are living stones being prepared to put on immortality. Our assurance as believers and being under the Shepherd’s care gives us the comfort we need, so we have no reason to fear.

The storms will come and the waves will crash, and that final wave that takes us, may it “slam us into the Rock of Ages”, as Spurgeon told us. Learn to embrace the waves!

As He died on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” The work is done. I am free from the curse of death. We will not be burned when we go through the fire.

Jesus told Nicodemus, you must be born again to inherit eternal life. If you want to be able to face the valley of the shadow of death with no fear, you must be born of the spirit. Have you put your trust in Jesus as Lord? Have you repented and turned from your sin? Living without Jesus leaves you to your own devices. Are you willing to face the valley of the shadow of death without Him?

“The fool says in his heart there is no God” Psalm 14:1

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2

“I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.” Spurgeon

Trust Him! Believe on Jesus!

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake

Right vs. wrong is not up for debate. God has set the standard. He is the standard. One way we know we are on the right path is it will never contradict His Word. If we don’t know what’s in the Bible, how can we grow as Christian’s? His Word is the sword of the Spirit. If we don’t have our sword ready to do battle against the world, the flesh and the devil, we will get devoured. The wolves are waiting to attack. Devour His Word…get it into your heart and mind or else you are wolf bait.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

We are to aim for holiness but our aiming is not to elevate ourselves, it’s sole purpose is to glorify God. In all we do, in word or deed, let it glorify God. Genuine believers will desire more of His will.. Though we walk imperfectly, we have an ever increasing awareness of the paths we choose; how it’s honoring to Truth, how it’s elevating God’s Word, and how it lifts up Jesus and when we are in step with His will we are satisfied and content.

“Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness; for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

And finally, staying close to the flock, and never taking our eyes off the Shepherd will enable us to stay on the path of righteousness. When we wander off on our own, we are easy prey and more prone to being led astray. The lines become blurred to what is right and wrong. When the Shepherd is no longer in our vision, everything gets hazy and confusion sets in like a poison.

The flock is there to help protect, encourage, correct, give godly wisdom and warn. When left to our own devices, the more vulnerable we become to making bad choices and going down the wrong path.

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

1. Stay in God’s Word.

2. Our holiness is not about us it’s about Him! Give glory to Him in word and deed.

3. Keep fellowship with the church(believers)

4. Keep your eyes on the Shepherd Jesus at all times!

He Restores My Soul

I often times feel like a wild child whose mind is all over the place. Technology can make it worse. The Lord, our Shepherd is the only one who is able to give us real restoration to our souls, yet I struggle to keep from reaching to other things. If I’m worried, why do I obsess on google or web MD instead of running to the feet of Jesus? When I’m weary, why do I seek a distraction like zoning out on tv or social media or reaching for a glass of wine, instead of running to the throne of grace?

When I’m insecure, why do I seek to find a way to puff myself up instead of falling into the loving arms of Jesus who is my portion and the lifter of my head? The great hymn says, “prone to wander Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

I realized this restoration process is an ongoing development in His great love and grace. He is continually correcting, encouraging, and leading me even in my tendencies to wander. He pulls me back in, and says, “My child, here is where there is true rest.”

As we grow and mature in faith, we should be wandering less often and desiring Him more. Our restoration is threefold; He restored me, He is restoring me, and He will restore me fully.

This life, because of sin, has thorns and trials. We aren’t free from the effects of original sin just because we are in His protection. But being His child does protect us from these things heading into a downward spiral working for our destruction. Instead, God works it for our good and His glory. It is part of the story of our restoration. The valleys we go through are working something in us. They are not meaningless.

The next time we wander off and we hear the Savior’s call, or that loving hand of correction, this is our great Shepherd pulling us back into Himself. The Lord is continuing to restore us. He doesn’t start something that He won’t complete. We don’t serve an incompetent God. He is all powerful, all knowing, merciful and gracious. He knows every hair on our heads. He loves us and He wants us to trust and obey Him.

“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

He Leads Me Beside the Still Water

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be completely satisfied.” Mathew 5:6

When we thirst to be in right standing with God, we will be led to abundant satisfaction. When we submit to Him, we give up our rights and instead desire to be right with God.

This thirst in the inner man can only be filled by first, admitting the Lordship of the Shepherd over our lives, second, putting to death our “wants”, and finally walking in submission and allowing Him to lead us to the well that will never run dry. We cannot come to this Living Water through the back door trying to avoid confession and repentance.

I have this hand towel that says, “All I need is Jesus and coffee.” It’s definitely funny, but in all seriousness, what have you maybe told the Lord you need in addition to Him? What maybe have you not laid down at the foot of the cross, because you are scared you will lose it?

C.S. Lewis described our fickleness; “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Jesus is offering us something far beyond what we can think or imagine, and yet we cling to “mud pies.” The Shepherd wants to lead us to Himself, He is the Water we crave and need.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33