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.

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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)

It Is All in the Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)


What would it take to make you happy? People may give various answers to this question, but what each answer reveals is the longing that people have in their hearts. If you could sum up for all people as to what would make them happy, it would be that their hearts would be full and without want. For some people, it may be to be out of debt. For another person, it may be to have a spouse. If you asked a person living in an impoverished situation, their answer may be to have enough food to eat each day.

King David said it wisely, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” This statement is insightful in that David recognized the shepherd was everything that he needed and that because he had the shepherd, he did not have any needs. This does not mean that he was in possession of everything that he ever would need. He recognized that it is the shepherd who would supply his needs and that because he had the supplier of his needs, he really had everything he would ever need.

Have you recognized this for your life? You have everything you will ever need in the shepherd: everything for your marriage, child raising, work, ministry and personal happiness. When you are abiding in the shepherd, your heart will be satisfied and lack nothing. However, if you find your heart becoming barren and longing for something that you just cannot identify, it is because you ceased abiding in the shepherd. You begin to want because you wandered from the shepherd.

If you want to be like David and in your heart experience the joy of being without want, consider the following.

1. Recognize your need for a shepherd.  

2. Decide to trust the shepherd. For some, it may mean them accepting his payment on the cross for their sin as what they need in order to be saved and accepted by God. For others, it may mean that they will cease from trying to create their own security in life and will now trust him to provide for them.

3. Follow the leading of the shepherd. Life is not a brightly lit way down a path of lovely flowers. It is filled with darkness, evil and heart ache. When you follow him, he will lead you in the path that is best for you.

4. Feed on what the shepherd provides. Spend time with him in prayer and reading his word. From it, you will gain strength, nourishment and guidance.

5. Sit at the feet of the shepherd. I am reminded of a German Shepherd that I once had. She would lie down at my feet and look up at me in adoration. I was strong and she loved strength; I am loving and she loved my attention. She would look at me and wait to be noticed. When I would reach out to touch her, she would soak up the attention. Did you know, that God wants that with us. He wants us to sit at his feet and look to him. He wants to pour out his blessing of fellowship and love and when we experience this, we will recognize that everything we would ever want or need is found in him.

6. Rejoice in what the shepherd has provided to you. When you do, this rejoicing will be revealed in every aspect of your life. The lost and the saved will see it, but best of all, your heart will be drawn even closer to the shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Really?

Oh yeah. Really!

Never Too Big (Psalm 23:1)

I remember a song from my childhood. The opening line was, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” If there is one lesson we all probably have learned is that it is not good to be without friends. Most of us have had many acquaintances, but only a few close friends.

Similar to having the need of friends, we have an even greater need. Most people will never recognize this need: they may feel the effects of it, but never really identify the need. The need to which I am referring is our need for a shepherd. David recognized this need and spoke of it in the 23rd psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalms 23:1)

Think about it for a moment. This is David, the great giant slayer; the man who wrote so many songs that have been a blessing to believers for centuries; and the eventual king of Israel. It is this man who states that the Lord is his shepherd. What an amazing statement, but even greater truth can be derived from his proclamation.

Regardless of how great you may be, you still need a shepherd. Since Adam plummeted mankind into the grips of sin, everyone of us is unable to guide our way through life without hurting ourselves or hurting others. Our nature to sin lead us away from God and the right way. (Ez. 34:12; Isa. 53:6) However for our good, God wants to lead us and be a shepherd to our souls. (2 Peter 2:25)

Consider this, wouldn’t you like to know the right way to go or the answer to the difficult situations that you face? Everybody wants that, but again many will miss out. The reason for this is because in order for each of us to have a guiding Shepherd, we will need to give up the rights and control of our lives to him. This will take humility.

The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. (Psalm 69:32)

In order to truly seek the Lord, you will need to humble yourself: that is to recognize that you do not have the ability to successfully live and fulfill the purpose for which you were created. When you recognize this and turn to the Lord, he will become your shepherd. If you don’t know Christ as your Savior, he will lead you to trust him and he will continue to guide you throughout the rest of your life.

Fruits of Righteousness (Philippians 1:11)


At one time, I was traveling each week to some point in the country for a speaking engagement. At first, my trips were ill prepared leaving me many times at a hotel without all of essentials that I needed. Eventually, I created a packing list. It was a listed all the items that I needed for traveling and the list remained in the suitcase. In the event that I traveled and discovered that I had a new need, I would add that item to the list. Eventually, I had the perfect list. All I needed to do was check and make sure that everything on the list was packed and if it was, I was set.

Some people try to use the same process in their spiritual lives. They have a list and it contains the “do’s” and “don’ts” for righteous living. In their minds, if they do the things on the “do” list and refrain from items on the “don’t” list, then they are spiritual. I really wish it were that easy, but it is not.

Being spiritual is when a person lives as God expects them to live. In other words, the actions of the person’s life will be righteous. The problem is that any action that may appear to be righteous can also be sinful. For example, is giving to the poor a spiritual or righteous action? It could be, but it also could be sinful. If a person gave because God led them to give, then the action would be spiritual or righteous. However, if the person gave so that they would be recognized, then the same action would be sinful.

Being spiritual cannot be reduced to a list of “do’s” and “don’ts”. Instead, the spiritual life of living as God expects and desires is accomplished by abiding or dwelling in Jesus. When we do this, Jesus lives his righteous life through us. This is know as grace living. Grace living is when God empowers us by living his life through us and the righteous actions of our lives then are really though Jesus Christ.

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:11)

Instead of trying to manufacture a righteous life, why not instead focus on abiding with Christ. As you do, he will enable you to live beyond your ability. If you don’t, you will experience so much frustration and failure, because without his empowerment, you can do nothing.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Forget Karma: God is Watching (1 Samuel 26:23)


If the Lord gave you what you really deserved, would you be ready for it? Would you look forward to it with joy or does the thought frighten you? What we fail to recognize is that it is not just a hypothetical question.

The Lord render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: (1 Samuel 26:23)

These were words spoken by David when he interacted with King Saul who sought to kill him. He knew that God was sovereign and would return upon men that which they have rendered to others. The same still holds true today. The New Testament describes the principle as sowing and reaping. What you sow, you will also reap. It may take some time before it arrives, but it is coming. Just like it takes all summer for apples to grow and ripen on a tree, it may take most of a person’s life before they reap what they sow, but be sure, they will reap.

Much of this principle concerning sowing and reaping is in relation to how we treat other people. If we sow righteousness towards others, then we will get righteous treatment back, but if we sow wickedness then wickedness awaits us.

Some may ask, “What guideline could I follow that would aid me in sowing righteousness?” The answer would be to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39). If you allow your actions to be motivated by what is best for another person or make decisions that enable you to meet the needs of someone else instead of focusing on yourself, you will most consistently sow righteousness. This doesn’t require you to give all of your money to the poor or even to live a dejected life. It only requires you to start focusing on others instead of yourself. Give somebody recognition. Show patience and mercy, try looking at situations from the other person’s perspective or even take time to listen to people and their problems are opportunities that each of us have to sow righteousness. It will not cost you one penny, but it will be an investment worth millions of dollars.

For you, the world of people is a field ready for planting. What kind of seeds will you sow?

Be All That You Should Be


Have you ever lived in the shadow of a parent or an elder sibling? If so, you constantly strove to either be like them or to overcome their accomplishments. As you may have discovered, it is a very frustrating way to live. What you or those people need is to be yourselves. This problem happens with so many people in the world, but it also happens in the spiritual lives of many.

You are what you are because it is what God is making you to be. If You follow him and allow him to work his will, he will continue to work in your life to make you exactly as he planned. You should not allow others to force upon you what they think you should be, what they want you to be or even what they may need you to be. Your goal should be to dwell in Christ and allow God by grace to work in your life and produces fruit as he sees fit.

As always, sin can destroy you and God’s plan. You can escape it’s clutch by heeding to God’s word. (Psalm 119:9). You cannot do this in your own power, but as you recognize your weakness and look to God for strength, he will deliver you from the temptation.

Trials and difficulties will come, but you must recognize them as God’s instruments for pruning and cultivating you so as to grow and produce more fruit. Each day, you should grow more in his likeness and whatever that may be, it will make you be what you are and that will be according to his plan.