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)

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.

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!

Sweetarts in Life (2 Samuel 19:4-6)


Do you remember your childhood favorite candies. One of mine was Sweetarts. I remember when they came out. They were a two inch disk that packed the best of both worlds in candy: sweetness and tartness. This candy reminds me much about life: it is filled with sweet events and also events that are tart. Things have changed since then: both my tastes and also the size of the candy, but life is still the same.

For the believer, blessing and sorrow come in the same package, it is in times of deepest hurt and sorrow when God will be present to strengthen and comfort you. The problem for many is that because their focus is so much on the hurt and sorrow, they fail to recognize God’s presence or working in their lives. David experienced just such an event.

But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son! And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines; In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well. 2 Samuel 19:4-6

He sorrowed so greatly over the loss of his son that he failed to see his victory blessing and the goodness of the Lord in the people that supported him.

As you face difficulties in your life such as financial strain, an unwanted diagnosis or any type of loss, remember that the event–as a two sided coin–has more that one aspect to it. Trials and struggles will come, but the Lord has promised always to be present with you even in the midst of the struggle and he promises to see that all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28)

What you can do as you face trials is to stop and pray to the Lord. Acknowledge that you know he allowed this event to occur and you believe that he wants to work and manifest his presence in the trial. Pray for him to guide you and to help you recognize his workings. Rest assured: although it may take time, he will answer your prayer.

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.

Is Depression a Sin?

Hurt and sorrow are not emotions that you can control and store away. When they are present, it is for reason. Some may suggest that you must turn yourself around or rise above the circumstances of your hurt and sorrow. This may seem correct and may be in part, but as a whole this thinking is in error.

God has given us a comforter and he is able to lift us out of hurt and sorrow or at the least give us joy intermingled with our hurt and sorrow. Sometimes our ability to rise out of sorrow or to experience his joy is limited by two conditions or circumstances. These conditions or circumstances are time and the ministering of truth by another person.

I have heard some say that we are to have joy in the midst of our circumstances. To this I somewhat agree, but recognize the joy may not be experienced right away, but only until after hurt and pain has followed its course.

To illustrate, imagine that a person is severely punched in the face leaving the victim wincing in extreme pain. Immediately afterwards, he was approached by a believer who points out the beautiful sunset and tries to get the victim to rejoice in the power and wonder of God. As you can guess, that most likely is not going to happen.

However after the initial pain begins to subside, the victim may be confused as to why he was rejected and wounded in such a manner and then as he looks to the sunset, lifts his heart to God and rejoices in the fact that he who created such beauty loves him and will always be with him. He eventually rejoiced in his hurt and sorrow, but only after hurt or sorrow followed its course. It is not that he would not rejoice in God, but that he could not at that time rejoice in God.

Another reason why some cannot rejoice in the midst of their hurt and sorrow is because the burden is greater than they can bear. The Lord has promised that he will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able to bear because at the same time he will provide a way of escape. For these individuals, the way of escape is truth.

However while being crushed under the heavy load of hurt and sorrow, the believer may not know the necessary truth needed to overcome or they may not recognize it. It is in these circumstances that other believers are instructed to bear the burden of others. Just as the Holy Spirit (parakletos) comes along side us for comfort, we are to come alongside other believers and help them bear of their burden. We can do this with empathy, love, patience and the sharing of truth that will encourage their heart and point them to the Lord. It is not a truth of telling them what they need to do, but a truth of God upon which their faith can cling. When this occurs, the Holy Spirit can continue to do his work and lift her heart from hurt and sorrow. Rejoicing will follow, but it will only be able to occur as a result of at least one person ministering to another.

Remember how those at Thessalonica were sorrowing over loved ones who have passed away? Did not the apostle Paul come alongside the believers and comfort them with the truth that one day they would be reunited and be together with the Lord? (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)

Also, did not Paul recognize the man who was being swallowed up with excessive sorrow and experienced this because believers did not exercise the truth of forgiveness when he repented? (2 Corinthians 2:7)

Some may deem the person struggling in hurt and sorrow as being in sin and that their hurt and sorrow, which today we call depression is in fact sin. To say that the person struggling with deep hurt and sorrow is in sin could be a sin in itself. Instead of trying to label and identify people, let us first pray to God and ask him to use us to bring truth to those who for the time being are struggling with hurt and sorrow so that their faith may cling to this truth and bring the comfort in the midst of their hurt and sorrow.