6/3/17 “Delivered from All My Fears” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 34-36)

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:4-7).

In the title of Psalm 34, it reads, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed”. During the period of his life when David wrote this psalm, he had been fleeing for his life from King Saul. In fact, David was so fearful for his life, that he went over to the enemies of Israel, the Philistines (1 Samuel 21:10). However, the Philistines did not welcome him with open arms because they remembered he was the one who had killed their champion Goliath and who had killed many of them. The Philistines also remembered the Israelites saying of David: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 21:11). David was very afraid when he heard the Philistines say this, “So he changed his behavior before them, feigned madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard” (1 Samuel 21:13). David pretended to be mad and the king of Gath, which was a Philistine stronghold, bought into David’s act, spared David, and sent him away (1 Samuel 21:14-22:1).

Throughout this psalm David shares with us the struggle he was having with his fears at this time in his life: “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). David was trying to come to grips, on the one hand with his fear of King Saul who was pursuing his life, and on the other hand he was fearful of the Philistines among whom he was now dwelling and before whom he was feigning madness.

As he copes with his fear of man, David decides to focus his fear on God: “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (Psalm 34:9-10). Focusing on fearing God instead of man involves seeking after God. As David sought the Lord, God delivers David from his fears: “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). David adds, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).

It is interesting his focusing on fearing God instilled David with new confidence regarding the enemies he faced. Compared to God, his enemies were nothing. David realized God had heard him and was attentive to him: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15). He also adds, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18). David’s faith in God was now more powerful than the fear he had of man: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Psalm 34:19-20). David concludes “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned” (Psalm 34:22).

Fear is a powerful emotion. It can have a drastic effect in our lives if we let it gain a foothold. It can grieve our hearts, cause us to be a discouragement to others, and jeopardize our relationship with God by attacking our faith in Him. Today, like David, I will strive to focus on fearing God, not man.

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

6/2/17 “You Have Turned My Mourning into Dancing” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 30-33)

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).

In the title of Psalm 30, it is mentioned that this was a psalm which was sung at the dedication of the house of David. The Scriptures mention following the building of David’s house, David “knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, for his kingdom was highly exalted for the sake of His people Israel” (1 Chronicles 14:2). Psalm 30 is then a psalm in which David expresses his praise for God’s blessings as he reflects on the manifold ways in which God has enriched his life.

As he begins this psalm David say, “I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, and have not let me foes rejoice over me” (Psalm 30:1). David understood that the high position he now held as king of Israel was not because of his own doing. It was all because of God’s blessing upon him. God had lifted him up and delivered him from his enemies (Psalm 30:1). God had also lifted him up and delivered David from his own sins for which God had been angry at David: “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

David then mentions an event that happened in his life which brought him trouble: “Now in my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved.’ Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong; You hid Your face, and I was troubled” (Psalm 30:6-7). We are not told if David made the statement, “I shall never be moved” out of pride or out of confidence and trust in God. What we do know is whether to chasten David or to test David, God hid his face from David. Being unable to detect God’s presence even for a moment in his life troubled David so greatly he immediately sought God: “I cried out to You, O Lord; and to the Lord I made supplication: ‘What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!’" (Psalm 30:8-10).

As the opening verses above indicate, the Lord did restore His presence in David’s life following this event. As He did so, David says, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing”. David could take off the garments of mourning he had been wearing (i.e. sackcloth) and be clothed with gladness. He could not keep silent as he would glorify God by singing praises (Psalm 30:11-12).

In reading these verses I wonder, “Do I pursue God’s presence as earnestly as did David?” When God presence was hid from David, but for a moment it greatly troubled David. Sometimes when we sin, like Adam and Eve, we try to hide from God’s presence which only brings more trouble into our lives as we are weighed down by the guilt and burden of sin (Genesis 3:6-8). Today, I will not try to flee from God’s presence if I fall into sin. I will repent of my sin and strive to return to God’s presence. If trials come upon me this day, I will not assume God has forgotten about me or is hiding from me, I will pursue Him through prayer and study of His Word until I feel confident He is with me. Today, I want God to turn my mourning into dancing!

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:1-3).

6/1/17 “Focused Confidence in the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 26-29)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this I will be confident. One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:1-4).

When I consider the life of King David, I am amazed at how he was able to handle the incredible challenges he faced. Out of all of Israel, he alone was willing to take on and defeat the Philistine champion Goliath who stood about 9 feet tall (1 Samuel 17:4-51). Furthermore, David had to spend years running for his life from the jealous rage of King Saul who was trying to hunt him down to kill him (1 Samuel 18:9-31:4). Moreover, David even had to cope with his own son Absalom trying to overthrow his kingdom and pursue his life (2 Samuel 15:1-18:15). In addition to these events, David had fought in many battles and wars against the enemies of God’s people.

How was David able to manage these immense trials he confronted during his lifetime? As the opening verses above indicate, he was able to handle these threats because he had supreme confidence in God! He looked to the Lord as his “light” and his “salvation” (Psalm 27:1). Furthermore, David’s life goal was focused on one singular purpose: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). His heart’s desire and focus was to go to the house of the Lord (i.e. the tabernacle) and worship God. Put in modern terms: David’s one goal was to make it to attend church services to seek God and worship Him!

One of the great challenges we face in our lives is being distracted by too many things and a failure to keep focused on the things that really matter. When facing challenges in our lives, many times we get distracted and begin to worry about our families, our finances, our health, our career goals, or other things. I am not saying that these have no importance at all. They do. But are these to be the main focus of our lives? Who gave us our families, our finances, our health, etc.? God did! He should be the One who is the first priority in our lives. He was for David as he said to the Lord: “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ My heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek’” (Psalm 27:8).

As David sought the Lord, he pursued learning the Lord’s Will for his life: “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies” (Psalm 27:11). No matter what happened to him, even if his family forsook him, David would not get distracted from his purpose of seeking after God: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10). Because of his supreme focused concentration on seeking after God and God’s Will for him, David developed great confidence in the Lord’s ability to deliver him: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord! (Psalm 27:13-14). Today, I will strive to have David’s focus on seeking the Lord and His Will for me so that I may develop confidence in the Lord’s ability to deliver me from any trial which I face!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

5/31/17 “The Shepherd of My Soul” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 23-25)

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).

The 23rd Psalm written by King David is one of the most quoted Scriptures as well it should be. This psalm reminds the followers of God of some very important truths which bring comfort to their souls. First, the psalm begins with the statement: “The Lord is my shepherd”. Although David was a great leader himself, he acknowledged he needed guidance from the Lord. He describes himself as being a sheep and the Lord as being his Shepherd. One of the key steps for a person must take in his or her spiritual growth is to acknowledge the need of God’s help and guidance through the journey of life. God will not force Himself upon us, but He will eagerly guide us if we welcome Him, as did David, as our “Shepherd”.

As our Shepherd, God is very capable. He provides the “green pastures” in which we need to rest and the “still waters” from which we need to drink (Psalm 23:2). When my soul is downtrodden by the trials and cares of life, He gently “restores my soul” as He continually “leads me in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3). The picture in this psalm is that of a sheep that is well nourished and cared for because he is not left on his own to provide these things for himself, but rather his care is in the hands of a skillful Shepherd who has made sure all these things are provided for him as well as the other sheep under the Shepherd’s care.

Having his well-being placed in the hands of such a Shepherd gives one great confidence to face the adversities of life. Knowing his Shepherd was watching over him ready to throw his rod at any preying wolves who might threaten his life or using His staff to lift him up should he wander off and fall in any dangerous places, helped David not to fear any evil even though he had to walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). Even in the face of his enemies, David knew God’s provision for him would be with such abundance that he says, “My cup runs over” (Psalm 23:5). David did not view God’s care for him as being just enough for him to get by in life, but rather his Shepherd’s attention to his needs would be with such overflowing abundance that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. David pictures himself as a sheep enjoying God’s watchful care over him today, and confidently facing the future as he knows his Shepherd will guide him to his ultimate destination so he may “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

Is this how I view God’s care of me in my life? Do I have the kind of peace in my life which David enjoyed as he trusted in God to shepherd his soul through this life or is my heart weighed down with worry because instead of relying on God I am relying on myself or others? In our day and age, there is a strong emphasis on self-reliance. With this comes the temptation to trust in self and forget we need guidance. Today, I will rejoice that the Lord is My Shepherd. My confidence is fully in Him to guide me and I will let His peace reign in my life as I confidently say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6)!

“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:14-16).

5/30/17 “The Heartache of Christ at the Cross” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 20-22)

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?” (Psalm 22:1).

As Christians, there are some fundamental truths we accept and understand. All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). The wages of our sins was death (Romans 6:23). However, God offers us the gift of eternal life through His Son Jesus (John 3:16). For those of us who have accepted this gracious gift of God, we understand Jesus bore our sins (1 Peter 2:24). The prophet Isaiah summarizes very well what God did for us in allowing Jesus to bear our sins: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

God laid on Jesus our iniquity! When we think of Jesus’ going to the cross to bear our sins, it is very humbling. We were powerless to save ourselves from our sins. In order for us to be saved, someone had to pay the death penalty for our sins in order to satisfy God’s justice. The person who paid the price for our sins was a person who committed no sin Himself, God’s own Son (1 Peter 1:18-19)!

When I read Psalm 22, it vividly reminds me of the incredible mental anguish Jesus went through on the cross for me. This is the passage of Scripture that came to Jesus’ mind as he hung on the cross for my sins and from which He quoted. As the opening verses above indicate, He felt forsaken by God His Father (Psalm 22:1-2; cf. Matthew 27:46). As He experienced the horrific pain on the cross, He had to endure the ridicule of those who passed by and observed his agony: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!’" (Psalm 22:6-8; cf. Matthew 27:41-44). Instead of being surrounded and encouraged by loved ones as He was going through Death’s door, Jesus was surrounded by enemies and was the target of all their hatred as He was dying: “Be not far from Me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion” (Psalm 22:11-13). His enemies not only took Jesus’ life, they even had the gall to take His last possessions as He was dying. They literally took the clothes of His back as they murdered Him: “They divide My garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:18; Matthew 27:35).

Not only did Jesus undergo incredible mental anguish upon the cross, I can only imagine the heartache God the Father went through as He thought of His Son recalling Psalm 22 which said such things as, “But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother's womb You have been My God”, and “But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me!” (Psalm 22:9-10, 19). As a father myself, I can’t imagine not helping my child as they plead with me to rescue their life!

But God knew there was no other way to save mankind from sin. The wages of sin was death. In order for God to be a just God and uphold justice, the penalty of sin must be paid. Because of God’s incredible love both He and His Son experienced significant heartache for a moment in time at the cross so I would not have to experience an eternity of mental anguish in hell. Today, I will praise God His willingness to do this for me and will rejoice in His incredible love for me!

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1).

5/29/17 “Rejoicing in God’s Revelation” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 17-19)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1-3).

In Psalm 19 David describes the ways in which God reveals Himself and His Will to man. First, God has revealed Himself to man by general revelation through His creation. As the opening verses above show, God has shown His glory to man through the works which He has made. As we behold a breathtaking sunrise or sunset, it is revealed to us the Almighty God made these things (Psalm 19:4-6). We are reminded of the might of God throughout nature. Although our hearts go out and our prayers are lifted up to the victims of a tornado, hurricane, or tsunami, when such events occur, our hearts are filled with awe and fear as we consider the power of God to create such forces of nature.

The works of God’s creation speak continually that there is a God which made them: “Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:2). There is nowhere on earth where people are unable to hear God revealing Himself to them through the things which He has made: “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:3-4). The main question for me to consider is: “Am I listening to God revealing Himself to me through His creation?”

Psalm 19 also speaks about how God has revealed Himself to us through His special revelation which is found in the Scriptures. After describing how God has revealed Himself to man through His Creation found in nature, David now turns His attention to how God has made known His Will for mankind through His Word: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7-9). It is awesome to consider how God inspired 40 men to write the 66 books of the Bible over a 1500 year period without there being one contradiction in the pages of Scripture. Within the pages of God’s Word are contained the guidance we need to walk in a path which will lead to a blessed life: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Although God’s revealing Himself to mankind through both His Creation and His Word is a blessing He has given, we are encouraged to respond to this gift from God by eagerly pursuing God’s instructions for us: “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). God’s Word provides warnings of what not to do and guidance of what to do so that we may be blessed: “Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:11-12).

Today, I will rejoice that God has revealed Himself to me in both His Creation and through His Word. I will take time to contemplate and appreciate how and why He did this for me. I will welcome and desire His guidance in my life and strive to walk within the paths He has revealed for me to follow!

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

5/28/17 “The Lines Have Fallen to Me in Pleasant Places” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 13-16)

“O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance. I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope” (Psalm 16:5-9).

The opening verses above penned by King David describe a person whose heart is at peace. He is at peace with what is happening in the present as he says the Lord has maintained his lot by providing for all of his needs. He is also at peace with regard to his future as he knows that even in death his flesh will “rest in hope”. In fact, he trusts in God to raise him from the dead: “You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). These verse were quoted by Peter as being fulfilled when Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 2:25-28). I believe they both apply to Jesus’ being raised from the dead and also the hope the child of God (like David) has in being raised from the dead. When the body of a child of God is buried in the grave, their flesh will “rest in hope” as it looks forward to the day when it will be reunited with the spirit of the saint to go on to be with the Lord in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

If you are like me you want to have the kind of peace David had in his life as he wrote these words. The question I have to ask myself is: “Do I have this kind of peace? If not, why not?”

In this psalm, we find some reasons why David enjoyed this kind of peace in his life. First, he put his trust in God: “Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust” (Psalm 16:1). He looked wholly to the Lord for his care and preservation and did not trust in himself or in his own goodness: “O my soul, you have said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You’” (Psalm 16:2). Furthermore, he had determined to follow God’s paths and listen to God’s guidance: “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:7-8). Rather than resist God’s direction in His life, David embraced it: “You will show me the path of life” (Psalm 16:11). In addition, David welcomed the friendship of the saints and resisted the companionship of the world: “As for the saints who are on the earth, ‘they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.’ Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god; their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take up their names on my lips” (Psalm 16:3-4). David understood it is difficult to find true peace if one hangs around with people who are at war with God!

David experienced great peace even though he faced many tribulations in his life such as fleeing for his life from King Saul or even having to face the possibility of death from his own son Absalom. My soul longs to enjoy the peace which David had. I want to be at peace in the present as I look to God as I take each step of today and say “the lines to fall to me in pleasant places”. I will face my future with a peaceful disposition because I know whatever happens to me my “flesh will rest in hope” (Psalm 16:6, 9). Today, like David, I will trust in God’s care, let Him direct my paths, and spend time with fellow saints who are likeminded so that I may enjoy the “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). 

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

5/27/17 “Why Do The Wicked Prosper?” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 9-12)

“Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts” (Psalm 10:1-4).

Do you ever struggle with anger and discouragement when you observe wicked people apparently getting away with their sinful behavior which often times hurt others? If so, you are not alone. God’s people have always struggled with this as the opening verses of Psalm 10 above show. We are not told who wrote this psalm, but it accurately describes the heart of a child of God who is struggling with their faith. Like the writer of this psalm, they see the wicked hurting other people by persecuting the poor, making evil plots, hurting the helpless by overpowering them, and murdering the innocent (Psalm 10:2, 8-10). All the while the wicked man curses God (Psalm 10:7), renounces God (Psalm 10:3), and says “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see” (Psalm 10:11). In fact, regarding the wicked man, it is said, “God is in none of his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4).

Is this not an accurate description of many ungodly people we see today whether they be criminals, politicians, or the people we have to work with or who live next door? The world is full of such people who “have God in none of their thoughts”. While the righteous strive to do their best to serve and honor God, the thought that such people will get away with their wickedness can become a source of discouragement for followers of God. Like many of us, the psalmist was troubled with this thought.

However, the psalmist was making assumptions that were not true. He was assuming God was not observing what was going on as he says to God, “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). God wasn’t afar off or hiding in times of trouble. In fact, after he casts his care upon the Lord, the author realizes God was near and knew exactly what was going on: “But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14). After praying to God, the writer of this Psalm remembers God is King and He will ultimately execute justice: “The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations have perished out of His land. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more” (Psalm 10:16-18).

This psalm is a great example of the power of prayer not only in soliciting God’s help, but also in changing our hearts. In the beginning of this psalm the writer is all “worked up” over the apparent escape of the wicked from God’s justice. By the end of the psalm, the author is filled with peace as he remembers God is “King forever” and will execute justice upon the wicked in the end. The psalmist heart has been changed! He is no longer agitated over the acts of the wicked, but has “committed himself” to God over this matter and with God’s help will prepare his heart to trust in God’s justice (Psalm 10:14, 16). Today, I will not allow myself to get “worked up” over when wicked people appear to prosper and get away with hurting others. Instead, I will commit myself to God and remember that He is “King forever” and the wicked will one day face God in judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). I won’t allow the deeds of the wicked to rob me of the peace I have in God!

“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:9-10).

5/26/17 “Troubled to the Bone” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 6-8)

“O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled” (Psalm 6:1-2).

In Psalm 6 we are not told exactly what had happened that caused David the grief he was feeling. It appears David had sinned and believed God was chastening him for it. It also seems the chastening of David was severe as David’s enemies were threatening his life. He feels death door is near: “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give you thanks” (Psalm 6:5).

David is tormented with guilt over his sin. David cries out to God to “have mercy on me” for “I am weak” (Psalm 6:2). I can certainly relate to the guilt I feel guilt over my sin. All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). Contrary to the opinion of many in the world, feeling guilt over sin is a good thing. It shows our consciences have not become seared to embracing sinful behavior (1 Timothy 4:2). From the beginning of time, men and women have experienced feelings of guilt when they have sinned against God. Adam and Eve felt guilt when they ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:3, 6-8) and so should we when we realize we have violated one of God’s laws. Praise God that he allows me to experience the guilt of sin so that I will desire to want to repent and turn back to Him!

While feeling guilt is a good mechanism God has given us to turn us back to Him, the pain of guilt can be very severe. Notice how great David’s feelings of guilt were. He was troubled to the bone: “O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled” (Psalm 6:3). His guilt affected his sleep: “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears” (Psalm 6:6). He literally wore himself out crying over it: “My eye wastes away because of grief” (Psalm 6:7). I sure can relate to David as I think of many occasions in my own life where I have had trouble sleeping and wore myself out crying over the guilt of my own sin! Can you?

What did David do with these feelings of guilt over his sin? He turned them over to God. He cried out to God in prayer. He pled with God to have mercy on him: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak” (Psalm 6:2). He asked God to return to him and save him from these enemies he was now facing: “Return, O Lord, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies' sake!” (Psalm 6:4). David did not keep these feeling of guilt all bottled up inside and continue to torment himself forever over them like some do today. He gave them over to God. He realized they were too heavy for him to bear!

God heard David. With great confidence and peace David realizes God has forgiven him of his sin and he lets go the load of guilt he had borne: “Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; The Lord will receive my prayer” (Psalm 6:8-9). Now it was time for David’s enemies to be troubled as God, Who had forgiven him, would give him victory over them: “Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly” (Psalm 6:10). David could greatly rejoice in God’s forgiveness.

Today, I rejoice that I can still feel guilt when I sin. Although it is painful to experience, I praise God that my heart has not grown so hard that I can no longer feel guilt. I also praise God I can take those feelings of guilt to Him. I can repent and release those feelings of guilt to Him and He is willing to bear them for me. Today, I will live rejoicing in His forgiveness of my sin!

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).

5/25/17 “But You, O Lord Are a Shield for Me” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 3-5)

“Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head” (Psalm 3:1-3).

In the title of Psalm 3 it says, “A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son”. David had experienced many challenges and some failures with regard to his dealings with his son Absalom. One of David’s sons, Amnon, had raped his half-sister Tamar, the daughter of David by a different woman (2 Samuel 13:1-19). Absalom was Tamar’s brother and he eventually avenged his sister and killed Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1, 20-29). Following this, Absalom fled and it was at least 5 years before Absalom was allowed into David’s presence (2 Samuel 13:38, 14:28). This appears to have created a lot of resentment in Absalom who then devised a plan to win the hearts of Israel to himself as he made plans to rebel against his father David (2 Samuel 15:1-6).

After 4 years of making efforts to win the hearts of Israel, Absalom made his move. He had it proclaimed that he was now reigning in the Israelite city of Hebron (2 Samuel 15:7-10). Most of Israel left from following David and began to submit to the reign of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:11-12). Things looked dire for David. David noted what many people were saying: “Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God’" (Psalm 3:2). It is hard to imagine the great pain that weighed on David’s heart as he contemplated his life being threatened by his own son!

In this dark hour, David turned to God as his Light to guide him through this crisis. He said, “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head” (Psalm 3:3). God had delivered David many times in his life. The Lord had enabled David to defeat the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40-51). The Almighty had also protected David from the ever pursuant hand of King Saul who had sought David’s life (1 Samuel 18:9-31:4). God’s deliverance of David over the years had built in David an unshakable faith in God’s power to shield David from harm.

David called on God’s help and God heard him: “I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill” (Psalm 3:4). Because of his unwavering confidence in God’s protection, David would not be afraid even though he was heavily outnumbered by the thousands who were pursuing his life: “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:5-6). Even though this was a terrible crisis, David was able to get a good night’s rest because he looked upon God as his Shield. Through God, David experienced great peace even as he was facing tremendous adversity!

David cried to the Lord for help: “Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly” (Psalm 3:7). God did help David. In the end Absalom was killed in battle and David was restored to the throne (2 Samuel 18:6-17). King David rejoiced in the salvation God had brought to him: “Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people” (Psalm 3:8).

As I think about Psalm 3 and these events from the life of King David, I am reminded of God’s continual watch and care for me. He will protect me from the fiery darts that Satan throws at me (Ephesians 6:16). Today, I rejoice that God is my shield!

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).

5/24/17 “The Blessed Man” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 1-2)

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

The book of Psalms is the largest and perhaps the most widely used book of the Bible. Psalms is filled with encouragement for daily living. In the Psalms one finds songs and prayers offered by those who are seeking to serve God. Furthermore, in the Psalms we see a mixture of feelings that are going on in the hearts of God’s servants to which we can relate. These feelings are freely expressed to God, whether they are feelings of praise and joy for God’s greatness and actions on the person’s behalf, or whether they are emotions expressing discouragement and frustration welling up in the heart of a child of God as the circumstances of life weigh him or her down. As we read these feelings expressed to God, it is encouraging to know that God will listen to us not only when our hearts are full of love for Him, but also when our hearts are struggling with doubt and sadness.

In Psalm 1 we find the description of the “Blessed Man”. God in His infinite wisdom describes to us the man who will find great blessing. In the opening verses above, as God tells us about the “Blessed Man”, first God informs us what this man does not do to find blessing in life. He does not find blessing by seeking after the approval of others. He does not “walk”, “stand”, or “sit” among the ungodly. Notice the steady progression of one becoming more comfortable with those who practice sinful behavior in that first verse of Psalm 1. First the person walks with the ungodly, then he stands among them, and finally he settles among them by sitting with them. As a result of seeking the world’s approval, the psalmist tells us what will be the result of those who follow this path: “The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1:4-5). Those who pursue this path will not find stability in this life because, like chaff that is blown away as wheat is being winnowed, so they will never find true blessing and peace by pleasing the world about them. More importantly, they will have to face God’s disapproval in the Judgment because they have pursued a course completely contrary to God’s Will for them (2 Corinthians 5:10; John 12:48).

This is not to say that a child of God will not have any contact with people in the world, for we must, especially so that we can influence them to come to know Christ (1 Corinthians 5:10; Mark 16:15-16). What it clearly says is the “Blessed Man” doesn’t seek approval from the world. Instead the “Blessed Man” delights in the “law of the Lord” and meditates upon it “day and night”. This man loves God’s Word. He thinks upon it all the time. He heart isn’t distracted by seeking the approval of the world or weighed down by the cares of life because his focus is upon God and His Word. As a result, this man will be richly blessed: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3). The picture God paints for us is this man will be healthy and flourishing. He will be greatly blessed because he made that critical choice to seek God’s approval by setting his heart on God direction found in God’s Word!

Today, I will make that critical choice to not seek the world’s approval, but God’s. I will set my heart and mind on loving and following God and His law so that God may enable me to become “The Blessed Man” who enjoys the full and abundant life for those who are Christ’s (John 10:10)!

“For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

5/23/17 “Humbling Myself before God” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 39-42)

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, “Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, “I will question you, and you shall answer Me.”  I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’” (Job 42:1-6).

After Elihu finishes his rebuke of Job and his attempt to help Job regain a proper perspective, God speaks to Job. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me’” (Job 38:1-3). In the midst of his horrific suffering, Job had boldly stated how he wanted to present his case to God. Earlier Job had proudly said, “Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book! Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him” (Job 31:35-37). Job had wanted to “have his day in court with God”. Now God was going to let him have it!

As God speaks to Job, He challenges Job’s understanding of things. In his efforts to justify himself and his righteousness, Job seemed to have forgotten there is much he doesn’t understand. Because he listened to his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar who attempted to answer for God and claimed that Job was being chastened by God for some sin he had committed, Job had begun to think God had brought all this evil upon Job and taken away his justice (Job 19:21; 27:2). In his limited understanding, Job did not realize it was Satan who had brought all this evil upon him in the devil’s effort to turn Job from following God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). In his partial knowledge of things, Job did not realize God was on Job’s side, viewed Job favorably and said about Job “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3).

As God challenges Job’s understanding of things, God ask Job a series of questions that utterly dumbfound Job. For example, God says, “"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone” (Job 38:4-6). Again, God says, “"Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it” (Job 40:2).

As the opening verses above indicate, after hearing God’s rebuke of him, Job is greatly humbled. He also adds, “"Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).

As I consider these things I am reminded God’s greatness and my weakness. In the midst of great suffering, one can lose that perspective. God went on to bless Job immensely (Job 42:10-17). Job is a great example for us to follow on how did persevere through great suffering (James 5:11). I am amazed at how he did it! Yes, he had lost his perspective, but God helped him to regain it. Today, I will strive to keep myself humble before God and say continually of Him, “How Great Thou Art”!

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (I Peter 5:6).

5/22/17 “Consider the Wondrous Works of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 35-38)

“Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know when God dispatches them, and causes the light of His cloud to shine? Do you know how the clouds are balanced, those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:14-16)

Elihu had been filled with wrath because Job had justified himself rather than God (Job 32:2). Elihu appears to have believed in the midst of his great suffering Job was losing his perspective on who he was and who God was. By Job’s statements, Elihu perceived Job was arguing, as do many wicked people, there is no profit in serving God. Elihu states, “What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water, who goes in company with the workers of iniquity, and walks with wicked men? For he has said, 'It profits a man nothing that he should delight in God’” (Job 34:7-9).

Elihu feels the need to defend God’s character against Job’s statements and show Job why he should “delight in God” even in the midst of his affliction. Elihu states, “"Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding: Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity. For He repays man according to his work, and makes man to find a reward according to his way. Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice” (Job 34:10-12).

Unlike Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar who had the audacity to try to speak for God and say Job’s suffering was the result of God’s chastening of Job for his sins, Elihu does not feel the need to try to put himself in God’s shoes and speak for God. Elihu doesn’t accuse Job of having committed great sin. In fact, Elihu desires to justify Job against these false charges by Job’s 3 friends: “"Give ear, Job, listen to me; Hold your peace, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak, for I desire to justify you” (Job 33:31-32). However, while Elihu doesn’t accuse Job of committing great evil, he will not stand idly by and listen to Job accuse God of unrighteousness and injustice!

Through much of his speech Elihu will focus on God and His wonderful works. Elihu speaks of how God knows everything that is happening: “"For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:21-22). He speaks of God’s might and His justice: “"Behold, God is mighty, but despises no one; He is mighty in strength of understanding. He does not preserve the life of the wicked, but gives justice to the oppressed” (Job 36:5-6). Elihu also reminds Job that the ways of God are far beyond our ability to comprehend: “"Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him; nor can the number of His years be discovered. For He draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man. Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of clouds, the thunder from His canopy?” (Job 36:26-29).

I believe there is some great wisdom in these words of Elihu, I can apply to my life. When I or someone I care about is suffering and we are facing the temptation to think God has forgotten us and is not treating us fair, we need to stop and meditate on all the wonderful works of God (i.e. God’s might, justice, His all-seeing eye). We need to remember the simple truth that God’s ways are so far greater than our ability to comprehend. Today, when facing the temptation to think God has forgotten me, I will strive to consider all the wonderful works of God!

“As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart" (Job 37:23-24).

5/21/17 “Justifying Myself Instead of God?” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 31-34)

“So these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (Job 32:1-3).

While Job and his 3 friends have been arguing as to the reason Job was enduring all of the suffering he was experiencing, a younger man Elihu has been sitting on the sidelines observing all of these things. As the opening verses suggest, Elihu was becoming filled with wrath as he was listening to them. He was so full of wrath he felt like he was going to burst: “For I am full of words; the spirit within me compels me. Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; it is ready to burst like new wineskins. I will speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer” (Job 32:18-20).

Was there a good reason for Elihu to be filled with wrath? I believe there was. He felt wrath because Job’s 3 friends found no answer, yet they condemned Job (Job 32:3). His wrath was kindled against Job because Job “justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2). Whether or not Job had actually done so, Elihu felt Job was losing perspective as he was enduring his suffering. Elihu believed Job was more focused on showing his own righteousness, instead of proclaiming God righteousness.

I believe many of Job’s earlier statements show that he was flirting dangerously close to saying God was not righteous in His treatment of Job: “As God lives, who has taken away my justice, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter” (Job 27:2). He accused God of taking away his justice. Job even began to feel like God was opposing him: "I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me. But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me” (Job 30:20-21). In spite of what he felt God was doing to him, Job said he would maintain his righteousness: “My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me as long as I live” (Job 27:6).

The question becomes: Why did Job want to maintain his righteousness, when he believed God had “taken away his justice” and began “opposing him”? I would suggest that Job was losing perspective. His focus began to be on justifying himself before God. Like all of us, his focus should have been on glorifying God even in the midst of his trial. Job’s focus became on justifying and glorifying himself!

I realize what I am saying may sound cruel to a man like Job who had suffered so much. I am not trying to be cold or unsympathetic to Job’s plight. He suffered immensely. I can’t even begin to imagine his suffering. My point is when we go through suffering there is a strong temptation to forget about all of God’s goodness towards us. Our focus can become upon ourselves and our suffering, and we can begin to fail to remember all the good things God has done for us. We can forget His love for us in sacrificing His own Son for our sins (John 3:16). We can overlook how he provides for our daily needs (Matt. 6:25-30). In our afflictions we can fail to remember all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ, such as forgiveness of sins, the privilege of prayer, the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ, the guidance God gives us through His Word, and the peace we can enjoy when we place our faith and trust in Him (Ephesians 1:3). Today, I will strive to glorify God in whatever state I find myself and not try to justify myself!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)”.

5/20/17 “Crying Out For Justice” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 28-30)

“Surely He would not stretch out His hand against a heap of ruins, if they cry out when He destroys it. Have I not wept for him who was in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor? But when I looked for good, evil came to me; and when I waited for light, then came darkness. My heart is in turmoil and cannot rest; days of affliction confront me. I go about mourning, but not in the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help” (Job 30:24-28).

As Job finishes his discussion with his three friends, to God he says, “"I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me. But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me. You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride on it; You spoil my success. For I know that You will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living” (Job 30:20-23). Job had been searching for God to give him answers as to why all these terrible things have happened to him, but God has been silent. Job doesn’t understand it has been Satan who has been attacking him in an effort to turn Job from following God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). Job believes his death is near and God will soon bring him to the “house appointed for all living (i.e. the grave).

As the opening verses above indicate, what appears to distress Job the most is the apparent injustice of all that has happened to him. What Job’s friends thought was Job had committed some great sin and God in His justice was punishing Job. They thought Job wanted to escape God’s justice for his supposed sin! In fact, Job welcomed God’s justice! Job said, “"If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down over her. For that would be wickedness; yes, it would be iniquity deserving of judgment (Job 31:9-11). Job wasn’t trying to run from God’s judgment; He was desperately searching for it: “Let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity” (Job 31:6).

In what Job thought would be his final words to his friends before he died, he cries out that after he dies, justice would occur, and Job would be shown to have been faithful to God. Job was at the point he did not think he would get justice in this life. He hoped justice would occur following his death.

Justice doesn’t always occur in this life. The babies who are murdered by abortion don’t get justice in this life. The people who die in terrorist bombings don’t get to see their murderers convicted in a court of law while they are still alive. God’s people cry out for justice even after they are dead: “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (Revelation 6:9-11).

Today, I acknowledge God’s justice doesn’t always happen on my timetable. Like Job this can create a lot of frustration in me if I allow it. I believe with all my heart God is just (Romans 3:25-26) and He will execute judgment one day for all men (Matthew 25:31-46). Today, I will strive to live in such a way that I will welcome that Day of Judgment and not want to run from it!

“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

5/19/17 “The Mere Edges of God’s Ways” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 25-27)

“He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at His rebuke. He stirs up the sea with His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm. By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent. Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?" (Job 26:13-14).

As Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar finish us their vain efforts to convince Job he was being chastened by God for some wrong he had done, Bildad implies Job just doesn’t understand God and His power. Bildad says, “How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman? If even the moon does not shine, and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is a maggot, and a son of man, who is a worm?" (Job 25:4-6).

Just as his friends had been wrong thinking Job was being chastened by God for some sin he had committed, so now they were also wrong in thinking Job did not understand God and His power. Job understood God’s supremacy very well. Job stated, “Sheol is naked before Him, and Destruction has no covering. He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. He binds up the water in His thick clouds, yet the clouds are not broken under it” (Job 26:6-8). Job was well aware of not only God’s power, but also of God’s presence and His ability to see all things. As the opening verses above indicate, Job realizes God’s awesome power is seen throughout His creation, but these are the “mere edges of His ways”. Observing such displays in God’s creation is simply a “small whisper” of what could be heard of God’s great might. One would have a difficult time in comprehending the true “thunder” of God’s power (Job 26:13-14).

I would suggest that part of what sustained Job through his adversity was his understanding of God’s great power. He had faith in God’s great might and believed God was fully aware of everything by which Job was being afflicted. Nothing was hidden from God’s eyes. However, what Job struggled to comprehend was, since God was aware of everything that was happening to Job and had the power to help Job, why wasn’t God helping him?

In fact, Job felt like God was using His power against Job: “"But He is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such things are with Him. Therefore I am terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am afraid of Him. For God made my heart weak, and the Almighty terrifies me” (Job 23:13-16). Because Job could not understand how God was using His power, Job assumed God was using His power against Job and not for Job. Job increased his misery by making this false assumption!

Today, I will appreciate that my God is an Awesome God who has great power. Even though I do not always see how He is using His power to help me; nonetheless, I will trust in His power to sustain me. I will not fall into Satan’s trap to think God’s is using His Might to harm me, but will remember God’s purposes are to help me to remain faithful to Him and He will use His might to help me do this!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

5/18/17 “Where Are You God?” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 22-24)

"Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; when He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside” (Job 23:8-11).

As Job continues to struggle with the pain of the heartache of having lost his children, his health and his possessions, he still has to bear listening to the wild accusations of his friends who have wrongfully concluded that Job suffering is the result of God’s chastening him for his sins. Job’s friend Eliphaz says, “"Is it because of your fear of Him that He corrects you, and enters into judgment with you? Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without end? For you have taken pledges from your brother for no reason, and stripped the naked of their clothing. You have not given the weary water to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry” (Job 22:4-7). Without any basis for doing so, he charges Job with taking advantage of other’s misfortune and refusing to help the poor.

I can only imagine how distressing it had to be for Job to hear such things from his “friends”. While Job continues to endure all that he is facing, he describes himself as groping about searching for answers. As the opening verses above indicate, he searches forward, backward, to the left, and to the right and cannot find God (Job 23:8-9). He is trying desperately to see how God is working on his behalf to assist him through this terrible crisis. Not only is he unable to figure out how God is supporting him through these events, he cannot even find God at all. He feels abandoned by God!

I can look back on my life and see multiple times when I believed God worked on my behalf. For example, many years ago when I was in the Navy I had fallen away from God and missed most church services. After a while, I repented and made a commitment to start attending every church service I could. I showed up at church on a Wednesday night. On this particular night, I met a girl at church named Sharon. December 15, 2016 was our 28th anniversary. I believe God worked on my behalf to provide for me a godly wife to encourage me to keep faithful to the Lord.

When we have gone through a particular trial and been delivered from it, many times we are able to look back through the eye of faith and understand how God helped us. What is very difficult is being able to see God’s efforts on our behalf while we are in the midst of the trial. Often when in the midst of a trial, I feel like Job. I search trying to see how God is working for me to help me through the adversity I am facing. Unfortunately, often not only do I not see how God is trying to support me through the trial, I don’t see God at all. Like Job I feel a strong temptation to feel abandoned by God!

To Job’s great credit, even though he did not see how God was helping him, nor was he able to find God at all, Job was determined to remain true to God during the storm he was enduring: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside” (Job 23:10-11). Today, I will strive to follow Job’s example and remain true to God whenever I cannot see either Him or cannot grasp how he is assisting me when I am facing adversity. Like Job, I pray I may come forth as gold!

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

5/17/17 “Clinging On To Hope When at the End of the Rope” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 18-21)

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

As Job copes with the loss of his possessions, his children, his health and the futile efforts of his 3 friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to explain why all these horrific events have happened to Job, he reaches a very low point. He accuses God of bringing all these things upon him: “Know then that God has wronged me, and has surrounded me with His net. If I cry out concerning wrong, I am not heard. If I cry aloud, there is no justice. He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass; and He has set darkness in my paths. He has stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone; my hope He has uprooted like a tree. He has also kindled His wrath against me, and He counts me as one of His enemies” (Job 19:6-11).

Job could not have been more wrong! God had not done this to him. God did not count Job as “one of His enemies” (Job 19:11). God looked upon Job as “His servant” and “and that there was “none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man” (Job 1:8; 2:3). These terrible tragedies which Job had experienced were a result of Satan’s efforts to get Job to turn from following after God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). As the above verses suggest, Satan was getting close to succeeding in getting Job to turn from God. In the midst of his great pain, Job was forgetting that God was on his side and was nearing the breaking point. He was getting dangerously close to fulfilling Satan’s wish to get Job to curse God to His face (Job 1:11; 2:5). Job was at the end of his rope!

Job is extremely confused. I feel great sympathy for Job as I read these verses. The pain he felt must have seemed unbearable to him. His friends who had come to mourn with him and comfort him (Job 2:11) were now hurling accusations against him. God was not giving him any answers. He must have felt all alone! How could Job continue to go on?

Throughout the book of Job, we see Job struggling to find reasons to continue to hope. He says, “What strength do I have, that I should hope? And what is my end, that I should prolong my life?” (Job 6:11). Later he adds, “"Oh, that You would hide me in the grave, that You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, that You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes” (Job 14:13-14). At times, Job feels there is simply no more hope: “If I wait for the grave as my house, if I make my bed in the darkness, if I say to corruption, 'You are my father,' and to the worm, 'You are my mother and my sister,' where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” (Job 17:13-15).

It is interesting that God doesn’t intervene and speak to Job as he struggles with these feelings of hopelessness. It must have been hard for God to hear his faithful servant Job accuse Him of becoming Job’s enemy! God bears with Job and all of his mixed emotions. Yet, as Job goes through his trial, he gains hope: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

There are some lessons that can only be learned by going through adversity. Today, I rejoice that God bears with me when I struggle with mixed feelings in the midst of trials. It is through these trials I can grow closer to Him! When I feel I am at the end of my rope, it is then I must cling to my hope!

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

5/16/17 “Comforting the Fainthearted” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 15-17)

“Then Job answered and said: ‘I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul's place. I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you; But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief’” (Job 16:1-5).

Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had come to see Job for the purposes of mourning with him and to comfort him (Job 2:11). For the first seven days following their arrival they did a good job of this as they wept with him and did not speak a word (Job 2:12-13). However, after Job opened his mouth and began to express his confusion as to why this was happening to him and complain wishing he had never been born (Job 3:1-26), each of his friends in order made the mistake of trying to place themselves in God’s shoes and explain to Job why this was happening to him.

God’s shoes were much too big for them to fill and their understanding of what was happening to Job was incorrect. They thought what was happening to Job was because of his own sin, when, in fact, these things were happening because of Satan’s attempts to turn Job from following God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar believed the loss of Job’s possessions, his children, and his health were a reflection God was displeased with Job and was chastening him. Nothing could be further from the truth. God was not upset at Job. God’s view of Job was “…there is no like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3).

As he begins his second round of his futile effort to explain to Job what was happening to him, Eliphaz, in his frustration with Job’s unwillingness to agree with him, begins to attack Job personally: “Yes, you cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God. For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty” (Job 15:4-5). He then accuses Job of acting defiantly and stubbornly resisting God (Job 15:20, 25-26). Though he had initially come to mourn with and to comfort Job, Eliphaz now finds himself attacking and accusing his friend of being a wicked man!

No wonder, as the opening verses above show, Job describes his friends as being “miserable comforters”. They have made Job feel worse, not better. Job describes his broken heart: “"My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me” (Job 17:1). Job was not looking for friends to flatter him: “He who speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children will fail” (Job 17:5); but his friends judging him added to his misery: “My friends scorn me; my eyes pour out tears to God” (Job 16:20). He desired to have friends who would support him through his hour of trial: “Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbor!” (Job 16:21).  

Those who are going through pain and heartache need our love, support, and encouragement. During these times of agony, planting thoughts of God’s possible judgment on them will only create more pain. As they go through such trials they need to be reminded of God’s love for them. No wonder the apostle Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). A great way of supporting our loved ones during hard times is to simply weep with them. Today, I will strive to not speak words of God’s possible judgment upon those who are suffering, but only words of encouragement as I seek to support them in their hour of trial!

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

5/15/17 “Searching Out the Deep Things of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 11-14)

"Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven--what can you do? Deeper than Sheol--what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea” (Job 11:7-9).

These words were spoken by Job’s friend Zophar as Zophar attempted to answer why all these terrible things had happened to Job. Zophar had already listened to Eliphaz’s and Bildad’s attempts to explain to Job why Job had experienced the loss of his possessions, his children, and his own health (Job 4:1-5:27; 8:1-22). Their basic line of reasoning was: God had brought these things upon Job to chasten Job because Job had sinned. Zophar had also heard Job’s defense of himself that he was not an unrepentant sinner, but had striven to live a righteous and blameless life (Job 9:20-21).

Now Zophar will vainly attempt to explain why these things have happened to Job. Zophar says how he wishes God would speak to Job (Job 11:5). Since God will not speak, Zophar foolishly decides he will speak for God. As he does so he tells Job: “Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves” (Job 11:6). He brutally tells Job that he actually deserves to be punished for his sins more severely than just losing his possessions, his children, and his own health! Of course, none of this is true. Job was not being punished for his sins. Satan had done all these terrible things to Job in his attempt to turn Job away from following God (Job 1:9-12; 2:4-6). God esteemed Job, viewed Job as blameless and upright, and said there was “none like him on the earth” (Job 1:8; 2:3).

As the opening verses above suggest, Zophar asks if Job can search out the deep things of God (Job 11:7). This is a great truth! Zophar tries to apply this truth to Job, but he should have applied it to himself. He should not be trying to search out the answers that only God knew. Zophar should have been humble enough to realize his limitations in being able to give an explanation as to why these things had happened to Job. He should have simply said something like this: “Job, I don’t know why this has happened to you. There are some things only God knows. But I know that God loves you and I love you. I want you to know that and I am here to support you as your friend.”

However, Zophar failed to hold his tongue and uttered things he would regret saying. God will later rebuke Zophar and his friends for trying to answer for God: “And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has’” (Job 42:7).

I learn a great lesson here: There are some things I am never going to know or understand during my time on this earth. Job understood he didn’t know everything, nor could he. Of God, Job said, “He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings the shadow of death to light” (Job 12:22). While Job misunderstood and thought God was doing this to him for some reason not known to him, he is determined to walk in faith in God. Job says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” (Job 13:15). Today, I will accept I cannot always know why different things happen to me. I choose simply to rejoice that God loves me as I go through these things and I will strive to walk not by sight understanding everything there is to know, but by faith trusting in God and His care for me!

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?’ ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).