Trust in God


Isaiah 34-39 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is the One we can count on

Isaiah 34 is the end of 34 chapters of judgment on the nations, including Judah and Israel, and the entire world.  Whew!  I’ve watched a few movies over the years that deliver one scene after another of bad luck, bad news and bad people. After a while, I just feel kind of beat up; and if I have any strength left, I pick up that remote and change the channel with the hope of something better. Some parts of Isaiah are a little hard to take as well

Thankfully, Chapter 35 brings a short reprieve with a message of hope and restoration for the future. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness.” (35:8) Not the low way, mind you, but the high way…the set apart way…the way of the redeemed…the way of Jesus.  Nothing of eternal harm can snatch away those on this path because it’s His path. He is with us, leading us to His home, our eternal destination.  Nothing gives me more peace in this day of airplanes blowing up buildings, school shootings and nuclear stockpiles than the knowledge that I am on His path.  As long as I choose to stay there, I will reach my eternal destination with Him!

In Chapter 36, King Hezekiah made decisions that were contrary to what the prophet Isaiah had advised.  The Assyrians, enemies from the area known as Iraq today, had conquered much of the world.  In fear of this great enemy, Hezekiah decided to join forces with his ungodly neighbors in an alliance to fight this enemy and disregarded Isaiah’s message of God’s promise to deliver them if they would trust Him.  I’ve found that fear is never a good adviser.  Egypt’s mighty chariots seemed more tangible, more real to Hezekiah than God’s promise to him.  Hezekiah was confused.

Assyrian King Sennacherib knew two things about Judah – they had been a God-fearing people and they had made an alliance with Egypt against him.  He sent representatives to meet with representatives of Hezekiah.   King Sennacherib was asking this question of Hezekiah, “Who are you counting on that you rebelled against me?”  Hezekiah’s confused loyalties emboldened his enemy.  This causes me to do a little self-examination. Who am I counting on today?  Have confused loyalties allowed my enemy entrance into my life?

Sennacherib’s message renounced the Egyptians and Hezekiah, but more importantly, he blasphemed the living God.  “What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:20) Not a good move on his part.  Hezekiah’s men tore their clothes in despair and went home to report to the king, who also tore his clothes (37:1).

This is a custom I am not acquainted with – the tearing of the clothes.  I know of yelling, pacing, sobbing, thrashing about, etc., but not the tearing of the clothes. In that day, however, it was a statement of humility and repentance – they would not allow their bodies to be clothed with ornament or finery when the enemy was attempting to strip the living God of His honor and deity.  This was the signal that Hezekiah was no longer confused.

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.  Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” (16-18,20) Soon God brought great victory to Judah, as well as an amazing healing to Hezekiah (Chapter 38).  Judah’s doom was suspended…for a while. 

Moving forward: Today I symbolically tear my clothes at the thought that I would listen to any attempt by the enemy to strip my Father of His honor and deity.  I will not be confused about the one I am counting on“I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.”  (Psalm 130:5) 

Tomorrow @Matthew 17-19

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

Matthew 14-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He responds to a courageous heart of faith

I’ve had some great friends in my life.  In fact, I had a friend that came and cleaned my kitchen floor for 14 years.  No matter what was dropped or spilled while cooking or eating, the mess was cleaned up by this faithful friend for all those years.  When my friend passed away several years ago, I grieved for quite some time; and even today, I miss that extra help in the kitchen.  Yes, Toby, my Miniature Schnauzer was a great friend and a good little floor cleaner.  He never missed a crumb!  I have to admit that sometimes I intentionally dropped a scrap or two just because I loved him.  It’s hard to believe, but Jesus had a discussion with a woman about this very thing! 

@ Matthew 15
“Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!  For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.’” (21-22)  Right from the beginning of this story, I liked this woman.  First of all, she was a mother on a mission to save her daughter.  I understand the heart of a mother whose child is sick.  We will do just about anything to save our children.  She had a mother’s heart.  Secondly, I admire her courage.  It was courageous for a woman, a Gentile woman nonetheless, to approach a Jewish man she did not know to ask a favor.  She was brave.

The woman was a Canaanite whose ancestors had been the bane of Israel’s existence, but she had obviously heard about the miracles of Jesus, disregarded her heritage and came to Jesus.  When Jesus informed this dear woman that He was sent only to help the Jews, she was undaunted by His response, “But she came and worshiped Him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’”(25)  She was tenacious.

Strangely, Jesus again resisted her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” (26)  Jesus was reiterating the mindset of a majority of the Jews of His day.  They knew themselves to be children of God, and all others, well….were not.  However, Jesus, in His only trip outside of Palestine, was about to prove that His message was for everyone, and this courageous, tenacious mother was assisting Him whether she knew it or not.

The woman replied to Jesus, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” (27)  What a clever response!  Evidently, she had a Toby or two in her life, canine friends who were only too happy to take whatever would come their way in order to satisfy their needs.  And this woman was not too proud to receive whatever the Lord would do for her, scraps and all.  She was humble.

“Dear woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘your faith is great. Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was instantly healed.” (28)  No doubt through the faith of this woman, news spread throughout this Gentile region about Jesus, the healer of Jew and Gentile alike.  She had great faith.

It’s easy to allow hindrances to keep us from receiving the miracles that God has for us.  Are we willing to walk down the aisle at church for prayer, admitting we have a need?  Are we brave?  Will we ask again and again from the Lord until we receive?  Are we tenacious?  Will we humble ourselves and receive whatever the Lord has for us, however He chooses to give it?  Are we humble?  Will we believe that God is able to do anything we ask?  Have we great faith?  Apparently, these are things that grab the heart of God and cause Him to grant our requests. 

Moving Forward:  I believe the Lord has set a banquet for me today; but even if He offered only a scrap, only a crumb, it would be just what I needed for my miracle. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 13-14

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

Genesis 20-23 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider 

@ Genesis 22
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (2) I remember a sermon my husband preached many years ago on the story of Abraham and Isaac, and it’s distinctive in my memory because of the touching illustration he used. Tom started to tell the story of the sacrifice of Isaac and called our young son up front to stand with him.  As the story unfolded, he asked our son to lie on the altar, and with tears streaming down his face, he spoke of the incredible anguish that Abraham must have felt as he raised the knife in obedience to God.  Now if you know my husband, the crying is not so significant, but because I knew him so well, I could tell he was shaken by the thought of sacrificing someone he loved so much.

When I read this story, I can’t help but focus on the journey to Moriah.  Abraham had traveled across that entire region of the world to live in Canaan, but I would imagine that journey did not compare in intensity to the 50 miles to Moriah.  While Isaac was enjoying an outing with his dad, Abraham was facing the greatest testing of his life.  We know little about the conversation on the journey, but what we do know speaks volumes to us.

As Moriah came into view, “Stay here with the donkey,’ Abraham told the servants. ‘The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.’”  Then we will come right back, not I will come right back, but we.  Abraham’s statement wasn’t trickery or deceit, but somewhere during the journey, he resolved in his heart that they would both return.  The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” (Hebrews 11:19)  We will come right back. No wonder Abraham is listed in the Faith Hall of Fame!

Then, as they continued up to Moriah, “As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’” (6-7)

I’ve imagined Abraham pondering every promise from God as he took each step to Moriah > God would make him a great nation> his descendants would be like the dust of earth that couldn’t be counted > as many descendants as the stars in the sky > God would make him the father of nations.  With confidence, Abraham could reply to his son, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered.  And they both walked on together.” (8)  Isaac was the son of promise, and God would provide.

We may walk through situations that seem to be completely unlike what our loving God would allow His children to endure.  It is then, like Abraham, we are challenged to act on what we know the character of God to be, not on how the circumstances may dictate His character to be.  I’ve lived long enough to know that things are rarely as they seem.  Our resolve to walk in obedience and faith will be undergirded as we think over the promises of God and remember that He doesn’t lie and that He can only be faithful. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider – God will provide. 

Moving Forward:  “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. He was even called the friend of God.” (James 2:23)  I want to be like Abraham. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 1-6

Psalms 12-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He answers our prayers based on His eternal clock

It’s disheartening to me to be around someone who is upset about something, possibly with me, but not willing to express what it is – commonly known as the silent treatment.  Yes, those who easily express their feelings can be annoying at times, but at least we know what problem exists and we can offer a response. Communication is good, especially when it comes from a heart that does not want to hurt and is seeking a resolve.

I don’t imagine that God ever found it necessary to say to David, “Well, David, why don’t you tell me how you really feel.”  Psalms offers many of David’s laments to God that were expressions of sadness, sorrow or disappointment when he faced betrayal and hatred from his enemies.  What I like about David’s laments is that, just like a good movie, they always seem to end well. 

@ Psalm 13
“O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” (1-2)  How long? I think we have a theme going here, and I’ve certainly sung this song.  At times I am convinced that heaven’s clock needs a new battery.  David asks, “Forever?” and forever is the key to the answer.  God’s timing is not based on the World Clock, it’s based on eternity.

God answers our cry to Him based on the timeless click of His eternal clock because He is more interested in our eternal destination than our temporary lament.  I love Him for that.  Sometimes in the delay, God is orchestrating our answer through others and at other times He is changing our own hearts.  Regardless of how long, He is answering according to our eternal good.

David snapped out of his despair and hope was renewed as he offered a prayer request to God.  Prayer is our indication to God that we have hope that He will respond to our need.  “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’  Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”(3-4)  Restore the sparkle in my eyes – how could our loving God, the One who put the sparkle in our eyes, resist that request!  When we pray without the disguise of contrived words or pretense and speak from our hearts, we touch God’s heart.

David talked himself right into trusting the Lord through his trial, “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” (5-6)   With hope renewed, David remembered that he could trust God’s unfailing love.  In fact, God had been so faithful to David in the past that he could rejoice ahead of time for the victory in this trial. Trusting God does not always give immediate answers, but it does give us the encouragement we need.   And finally, David burst into song – a song of praise about the goodness of God.  A great ending!

God understands our laments, but He doesn’t want us to wallow in them.  We can express our feelings, but we should give Him a prayer request as well. In doing so, we are expressing our confidence in Him to meet our needs. Then, filled with hope and trust like David, we will sing songs of praise in sync with the timeless click of His clock.  Tick-tock! 

Moving Forward:  No lamenting for me today. With a heart filled with hope and trust, I’m singing songs of praise, keeping with the beat of His tick-tock. 

Tomorrow @ Job 9-10

Joshua 21-24 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He blesses those who will serve Him today and every day

I’m sorry to bring this up, but it’s been 31 days since we made our New Year’s Resolutions, our big plans to make big changes for the New Year.  How’s it going? Sometimes our intentions are great, but our resolve, not so much. Joshua has thrown down the gauntlet for us today – we have been challenged!  Today, whom will we serve?

“So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.” (21:43-45)  The Lord knows how to keep a commitment. 

@ Joshua 24
Joshua, now 110 years old, called all the leadership of the tribes of Israel to Shechem to present one last challenge to God’s people.  After a brief history of the faithfulness of God, Joshua presented his challenge, “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (14-15)  There, he said it!  The line has been drawn, the die has been cast, the gauntlet has been thrown.

In this scripture, the term serve means to admire or follow someone worshipfully.  Just like the Israelites who affirmed that they would serve the Lord Jehovah, our intentions every day are to serve the Lord.  I heard a television pastor ask his congregation one Sunday morning as he got up to speak, “Did you serve the Lord this week?”  The large congregation responded “yes” with enthusiasm.  The pastor quickly asked, “Well, what did you do?”  Dead silence filled the sanctuary.

“Choose today whom you will serve.”  We can’t rest on yesterday’s resolve to serve the Lord because today is a new day with new challenges.  The idols we are tempted to serve may be different than those of Joshua’s day, but they consume our thoughts and time just the same leaving little room for worshiping the Lord and reading His Word.  They come in many shapes and sizes:  our jobs, our children – yes, even our children – pleasures, sleep, community involvement, etc.  Of course, these are not bad things, they just aren’t God.

If the words to the old Bob Dylan song are correct, and I think they are, then “you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed. You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Joshua has challenged us to choose today and reaffirm each and every day in the daily routines of life the one who will receive our admiration and worship.  Choose today whom you will serve.

Moving Forward:  I accept Joshua’s challenge – as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 12-14

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