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.

Refuge for the Oppressed (Psalm 9:9-11)

Events in your life can be difficult. There are times when these events make you feel crushed, injured or afflicted. Maybe it was the notice you receive in the mail. The phone call reporting the auto accident or the talk that you had with your doctor. Each of these challenges that you may face has you crushed in on all sides. Each thought of the event is as if a whip was afflicting its cruel punishment upon your injured soul. There appears to be no way out.
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. (Psalm 9:9-10)

But God…think of it. Where else could a person go? The Psalmist says that God is our refuge. He is that cleft high up on the rocky cliff. Nothing can reach us there because it is too high to scale. In that cleft of the rock, we are safe. In the midst of our trials, we take refuge in Christ. Physically we are in the same place, but God lifts our hearts above the turmoil that is oppressing and afflicting us.  

During the troublesome times, it is difficult to recognize God’s presence. He is there and ever present to help us in times of need, but in order for him to work, we must reach out with our souls and cling to him and him alone for help. Trusting is difficult: a war takes place in the soul between faith and fear. Fear will always be present, but we trust God when we exercise our faith over our fear. 

All would agree that the best part of a trial is when it is over. The money problem is solved. The wayward child returns. The medical treatment was a success. The relationship was restored. But It isn’t so great because the event has ended. It is great because we can use our experience with God to encourage and guide others.

Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. (Psalm 9:11)
Trials in life will come, but God wants to bring you through those trials and when they are over, work his aid to others through you.  

With God, you can do this.

Why are all these things happening to me?

You may ask, Why are all these things happening to me?  Life has its ups and downs.  However there are times in our lives that everything seems to turn upside down.  Imagine a family in an economic struggle. They are forced to relocate and in their pursuit face one devastating trial after another.  In the end, sickness and death take their toll.  Why?  Where was God?  I guess if you want to know, you will need to ask Ruth.

Controversial as it may seem, Elimelech and his family moved to Moab.  I don’t believe that any of the family members knew exactly what was happening.  Even Naomi when she later returned to Bethlehem didn’t quite understand.  However if you spoke with Ruth, you would hear the story of how God used terrible circumstances for a family to rescue her from idolatry and bring her into a relationship with the one and true God.  This family experienced many trials and for many years and maybe because it took that long to turn Ruth’s heart.

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: (Ruth 1:16)

There are times when people come to Christ after hearing the gospel only a few times, but there are others, who are steeped in false religion, who will need a demonstration of the gospel’s power before coming to Christ. So as you experience trials in your life and you have ruled out the chances of sinful consequence or chastisement, your life and its trials may just be a light in a very dark place.  Accept where you are, look for God’s grace, and declare to others what he is doing in your life.  You may never find out what God is actually doing or you may discover a Ruth in your midst.

Getting Strength From Another (Psalm 73:17)

Life may be confusing, discouraging and appear to be unfair. On our own, we will never be able to figure things out. Our efforts of living for God and abstaining from wickedness may appear to be in vain. However when we enter into God’s presence and fellowship with him, he will perform a work in our hearts to bring things back into perspective. He did this for the Psalmist when he became envious of the wicked and he will do the same for you.

Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. (Psalms 73:17)

How soon we forget the wonders of his working. After being saved for over 30 years, it is difficult to remember exactly what it was like to be lost. The wounds from sins have been healed. All I can do is remember that at one time, I had great wounds in my heart to the point that I saw no significance of living. You would think that I should remember that and always be grateful in my heart. But it is not the case. It seems that the troubles and struggles of the day press more upon my heart than issues that should cause rejoicing. For that reason, I need to sit at the feet of the savior.

Recently, we rescued a dog that had been hit by a car and then abandoned for days. Needless to say, he has phobias. What makes him most able to endure these fear is when he gets close to those who love him. He gains our strength and becomes calm because of the security we provide. Is God any different to us? We have fears and worries, but it is when we draw close to him that we gain his strength and become secure.

When you struggle, draw close to God. He will open your eyes to the truths that you may need so as to gain the strength and comfort that only he can bring.

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Cut Off From His Sight? (Psalm 31:22)

Trials are always difficult: hence the name trouble or trial. During such times, we not only are faced with battling the outside circumstances of the trial, but also the battle that takes place within us. David records his thoughts during such a time when he says, “For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes.” (Psalm 31:22) During the trial, David quickly responded to thoughts in his heart that whatever was taking place was hidden from God. He may have felt that he was alone, but to believe and respond to such thoughts was inappropriate. Thanks be to God for his long suffering and mercy in that even thou David had believed wrongfully, God still heard his cry of supplication.

During trials we must remember that we are not cut off from the sight of God. To encourage us from falling into these thought patterns, God has given us precious promises such as “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5). You may feel like you are cut off from God, but you cannot be because he is always present with you.

He continues to encourage us by sharing his concern for even sparrows and that we are of more value than them. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

One of the most encouraging promises from God is that we cannot be cut off from his sight because he knows what our needs are before we even pray. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)

Because God will never leave us, because we are of greater value than birds for which he cares and because he knows what we need before we even pray, we should be encouraged to trust him and believe that while in the midst of our trials, we are not cut off from his sight.

If you would like to read more of these thoughts in a hard copy format, my new book is now available at the link below.

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