Perfect Protection

God’s promises are like a powerful shield that guards us from the slings and arrows of life. Make no mistake, life will throw its best blows at us. But God’s promises are our perfect protection — whether from sin, the temptations of Satan, or even death itself.

God’s promises are our rest. We can lie in them when we feel exhausted.

God’s promises are our rescue. We can look to them when we feel lost.

God’s promises are our medicine. We can find healing in them when we feel broken.

God’s promises are our power. We can find strength in them when we feel weak.

God’s promises are our vindication. We can find justice in them when we feel wronged.

God’s promises are our guidance. We can find direction and purpose in them when we feel life has lost its meaning.

And the Israelites were all of these when they were exiled in Babylon. They were exhausted, lost, broken, weak, wronged and felt life had lost its meaning. So God sent Ezekiel to them to remind them of his promises.

According to Ezekiel, the Israelites would find everything their souls were missing in the promises of their gracious God.

And so will we!

“I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice” (Ezekiel 34:15-16, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, November 18, is Ezekiel 33:21 – 35:15, James 2:1-26 and Psalm 128:1-6.

Lord, your promises are wonderful. Help me to always remember how important and helpful they are. They are my perfect protection. I want to look to your promises for everything my soul needs in life.

Header image based on "Museum of London - London before London - Bronze shield" by Elliott Brown, CC By 2.0

The Power of One

God works through his people. And sometimes it simply takes one willing person to turn the tide.

In the days leading up to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, God was searching for that one person. God’s people had abandoned their faith. Abandoned their God.

Someone was needed to draw the people together and lead them back to God.

But no one could be found. Not one person could be identified who had the faith, the courage, the passion for God and the love for God’s people to stand in the gap of the wall. This “wall” was not a wall of stone, but a wall of people united as living stones to stand for God and resist Satan. No leader could be found to stand up to evil and stand strong for God.

The priests and spiritual leaders were to teach God’s people to rest in God’s promises and live according to his laws. The princes and officials were to protect the people and insure justice and peace in the land, pointing the people to God as their true King.

But not one could be found who was ready to do his work. Just the opposite, in fact. Instead of doing the Lord’s work, the princes devoured the citizens with conspiracies, blatantly looting the common people. And the priests violated the law and profaned the holy things entrusted to their care.

Sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference in God’s kingdom. One person to change the broken culture. One person to help a church to achieve its mission. One person to serve on a ministry team. One person to lead a growth group. One person to visit the sick, or the prisoner. One person to care for the widow, the orphan, the person stricken by need or poverty.

One person filled with the Spirit, standing in the gap, can make all the difference in the world.

“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30, NIV).

Lord, you have been so kind to me. You “stood in the gap” through the cross, to reconcile the world to yourself. Make me willing to stand in the gap for you, and for your people. Fill me with your Spirit, and with the courage and willingness to serve you wherever I am needed.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, November 11, is Ezekiel 22:23 – 23:49, Hebrews 11:1-16 and Proverbs 27:15-22.

Header image based on "Gap" by Les Chatfield, CC By 2.0

Live Boldly!

Most of us would love to possess more confidence and live with greater boldness. It would feel great to finally overcome the timidity and the fear that too frequently hold us back.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul urges him to conquer any timidity he might have. More importantly, he shows Timothy how to do this and live with boldness and confidence.

Timothy does not have to manufacture this confidence, Paul says. He doesn’t have to dig deep within himself to find the boldness. Nor does he have to “fake it till he makes it.”

Because, as Paul reminds him, Timothy has been given the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, he has real power, love and self-discipline to give us. When we realize that we have God’s power, love and self-discipline as our own, this generates all the boldness and confidence we need.

So, would you like to be a more confident person? Would you like to enjoy living life more boldly? This is not as difficult as it might appear.

It begins with doing the things that allow us to tap into the presence of the Holy Spirit. Through these activities we can access the power, love and self-discipline that the Holy Spirit wants to give us:

  • Have a daily time for meditation on the Bible and prayer
  • Attend church regularly — weekly, if possible
  • Join a growth group or Bible study so that you can hear from God in a group setting
  • Make a regular practice of attending Holy Communion

As you do these things, ask yourself, “Where do I see God’s power and love here? How am I encouraged to respond with thanksgiving and love for God by exercising more self-discipline?”

And most of all, remember who you are. You are a dearly loved child of God, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. You are a disciple of the Savior who boldly and confidently went to the cross on your behalf — to win eternal victory for you. So you have every reason in the world to live with boldness and confidence.

By faith in Christ, you have the Spirit dwelling within you. Check out these gifts that the Spirit wants you to have! And live boldly, my friend!

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV).

Lord, take my timidity away. Give me your Spirit so that I may have the Spirit’s power, love and self-discipline in my life.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, October 22, is Jeremiah 48:1 – 49:6, 2 Timothy 1:1-18 and Psalm 119:81-88.

Header image based on "43: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse" by Tito and Eva Marie Balangue, CC By 2.0

Refresh Your “Why”

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark,” said Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher. But that simply raises a question: “Whose perseverance was it? The snail’s? Or God’s?”

There are really two things that keep a Christian going. These two things form our “why” for being a Christian.

The first is God’s love for us. There is no love as steady, as firm, as lasting, as God’s love. His love in unconditional and unrelenting. His love is forgiving and merciful. His love is caring and compassionate.

And the second is Christ’s perseverance. Once Jesus commits to something, he will always see it through to the end. It doesn’t matter how much it costs him, Jesus’ promise means it’s already as good as done. Because he will always persist until he has finished what he started.

And there’s no better reminder of both God’s love and Christ’s perseverance than the cross and the empty tomb.

The cross and and the empty tomb are our guarantee. A God and Savior as loving and persevering as ours will help us in our weakness. He will strengthen us when we are down. He will protect us when we are undergoing the devil’s attacks. He will help us repent of our sins and do the things God has commanded in his law.

That’s why the apostle Paul prays that the hearts of the Thessalonians would be constantly directed toward God’s love and perseverance. Here the word “heart” indicates not simply their emotions, but also their intellect and the will.

He knew that as long as the Thessalonians’ hearts, minds and willpower moved in that direction — in that correct direction toward God’s love and Christ’s perseverance — then their faith in God would grow, and their connection to Jesus would remain steady, solid and unbreakable. Their energy for Christ and for the gospel would never wane, and their unified, hard work for the kingdom would continue.

The love of God and the perseverance of Christ is the very source — the “why” — of our own love and perseverance. But far more importantly, it is also the source of our forgiveness, our reconciliation to God, and eternal life.

Does your “why” for being a Christian need to be refreshed and renewed? Say a little prayer today. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct the eyes of your heart, mind and will into God’s love for you, and into Christ’s perseverance that took him all the way to the cross for you.

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (2 Thessalonians 3:3-5, NIV).

Holy Spirit, direct my heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. Help me to remember God’s faithfulness and his protection. Give me a repentant heart for the times when I fail to keep God’s commands, and grant me forgiveness at the cross of Christ. Help me to continue to do the things God commands with the love and perseverance you first displayed for me, and now give to me.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, October 15, is Jeremiah 31:15 – 32:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 and Proverbs 25:1-10.

Header image based on "Snail's Pace" by Randy Robertson, CC By 2.0

Holding It All Together

Who’s in charge around here?

Isn’t that what we want to know when things aren’t going the way we would hope? When the situation is deteriorating, when our life seems to be disintegrating, we want to know to whom we can go for help.

This is exactly where Paul starts as he writes to the Colossians: Jesus is in charge. He is at the front of the line, before everyone and everything else. He is the gravitational force that holds the universe together. He is the sole head of the church family.

Jesus Christ is true God. All the divine character and all the divine attributes dwell inside of him. The totality of God, with everything God is, is found in Jesus.

God’s purpose for him was clear. Jesus, the divine Son of God, was sent to bridge the chasm that sin had created between God and mankind. He was on a mission that would cost him his life, but at the same time it would restore peace between God and humanity.

As the One who is before everything else in creation, and the firstborn in the resurrection from the dead, he is the true source of our hope.

So, you now know who is in charge. And you also know just how powerful he really is. Finally, you know his loving purpose for you — to bring you back to God, fully reconciled and at peace with him.

If your life is going well right now. Jesus is the one to thank.

But if your life is deteriorating and disintegrating right now, Jesus is the one in charge. And he has huge shoulders. He will carry the load for you. He is your peace. And he is your hope.

Remember, he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. The created universe. The church of the redeemed. You, and your life.

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:17-20, NIV).

Lord Jesus, you are first. You hold all things together. Send me your Holy Spirit, and give me the will to make you first in my heart. Grant me faith, and hold me together. You are my Savior and my one true hope.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, October 4, is Jeremiah 7:30 – 9:16, Colossians 1:1-23 and Psalm 116:12-19.

Header image based on "Hubble Catches a Spiral in the Air Pump" by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC By 2.0

Strength in Weakness

Have you ever been in a position where things were going so well for so long that you might have been tempted to think it was all about you? One win stacked upon another for your team. And mixed in were some pretty impressive individual successes as well.

Your team’s win-loss record was flat-out amazing. And your own stat line was even more so. It was not just a single virtuoso performance. It was an entire all-star season for you!

Then came the nagging injury. And you just didn’t seem to have the edge that you once did. You were a bit off your game. Maybe more than a bit. You certainly no longer felt invincible. Weakness began to creep in. Doubt raised its ugly head.

The apostle Paul would have related. He tells the Corinthians of some amazing experiences he’s had as a Christ-follower. Amazingly, Paul had apparently been shown what heaven looks like (much like the apostle John would one day enjoy a similar vision of heaven’s throne room). And he had heard incredible things there, things that he was ordered not to repeat.

After all that, Paul felt like an all-star! And who wouldn’t? But then came the “nagging injury.” Paul was given what he calls a “thorn in the flesh.” The thorn, whatever it was, humbled Paul. It reminded him, “Despite all those wins and all-star experiences, it’s not about you. It’s about Jesus and his grace.”

For us, the beauty of what Paul is saying here is pure assurance. Our weaknesses humble us too. But this plays directly into God’s strength. When we lack humility and think we are strong (or smart, or brave, or wise, or “together”), we have less and less reason to rely on God.

Because we can just rely on ourselves instead.

But when something in life humbles us and we begin to recognize our weaknesses, ultimately we come to realize our only true option is to rely on God’s strength (for smarts, for courage, for wisdom, or for holding it together).

Paul says that, in reality, it doesn’t get any better than this. Because it’s in our weakness that we discover our true strength — Jesus! Jesus is titanium strong and diamond tough. And it’s his power resting on us that makes us titanium strong and diamond tough.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV).

Lord Jesus, I have many weaknesses. Please forgive me for my sins. Be my strength. Let your power rest on me. I want to boast with Paul that though I am weak, in you I am strong.

Our Bible reading for Friday, September 11, is Isaiah 27:1 – 28:29, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 and Psalm 106:40-48.

Header image based on "Diamond Paperweight 8-24-09 3" by Steven Depolo, CC By 2.0

Powerless or Powerhouse?

Asa was a good king. He did things the right way. He cleaned house in Judah and got rid of the idols and places of worship that foreign guests had built in the country.

He directed the hearts of the people back to the LORD, and led them to center their minds on the eternal God. He also encouraged them to be obedient to the commandments and follow God’s gracious will for their lives.

For a long time, God blessed Asa’s leadership by keeping the enemies of Judah at bay. And the land of Judah enjoyed a solid season of peace and prosperity.

Of course, peace doesn’t last forever. So Asa — being the wise king that he was — made use of this opportunity to build up a solid defense system. He fortified the walls, towers and gates of the cities of Judah. He also built up his army, until there were almost 600,000 skillful and courageous warriors ready for battle — should a battle come to them.

And come it did. An Ethiopian (Cushite) general named Zerah brought one million troops to the Valley of Zephathah, just one valley over from the Valley of Elah, where Asa’s great-great-grandfather, David, had slain the Philistine giant Goliath.

And where did Asa’s eyes turn when it came time for him to lead his men into battle against a significantly superior force?

Did he find confidence in the many courageous troops standing ready to go to battle before him?

Did he take refuge in the fact that backing him up were the fortified walls and gates of the cities that he had built up (and could run to, if needed)?

Did he pat himself on the back for how obedient to God he had been, and how brilliant his defensive chess moves had been?

No, Asa’s eyes looked up. He prayed and he said, in essence, “Lord, you aren’t impressed by Zerah’s million soldiers. You’re not intimidated by their show of force. Lord, we know you, and we know no mere mortals can stand against you. Without you, we are powerless. But we also know you love to help the powerless. With you on our side, we’re the powerhouse.”

Where do you look when you feel powerless and in trouble? Do you trust that God loves to help the powerless, and that he wants to deliver you from trouble? Do you have the same confidence that if you look up — to the LORD — you will no longer be powerless, but a powerhouse?

I hope so. Because it’s all true!

“Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11, NIV).

Lord, when I feel powerless and in trouble, I am tempted to look to other places than you for my strength and comfort. I repent of that, and ask for you Holy Spirit’s help to imitate Asa and look only to you. You love to help the powerless, and you have the ability to turn me into a powerhouse. Help me to always look up to you as my help and my refuge.

Our Bible reading for Friday, August 21, is 2 Chronicles 13:1 – 15:19, 1 Corinthians 14:20-40 and Psalm 104:1-8.

Header image based on "power" by Bronson ABbott, CC By-SA 2.0