God’s Power

Psalm 21-23 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He longs to guide us, heal us, protect us, comfort us and cover us with the oil of His blessings

@ Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

It was while reading the Bible on a day in February 1998, just like I’m doing today, that the familiar 23rd Psalm became more real to me than I had ever known before.  The presence of the Lord filled my little family room in a very special way and from that day forward I started to record His revelation to me of the Shepherd’s faithfulness to His sheep.  From that experience I wrote the devotional book Intimate Moments with the Shepherd – Guidance through the Challenges of Life, an illustrated portrayal of the Shepherd’s intimate relationship with us.

While researching and taking photos for this project, I visited dozens of sheep farms and learned some valuable lessons.  Out in the sheep pastures I could have called the sheep over to me all day long, but they only came when they heard their shepherd calling. At his or her call, they came running.  I learned that even with a flock of 200 or more, the shepherd knew each sheep, their lineage, their illnesses and even the grains and grasses that some preferred.  These experiences and many others like them were valuable lessons that revealed to me first-hand the intimacy we have with our Shepherd as David understood it.

Something that always blesses me when I read Psalm 23 is the subtle, yet significant change that takes place between verses 3 and 4, “He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” (3-4)  Up to verse 4, David had been talking about his Shepherd, His guidance, His rest, His strength.  But when David reached the dark valley, he began talking to his Shepherd.

The Lord leads us along life’s path giving direction and guidance. When we face the dark valley that may be death or may just seem like it, a shadow of it, He is right there beside us often carrying us through our challenge.  We can talk to Him, confident that we are not alone.

In a personal way, David continued, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”  Then, right there in front of our howling enemies, He anoints us with abundant favor, as if to say to our enemy, “Be gone!  This one is Mine, eternally!”  What an honor to sit at His table and to be marked with His fragrant oil for everyone to see and smell. “I’m my Beloved’s, and He is mine.” What a Shepherd! 

Moving Forward: As I move forward to live out the challenges I may face today, I will walk with the confident knowledge that my Shepherd, my Lord, is with me.  When the enemy comes with his taunts, I will boldly declare that I am anointed with the Lord’s favor, “Be gone! I belong to Him.” 

Tomorrow @ Job 15-16

Judges 7-11 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He gives supernatural help when needed, tools included!

There is a cat of the tuxedo variety, silky black and white, in my neighborhood that frequents my backyard looking for his next meal. No, I don’t feed him, but I have a feeling that some of the birds and critters in my yard have kept him well fed.  The other day I watched him spy a lone bird snatching up seeds on the ground below the feeder. The cat got down on his back haunches, lowered his chin to the ground and slid along the grass like a stealth bomber under the radar.

As I observed, I stood ready to cause a distraction for the bird, but I’m ashamed to admit that I waited to see what would happen in this covert situation.  Well, my interception was not needed – black cat on green grass, crunching blades of grass approaching – that bird was outta there!  Whether in the animal kingdom or in human confrontation, there’s an art to warfare, and its strategies encompass many techniques.  However, few are as unique as those chosen by God and used by Gideon to defeat the Midianites in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 

@ Judges 7
“With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.’  So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.” (7-8)  I’ve tried to put myself in Gideon’s place during this discourse with God and wondered if my response would put me in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith like his response did.  To go from 32,000 troops down to 300 against the Midianite hordes – not good odds!  And the only items they were given to fight this fierce battle were horns, clay jars and torches!

This entire war strategy just doesn’t make sense in the natural, but then Gideon was now operating in the supernatural.  Through hindsight, we understand that this small army was able to quietly move into a strategic position surrounding its enemy.  The Israelites used what was in their hands; and as their horns, broken jars and shouts echoed through the valley of the Midian camp and their blazing torches encircled the enemy, Midian panic ensued.  Without lifting a sword, the enemy was defeated, and with an army of only 300 men, no one questioned who really brought the victory that day.  Just like the old song says, Little is much when God is in it.

We are facing battles on many different fronts today, and our enemy will use any strategy he can to stop our progress and bring defeat, including our own thoughts, temptations, habits and fears. Israel was victorious because the troops filled with fear were sent away, and we should send to flight our fears and any other tool the enemy could use.

Today’s troubled economy has left many with very little to work with, but just like Gideon and his 300, with faith and unencumbered by fear, we can use what is in our hands, whatever gifts and tools He has given us, to keep moving forward.  When the 300 advanced at God’s command, God performed the supernatural, and He will do the same for you and me! 

Moving forward:  Today I will use the things that God has put in my hand, perhaps rediscover old things and discover new things.  Like Gideon, I will not be stymied by the circumstances that surround me, but trust God to perform the supernatural on my behalf.  No one will question who brought the victory – little is much when God is in it!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 18-20

Job 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He responds to our trust in Him with deliverance

When the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? started airing on television, I’d watch it whenever I could because I loved the title and enjoyed having my knowledge put to the test.  After all, who doesn’t want to be a millionaire?  As one who has been known to pick up an Encyclopedia book, say H-I, and read it for pure enjoyment, I find discovering what I really know to be entertaining and obviously thousands of others who watch the program do as well.

While watching the program one night, I discovered that I knew the answer to every question up to the $500,000 question without phoning a friend, asking the audience or eliminating half the answers.  Amazing, yet true!  Then, the buzzer rang and the show was continued to the following evening.  I wasn’t home to watch the next program, but I seemed to walk with my head held a little higher.  That is until a few days later when I watched the show again and missed a $1,000 question.  Job was surrounded with friends who thought they had all the answers to life, but none of that knowledge was helpful to poor Job. Sometimes we just don’t know as much as we think we do. 

@ Job 11
“Then Zophar the Naamathite replied to Job: ‘Shouldn’t someone answer this torrent of words?  Is a person proved innocent just by a lot of talking? Should I remain silent while you babble on?  When you mock God, shouldn’t someone make you ashamed?’” (1-3)  Well, the old saying comes to mind, With friends like that, who needs enemies? Evidently, tension had been mounting for Job’s third friend as he listened to the discussions, and he must have felt that someone had to stop the polite discussion and straighten out sinful Job.

Zophar said to this man who had lost all his wealth, all his children and most of his health, “Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve!” (6)  Or, “Here Job, here’s a little salt for your wounds.”   What Zophar knew about Job was based on fallacy, yet he thought he knew everything and judged Job accordingly.  May our hearts always be sensitive to the hurts of others, putting judgment in the hands of God where it belongs.

@ Job 12
“Then Job spoke again:  ‘You people really know everything, don’t you?  And when you die, wisdom will die with you!  Well, I know a few things myself—and you’re no better than I am.  Who doesn’t know these things you’ve been saying?’” (1-3)  I’m not sure how Job had the strength to respond to Zophar and his friends with this pithy counter, but it certainly made me feel better.

Job went on to talk about the magnitude of God’s knowledge and power, “But true wisdom and power are found in God…He uncovers mysteries hidden in darkness; he brings light to the deepest gloom.” (13,22)  We think, in all our brilliance, that we have discovered the cure for diseases, space travel and our endless inventions, but did He not know it all first?  Do our breakthroughs surprise Him?  No, He is the One who uncovers all the answers for which we are given credit, and it is He who places them in the hearts and minds of men.

All this knowledge spouted by Job’s friends was not impressive to him because he knew that it came from the Source of all knowledge.  Job’s greatest concern was not about what he knew about God.  Job’s greatest concern was about what he did not know about God – why was God punishing him?  As we will learn, deliverance came to Job when he finally turned his focus back to his knowledge of who God was regardless of what God did. Deliverance from the trials we face is certain for us as well when we focus on who we know God to be and put our trust in Him. 

Moving Forward:   Because I know Him to be all wisdom and faithfulness, I will trust Him in all that I may face today, assured of His power to deliver. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 29-33

Romans 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He transforms us into the person He created us to be

When my son was young, he had a collection of toy cars called Transformers.  Each car transformed into a warrior robot in full armor ready to conquer the world – talk about a makeover!  So popular were these Transformers that in recent years several movies have been made about their exploits.  Unique entertainment, to say the least.

More to my liking are the makeovers on television that take plain or fashion-challenged women and men and transform them into living, breathing creations of awe.  The audience always gasps when the transformation is revealed and then breaks into thunderous applause.  This causes me to wonder if my transformation, the new creation that I am in Christ, has been startling enough to bring perhaps a gasp out of heaven. 

@ Romans 12
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (1-2) The ultimate makeover!

I’m sure those makeover candidates feel a little like sheep going to the slaughter as they step behind the curtain to be transformed, uncertain of the outcome.  Similarly, Paul suggests we should present ourselves as living, sacrificial lambs on the altar, submitted to His transformation.  But of course, as they say, the problem with living sacrifices is that they have a tendency to climb off that altar.  It’s usually painful to change the way we think.

Now as Paul often did, he provided a little checklist for us in verses 9-21 to see just how transformed we really are, a gasp meter if you will:

  • “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
  • Hate what is wrong.
  • Hold tightly to what is good.
  • Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
  • Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
  • Rejoice in our confident hope.
  • Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
  • When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.
  • Always be eager to practice hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
  • Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with each other.
  • Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.
  • And don’t think you know it all!
  • Never pay back evil with more evil.
  • Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
  • Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone…
  • Never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God…
  • If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them…drink…
  • Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Well, then.  I think the only gasp I’m hearing right now is my own. These aren’t bucket list items.  They are characteristics of the transformed life!  This is the life of one who has remained on the altar and allowed the transformation of God’s power to change that life, even the way he or she thinks and relates to others.  And the makeover bonus, the parting gift for this transformed life, “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (2)  Who doesn’t want to know that! And again I gasp. 

Moving Forward:  I pray I will do something today that leaves heaven breathless…even just for a moment. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 20-23

Genesis 16-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is God Almighty, the God who is enough

Over 46 years ago I changed my name.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like my name, but I felt it was time for a change.  I had considered a few other names, but none of them really measured up to the one I chose.  In addition to all the normal changes that come, like new identification, driver’s license, social security card, this change affected my life in a dramatic way.  People no longer knew me by my old name and actually treated me differently; in fact, I thought of myself differently.  Yes, the day I changed my name to Benigas was monumental in my life, but I never would have done it had I not known the one who gave me the name. 

@ Genesis 17
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am El-Shaddai—God Almighty.’”(1)  Even though Abram and the Lord had already met, Abram knew Him only as Jehovah, the true God, but he was about to know Him in a whole new way.  El Shaddai!  God Almighty who was all-sufficient, the God who was all Abram would ever need.  The God who was able to provide all the descendants that Abram could ever want.  Ishmael never would have been an issue had Abram first known El Shaddai – the God who is enough!

“At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, ‘This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!  What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations.” (3-5)   First, God shared who He was by revealing a new name for Himself, and then He revealed to Abram who Abram really was by changing his name from revered father to how He saw him – Abraham, father of many nations.

When we were introduced to the Lord as our Savior, we may not have understood completely that we were putting in for some changes – a new nature (2 Corinthians 2:17), a new name (Revelation 2:17) and a new life (John 4:14).  As a new creation in Christ, we were adopted by God into this great family of Abraham’s descendants to forever bear His name.  At the very least our name is Redeemed.

Throughout the Bible, we have many examples of how God changed the names of His people to how He saw them – Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter, Paul.  What is His name for us, how does God see us and are we living up to that name?  Have we changed our identification?  Do others see us differently? Do we see ourselves differently?

Do we know El Shaddai, God Almighty, the One whose name we bear?  In the challenges we face today, do we understand that we are in covenant with the all-sufficient God?  After an encounter with El Shaddai, we have no need to panic or take matters into our own hands when problems arise because we know the God who is enough! 

Moving Forward:  I’m challenged today to live the way God sees me, answering to my new name and trusting the God who is enough.  After all, my Father is El-Shaddai! 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 21-2

Joshua 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He provides the strategies we need for victory in our lives

Whether in football, business or war, there is a strategy that has been around since the beginning of time when facing the opposition:  Find the weakest point in the line of defense, the most vulnerable point, and make your attack.  In past wars, armies sent out reconnaissance teams, soldiers who were trained to find the weakest point in the enemy’s defense, but with today’s high tech armies, many other forms of surveillance such as predator drones are used first before the soldier is put into harm’s way.  In our reading today, however, surveillance had been done, the strategy was given and Joshua was ready to take Jericho. 

@ Joshua 6
“Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. But the Lord said to Joshua, ‘I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.’” (1-5) Unique as it was, the strategy was given by God, and it couldn’t fail.

Jericho was one of the oldest and most fortified cities on the planet at that time.  Its walls at some points were 25 feet high, that’s two and a half stories tall, they were 20 feet thick, and were considered invincible.  Were those walls really the most vulnerable point in Jericho’s line of defense?  No, probably not.  Jericho’s weakest point in its defense was its pagan heart, and God was not on the side of its inhabitants.  So its walls, no matter how thick and high were vulnerable to God’s strategy in taking the city. Joshua was righteous enough to trust it, and those walls came down!

God knows our enemy’s weakest point. When Jesus was confronted by Satan, He soundly defeated him by quoting the scripture. (Matthew 4)  Even though he has been known to quote it himself, our enemy can’t stand against God’s Word when it comes from a blood-bought Christian.  And when we declare to others our testimony of what Jesus has done in our lives, we run right over him. (Revelation 12:11)  What a great strategy!

@ Joshua 7
On the other hand, in their next battle at Ai, the Israelites’ true enemy, Satan, discovered where they were the most vulnerable, the weakest point in their line of defense.  God had forbidden the Israelites to take certain items from the spoils of Jericho, but one man had his own agenda, “But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord.  A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites.” (1)  Not good. Israel was soundly defeated at Ai.

When God revealed Achan’s sin, Joshua confronted him and Achan came clean, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them.”(20-21)  Just as the enemy had captured Eve’s heart, he defeated Israel with what Achan saw with his eye and desired with his heart.

We can be sure that the enemy has been doing surveillance and knows our weakest points of entry; but we, too, have been given a strategy by God to defeat his attacks, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” (James 4:7)  Had Achan run to God in this attack and resisted the enemy’s temptation, the battle at Ai would have had a different outcome. The James 4 strategy will work every time in our lives, and we can trust it! 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for the strategies God has given to protect me from the enemy’s attack and beat him at his own game through the power of God’s Word.

Tomorrow @ Psalm 3-5

Revelation 12-17 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He defeated the enemy through His birth, death and resurrection

Pink and soft and sweet.  There’s nothing like a newborn baby!  As we gaze at God’s workmanship, we marvel at the intricate details right down to the tiny fingers and fingernails.  No doubt Mary and Joseph we enthralled with their new little bundle of joy.

At Christmas I enjoy setting up the many nativity sets that I’ve collected over the years.  One set is beautiful porcelain made by Goebel and another is elegantly designed by Thomas Kinkaid, but just as precious to me is a rustic wooden set carved in Paraguay.  One thing they all have in common is the peaceful, serene setting depicted on that night so long ago when the Prince of Peace came into the world.  However, not everyone was at peace that Israel delivered the Savior of all mankind. 

@ Revelation 12
“Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads.  His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne.” (1-5)

I’ve watched many Christmas pageants over the years filled with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherds and the erroneous wise men at the stable, but I’ve never seen one that included a huge red dragon with seven heads.  I’m thankful for that.  Most believe the woman of Revelation 12 to be actually symbolic of Israel rather than Mary, but regardless, Israel brought forth the One who would defeat the enemy.

“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.” (7-9) Jesus sacrificed his life for our redemption, and it was the final nail in the coffin that secured Satan’s defeat!

“And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.” (17) So, if we’ve wondered why the enemy throws his arrows at us and attacks us at every turn, we now understand it’s because he is angry at us for keeping God’s commandments and maintaining our testimony for Jesus. This is why Paul encourages us to put on all that armor every day found in Ephesians 6:11, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”

The war will continue until Christ’s return, but we will defeat our enemy in the battles we face each day by suiting up and by using the very things that made Satan angry in the first place, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (11,NKJV)

The enemy’s time is short, and he knows it, “For the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.” (12)  And we know it as well, “He who is the Faithful Witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (22:20) 

Moving Forward:  As I celebrate the birth of Jesus, I am ever mindful of His ultimate mission and the victory He has brought to my life to defeat the enemy. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 26-28

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