Brace Yourself!

Brace yourself! This is the phrase that we use to prepare ourselves for some impending negative event. It may be physically holding on to something in preparation for jolting or even a collision. It could even relate to preparing yourself for news that may move you emotionally.

As bracing yourself may seem to work in the physical world, it does not work in the spiritual. However, what will work is if the Lord braces you.

1 The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;

2 Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; (Psalm 20:1-2)

In this time of distress for David, he is looking for the Lord to send him help and strength. The strength he is seeking is comfort and to be held up. Another meaning for the word strength would be to brace. David is not bracing himself for the trial that he faces, but he is asking the Lord to brace him.

When I think of the Lord bracing us for trials, I picture a parent with a child. Imagine a small child in the arms of a father as they face a frightening experience like a thunderstorm. With each flash and bang of the storm, the child buries their head in the father’s chest as the father tightly braces the child. The father’s embrace may not be able to stop the storm, but it does bring security and strength to the child.

As we face the storms of life, God wants to brace us for them. He may not choose to remove the storm, but with his tender embrace, he will provide us the comfort and strength that we need.

Thankfully his loving embrace in these times is based on his mercy and grace. Because of this, we can always count on the father to be there for us. As you face storms in life, bury your head into the chest of your heavenly father and experience his strong loving embrace.

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Did God Forget Me? (Psalm 9:12)

When people forget about you and your needs, it is a hurtful experience. It conveys the absence of love and concern. There are times in our lives when we face trials and difficulties and it appears as if God has forgotten us. We pray and ask for deliverance, but nothing happens. Has God forgotten us?

…he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. (Psalm 9:12)

God has not forgotten you. His love and concern has not been set aside and your life and its concerns have not been mislaid or lost. God has heard your cry, he knows the problems that you face and the heaviness in your heart that you carry because of it.

So, why doesn’t he answer? Why doesn’t he deliver? But he has and he will. God has heard your prayers and is providing the grace that you need. Many of learn the grace and truth go hand-in-hand. It seems that you cannot have the one without the other. God I want you exposed to truth concerning him and buy the truth he will be able to exercise grace in your life. Paul experienced this and wrote about it. God’s grace was sufficient for him because of his reliance on the truth of the power of Christ.

Until your actual deliverance comes, expose yourself to the word of God: read it, listen to the testimony of others, attend church services and listen to the preaching of God‘s word and God will begin working his grace in your life.

How long must you rely on this grace until the deliverance comes cannot be known. Remember as God works in the details of your life, he is also working in the lives of others. He wants to use grace in your life to shine as a light to the lost. He also may be working in the lives of others to bring them to repentance before he moves his hand in judgment or chastening. Until then, you must wait on him. Thankfully because of his grace, you will be able to endure.

…he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.

Leadership Principles from Solomon (Proverbs 25)

Here are some principles of leadership as they were preserved by the men of Hezekiah.

1. Use reproof for those who will accept correction and learn from it. (vs. 12)

2. Be faithful in all areas of your leadership. (vs. 13)

3. Recognize your limitations and demonstrate humility. (vs. 14)

4. Be patient and soft-spoken when dealing with people. (vs. 15)

5. Be satisfied when you reach your goals. (vs. 16)

6. Do not be overly familiar with the people you lead. (vs. 17)

7. Do not listen to and carry false witness that has been brought to you. (vs. 18)

8. Only put confidence in reliable people. (vs. 19)

9. Understand a person’s emotional state and provide the support they need. (vs. 20)

10. Give to meet the needs of those who oppose you. (vs. 21-22)

11. Drive away that which will hinder or oppose success. (vs. 23)

12. Lead people with praise and admonition instead of contending with them. (vs. 24-25)

13. Live and lead by principles and do not allow people to move you from them. (vs. 26)

14. Focus on the success of others or the accomplishment of the cause and not personal gain. (vs. 27)

15. Be in control of your emotions. (vs. 28)

Proverbs 25:12-28

12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold,

so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest,

so is a faithful messenger to them that send him:

for he refresheth the soul of his masters.

14 Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift

is like clouds and wind without rain.

15 By long forbearing is a prince persuaded,

and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.

16 Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee,

lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house;

lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

18 A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour

is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.

19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble

is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

20 As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather,

and as vinegar upon nitre,

so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.

21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat;

and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:

22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head,

and the Lord shall reward thee.

23 The north wind driveth away rain:

so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.

24 It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop,

than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.

25 As cold waters to a thirsty soul,

so is good news from a far country.

26 A righteous man falling down before the wicked

is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.

27 It is not good to eat much honey:

so for men to search their own glory is not glory.

28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit

is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

Protect Yourself !!!

Protect yourself! You hear it all the time. Protect your identity, protect your vehicle, protect your home, get a flu shot. But do you hear anybody talk about protecting your heart from being caught in a snare?

Jesus spoke of this in Luke 17. He tells his disciples that offenses will come. When he spoke of offenses, he was referring to situations that would cause them to stumble or fall. Offenses are traps or snares that take our hearts captive. Much like the branch of a tree is pulled down and attached to a rope so that it can snare rabbits or other small animals.

Each of us could become ensnared and one major way for that to occur would be by refusing to forgive. Right after Jesus’ warning of offenses (snares), he talks about the brother sinning against them and then repenting: not only once, but even seven times in a day. His advice or counsel was for them to forgive each time.

Refusing to forgive can lead to anxiety, anger, depression and a host of physical elements. It would be wise for us to forgive and by doing so, we are not setting the offender free: we really are freeing ourselves.

Forgiveness is not explaining away the offense or allowing the person to be free from the consequences of their wrong. It is simply freeing them from owing you anything.

I remember a conference speaker referring to a situation when he was the principal of the school. He explained how a student brought a firearm to school. When he was caught, he was very sorry and in tears asked the principal for forgiveness. The principal told the boy that he forgave him, but that he could not speak for the law which he also offended. With that, he picked up the phone and called the police. When we forgive, we are acting in the same manner: forgiving them of a debt owed to us, but still having them answer to God concerning their offense against him.

Outside of being persecuted for Christ, you are not required to be a doormat and allow people to wound and hurt you. But you are required to forgive. Remember, when you forgive, the person you freeing is yourself.

Not Good to Wrestle

It was a number of years ago when my beautiful and fruitful garden was being destroyed by an intruding groundhog. In an effort to rid myself of the varmint, I bought a muskrat trap and set it in the garden. It was not long until I received a distressful phone call from my wife informing me that a “kitty cat”was caught in the trap. I quickly drove home from the office to attempt springing the cat from the trap and setting it free. However as I tried to get close enough to open the trap, the cat fought vigorously and kept me from setting it free. I eventually removed its strength by covering it with a blanket and then released the trap. He eventually ran free. As I pondered what happened, I ask myself, “I wonder how many times I am like this cat: fighting God because I think he is trying to do some unwanted thing in my life when he is really only trying to help me?

Jacob, who later became Israel, was like that. (Gen. 32:25) He schemed and plotted all of his life-that was until he was all alone and ready to face Esau. God was not going to allow Jacob to continue in his way. He confronted him and physically wrestled him from progressing forward until he recognized his weakness and inability. Man’s pride never allows him to yield so God had to break Jacob. He did this by touching him in the thigh which was his greatest place of strength. He did not break him to make him a failure, he broke him in order to make him a victor.

Jacob went from wrestling against God to clinging to him and asking him for a blessing. By asking for a blessing, he revealed his dependence on God and no longer in himself. He gain the strength of a prince with God by being broken as a man.

We too can be like Jacob. Situations in life that we find ourselves fighting against may be the instruments God is using to break us of our own strength and self-reliance. It would be best that we go to God with these situations and then yield ourselves to him for the work that he wants to accomplish. Whether the problems go away or remain, we—like Jacob—will receive God‘s blessing.

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6)

The Shepherd Leads to Restore

Did you ever get in your car to go somewhere only to recognize that you had taken the wrong route and out of habit started driving to work? The route back on track is quite simple for a trip like this. However, if you were taking an extended trip and missed a turn some 25 miles back, the way to get back on track would be more difficult and time consuming.

Sometimes, we find ourselves turned away from God. Depending on how long we are in that state before recognizing or desiring to return will affect the route back to God and how long it will take. Regardless of whatever the situation, if you are turned away from God, the shepherd will provide leadership to restore you.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

The way back to the lord will vary slightly from person to person, but the shepherd will guide you back in the same basic manner.

First, the shepherd will lead you to recognize that you are away from him. This may seem basic, but it is not. It is the Lord who gives repentance and when he reveals to you that you have drifted or turned from him, he is doing a mighty work in your life that only he can do. (2 Timothy 2:25)

It is at this point that you must yield to him and if you do, he will continue to lead you on and his leading will bring you to see the stumbling blocks that you have allowed into your life. He will point out things such as people, places, entertainment or indulgences that are keeping you from victory and experiencing the joy that he has for you. By the power and leading of the shepherd, he will lead you to remove those obstacles.

The path, that the shepherd lead you back to himself, will bring you to resources for victory. Because truth brings victory and freedom, he will lead you to the truth that you need. You will find it in the Scriptures which may be revealed by friends and spiritual leaders. Evidence that you are following the shepherd towards truth will be when you are seeking truth from the Scriptures and attending services in the church. Truths from the word of God will usually encourage your faith and may instruct you as to what you may need to put off or put on in your spiritual life. (Ephesians 4:22-32; Romans 13:12; Colossians 3:8-14)

Another source of truth may come from spiritual music, which can minister to you and equip you with your worship and walk with the Lord. Your times of rejoicing in the Lord will be greater steps of progress on your way back. As your heart is lifted up in song, it is actually the shepherd interacting with you and lifting you up as he lead you along the path back to himself and to victory.

While you were fallen away from God, you hurt yourself and others. The Lord will lead you to repair the damaged relationships that your sin has caused. The shepherd is not only interested in delivering you from actions of sin: he also wants to restore you to himself and to others because he is concerned about relationship. It was his desire to have a relationship with you the caused him to seek you out and to lead you to trust his son. His desire and concern for relationships did not stop there. Relationships are vital to the Lord. The church, your family, your life as a child of God and your interactions with the world are all relationships that concerned him. The only way for those relationships to be right is for your relationship with him to be right and as a shepherd, he will restore you to that relationship by leading you to himself.

Remember, the steps back to him may be many or few, but they will involve recognizing your condition of being astray, removing stumbling blocks from your life, obtaining resources of truth for victory and repairing relationships.

The Shepherd: He Restores My Soul

I remember my first trip to the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was a snowy day and I was walking along the top of the mountain. When suddenly, my foot caught ahold of a root under the snow. I tripped forward and after a number of staggering steps, I finally caught my balance. That is when I realized I was in a very bad situation. Because the wind was blowing hard, the tracks behind me were cleared away. I was spun around and lost.

From my location, I walked in various directions trying to get to the edge of the mountain, which would lead me back to camp. I was unsuccessful, cold, lost and darkness was fading in. I was spin around and I really needed somebody to turn me in the right direction.

Life is much the same way. We live with everything appearing to be just right and then it happens. Some event knocks us for a loop, spins us around, and we find ourselves farther away from God than we want to be. How did it happen and how do we get back?

We can find ourselves turned around and away from God for a few reasons. One way we get turned around is by deceit. We can be deceived by people who teach us things contrary to the Word of God or we could be deceived by our traditions. Regardless of the source, unbiblical doctrine can cause you to end up far away from the Lord. If you are trying to live up to a standard so that you can be or feel accepted by God, you have been spun around. Instead of walking toward God, you are walking away from him.

Another major cause for believers to get turn about and away from God is by not being prepared . We are admonished to put on the whole armor of God. When we are not equipped, we get overcome by our past and present failures. Our sin nature has the ability to rise up and take control of our lives and we can easily find ourselves turned around by sin, simply because we were not prepared. But there is good news.

Remember, when life turns you around, it is only God who can turn you back around. He restoreth my soul… (Psalm 23:3)

It is God who can turn you around and he may use different ways to accomplish it. One thing we know is that he will use his powerful word because it is perfect and it can convert or turn around the soul. (Psalm 19:7) There can be instances where we may resist his working and when that happens, he may use acts of chastening to accomplish what is best for us. Regardless of how he does it, it will always be because of his mercy. (Psalm 85:4-7) Thankfully it is new every day.

How did I get turned back around on that mountain top? I remembered that in the morning the sun rose from behind the cabin. Through the snow clouded sky, I spotted where the sun was ready to go down. I used the sun as a guide to get me back to safety by keeping my back to the sun and began running. Eventually, I made it to the mountain’s slope edge and to safety.

It is the same for me today. When I get turned around, I look for the son—the Good Shepherd—and he always leads me back.

Praise the Lord! He restoreth my soul.