Trust in God


Ezra 6-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He knows the plans He has for us and He has the power to bring them to pass

The only good thing I can say about the packing up and moving process is that we often run across pictures, notes and sentiments that we may not have seen for many years.  Memories come flooding to our minds of all the special days and special loved ones.  In a box of old photographs, I recently discovered a set of documents about my family’s history and their beginnings in their new country, the United States.  My rediscovered papers were a joy to read once again, but they were nothing compared to some old documents that were discovered deep in Persia about 2,500 years ago.

Israel has almost always had a difficult time defending, building and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem on the Holy Hill, Mt. Moriah.  Still today, they long to once again worship on the Temple Mount.  The situation found in the Book of Ezra was no different for the Jews returning to Jerusalem after their Babylonian captivity.  The ruling forces west of the Euphrates River did not want the Jewish refugees to rebuild their Temple, but God had other plans.

Through the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the Jewish leaders stated their case to the authorities and finally had to take a stand in order to be faithful to God’s command to build the temple regardless of the opposition.  In building our churches, our ministries and our homes, do we really ever want pagans who oppose God to determine our success?  God used the decrees of ungodly rulers, Cyrus and Darius, to change the situation, but the Israelites had to resist intimidation and take a stand. 

@ Ezra 6
“So King Darius issued orders that a search be made in the Babylonian archives, which were stored in the treasury. But it was at the fortress at Ecbatana in the province of Media that a scroll was found. This is what it said:  ‘Memorandum: In the first year of King Cyrus’s reign, a decree was sent out concerning the Temple of God at Jerusalem. Let the Temple be rebuilt on the site where Jews used to offer their sacrifices, using the original foundations.’” (Ezra 6:1-3)  Yes, tucked away in the distant Persian fortress of Ecbatana was an old decree from King Cyrus that the Jews returning home from Babylon captivity should build their temple.  Who would have thought of checking for them there?

I doubt someone was packing up and moving across town and just happened to run across this amazing document. Most certainly, God brought about its discovery!  God is never threatened by pagan governments or rulers, and He often uses them to carry out His will.  Because of this document, King Darius enforced King Cyrus’ decree, and even added benefits to the original deal.  I love the way God operates!

“So the Jewish elders continued their work, and they were greatly encouraged by the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. The Temple was finally finished, as had been commanded by the God of Israel and decreed by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia. The Temple was completed on March 12, during the sixth year of King Darius’s reign.” (14-16)   As had been commanded by the God of Israel!   Ezra had it right – this was God’s plan!  Foreign rulers had to bow to it, faithful prophets had to proclaim it and Jewish elders had to obey it.  And some dusty old documents had to be discovered to confirm it.

Whatever His plan is for us today, we can be confident of His unlimited resources to bring it about.  I’m so thankful that He is not stymied by opposition and that He helps us find the answers we need at every turn.                       

Moving Forward:  I’m placing my future in His hands today.  He’s the One with the plan and He will bring it to pass. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 134-136

Ecclesiastes 7-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  God takes care of the injustices in life so that we can live free

I remember a discussion I had with my dad many years ago regarding World War II and Adolph Hitler. In a study about Hitler, my teacher at school had left room for the possibility that Hitler had not died in the war. I’m not sure how much disgust and ire a 5th grader can muster about a past war, but I know that I was very upset.  That this monster could possibly still be alive and breathing was more than I could handle, and I immediately approached my dad about it when he got home from work.

Without a doubt, dad’s answer revealed his heart on the subject.  He thought there was enough proof that the evil man had died in the war, but if he had not, Dad hoped that the Jews had imprisoned him and that they were dishing out the kind of judgment he deserved.  My dad was not a vindictive person at all, but no one wants to see crimes of this nature left unpunished.  From our conversation, my indignation dissipated somewhat because I believed that justice had been served one way or another. 

@ Ecclesiastes 8
“I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. I have seen wicked people buried with honor…In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!” (9,14)  Solomon was disgusted as well that people seem to get away with evil at times, and the injustice of it made him feel as though life was meaningless.  It’s not so much a matter of wanting revenge, but it’s our nature to want to see people get what they have coming to them, whether they deserve good for their good deeds or evil for their evil deeds.

“But even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God.” (12-13)  Well, they may prosper here on this earth, but without repentance, eternity doesn’t look good for them.  The godly, however, look forward to the joy of eternity in heaven, and eternity is a very long time.

To counteract these injustices that occur on occasion, Solomon had a suggestion, “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” (15)  From all of Solomon’s writing, we understand that he was not suggesting that we act irresponsible in response to the unpunished evil that we see, but rather that we change our focus to the good things in life.

We have to let go of evil and injustice over which we have no control.  I’ve known too many dear souls that have allowed this very thing to eat at them until they are ill and depressed.  I’ve always believed that we allow evil to win when we let it diminish our joy and peace in life.  Evil that is out of our hands is punished best when we disregard its future and leave it to God to handle.  Our hurt and disgust will roll off of us like water off a duck’s back, and as Solomon suggested, let’s enjoy life. 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today that I don’t have to carry the weight of injustice and unpunished evil over which I have no control.  God will handle it all.

Tomorrow @ Zechariah 1-7

Ecclesiastes 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He gives the health and wealth we need to live a contented life

Planning a wedding with my daughter was one of the happier stages of my life.  I say stages because it really was quite a process.  Planning a wedding with my daughter was also one of the more stressful stages of my life.  A once-in-a-lifetime event always comes with extra pressure – one chance to get it right.  The wedding day held all the regular tensions plus a few last minutes glitches.  An hour before the wedding was to start, I was running around like the proverbial chicken with no head.

The church wedding coordinator, called the “Wedding Nazi” by some, caught me as I raced down the church aisle loaded with boutonnieres, etc.  She grabbed my arm and walked at a snail’s pace down the rest of the aisle.  “I’ve got to hurry,” I told her.  “No,” she said, “you’ve got to slow down, take some deep breaths or you will never remember this day,” and we strolled down the aisle together.  She was my “Wedding Angel” who saved the day for me, and I cherish the wonderful memory of a beautiful wedding.  Sometimes we just have to stop and and, yes, smell the roses regardless of the drive to do and to be. 

@ Ecclesiastes 5
“It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” (18-20)  Go-getters and Type A’s probably take exception to Solomon here, and there’s nothing wrong with working to provide for our families and doing what we can to improve our situation.  After all, most of the inventions of the last century came from this mindset.  But, when our drive removes all the pleasure from life and we never enjoy the fruits of our labors, we really have missed the point.

I can’t imagine spending every day of my life doing a job that I dislike.  Out of high school, my husband wanted to be a pharmacist because he had heard they made a lot of money.  While some people enjoy the stability and structure of counting pills, it would have been a miserable life for him because he is an adventurer, and 40 years of youth ministry has certainly been an adventure for him.  Solomon expressed the peace and contentment that comes with accepting what God has provided and planned for your life.

Paul certainly got it, “for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:11-12)   No striving, no rat race, no regrets, but contentment through Paul’s secret:  Christ who gives strength to do all things. (13)

When we accept the health and wealth that God has provided for us, we are so busy enjoying life that we forget about what we haven’t had or what may have been taken from us, and the past holds no regrets.  We just let it go…ahhh…deep breaths…and life is full of beautiful memories. 

Moving Forward: I’ll walk in contentment today, enjoying every step because of His faithfulness to provide just what I need for today.

Tomorrow @ Haggai

Psalms 128-130 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He is faithful to His Word, and we can count on Him

When a friend let me down many years ago, I ran to my mom crying with disappointment expecting some comfort from her.  She did console me somewhat but then informed me that all my friends would probably disappoint me at one time or another when I was counting on them; and furthermore, she said I would disappoint my friends.  In fact, she confessed that she, too, would disappoint me at times, but then she said Jesus was a friend I could depend on that would never fail me.  She was right.

@ Psalm 130
A few years ago I was going through a difficult time where I really needed the Lord’s help.  I had prayed and had done all that I could do in the situation.  In my daily Bible reading I came across this scripture in Psalm 130, “I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.” (5)  I wrote it out on note cards and placed them around my home so every where I turned I was reminded that I was trusting in the Lord, not in myself, my friends or anyone but Him.  I held on to this verse throughout the trial because of the hope that it gave me, and it carried me through to victory.

We find it easy to encourage someone to trust the Lord and to believe that they can count on Him, but so often they are hindered in trusting Him because of their past experiences.  A parent, friend, spouse or some individual they were counting on for love and support may have failed them at one time.  They find it hard to get past these moments of disappointment and really count on the Lord.  I’ve found it helpful to remember those in the Bible who faced the same thing.

Many believe that Hezekiah authored this Psalm.  He certainly was counting on the Lord to bring healing to His body when he was at death’s door, and God gave him 15 more years.  I think of the three Hebrew young men who faced the fiery furnace because of their faith but boldly declared, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)  These young men were counting on the Lord, but regardless of the outcome, they would serve the Lord.  I’m thinking that if they were able to trust Him in their dire need, surely we, too, can trust Him in anything that we may face.

Moses at the Red Sea, Joseph in prison and so many others were counting on the Lord to show up BIG in their lives, and He did.  Once again I find myself meditating on Psalm 130:5, memorizing my commitment to His faithfulness, “I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him.  I have put my hope in his word.”  Show up BIG Lord! 

Moving Forward: Today I declare it with my mouth that I am counting on Him to help me because I have put my hope in His Word. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 5-6

Ecclesiastes 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He plans the seasons of our life with His perfect timing

One fall I looked out a window every day for two months during my devotional time and viewed a metamorphosis take place before my eyes.  In the beginning, a stately chestnut tree, leafy and green, filled the expanse of my window, and I enjoyed its virulent green.  Within a week or two, the leaves began to change in color to a ripe rusty red.  The tree finally shed most of its vibrant colors, but eventually the bare branches hosted snow and ice over the coming months, glistening in the moonlight – jewels from Heaven.  Change is inevitable.  “For everything there is a season.” 

@ Ecclesiastes 3
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (1) Birth and death, plant and harvest, grieve and dance…the cycles of life.  Change is difficult when we forget that time is non-existent with God, but His timing is everything.  As with the beautiful chestnut tree, God controls the timing of everything and He can be trusted.

When our first child was born, I seemed to fret about some of the difficult stages of a newborn like lack of sleep, colic and her feeding schedule.  As she matured, I realized that these were but short seasons in her early months.  When our son came along and those difficult moments came, I was able to remind myself this, too, shall pass.  And of course, this is true in the seasons of our life.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” (9) Just as a tree changes its colors and a baby changes and grows, we’re wise to enjoy every stage of life.  We need not fret over the loss of colorful leaves or needed sleep or the change of anything, because this, too, shall pass.  Through the process of dying or change, new seasons bring about vibrant color or glistening jewels to our lives at just the right time.  We can appreciate every season we experience, regardless of the many changes life brings, understanding that His timing is perfect. 

Moving Forward: In every season in life, I know I can trust His timing and His plan.

Tomorrow @ Zephaniah

2 Chronicles 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His power is on our side to defeat the enemy

One of the best Christian songs of the 80’s was Carman’s The Champion, the battle of the ages between Lucifer and Jesus.  It reminds us of who our enemy is, but more importantly, it reminds us of Who our God is – The Champion!  King Hezekiah experienced God’s victory first hand when he trusted Him to fight his battle.

How refreshing to finally read about King Hezekiah, a king who was faithful to the Lord, a champion in his own right.  “In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.” (31:21)  Hezekiah’s heart for God directed him to restore temple worship and once again follow the laws of God, and the Lord rewarded his efforts.

The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to the Assyrians, and now King Hezekiah and the Southern Kingdom were under siege by them.  Hezekiah encouraged his people with these words, “Be strong and courageous!  Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” (32:7)

Hezekiah’s words were just what the Israelites needed as Assyrian King Sennacherib hurled his insults and threats at them, “What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power?…No god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!” (32:10,13-15)

Well, I can tell you I’ve been there.  The enemy comes around in the heat of the battle, pouring his lies and deceit to bring discouragement with a kidney punch or two.  Jesus called his bluff when He said of the devil, “He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)  Really, why would we believe anything he says?

We could only expect the enemy to hit below the belt when he belittles the power of the living God.  How foolish! It is then that the Spirit of the Lord rises up within us and just like Hezekiah’s uplifting words, we can encourage ourselves with the Word of God.  “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)  “No weapon turned against you will succeed.  You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you.” (Isaiah 54:17)   “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”  (Revelation 1:17)  The Champion!

“And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land.”  (32:21)  Sennacherib was defeated, discouraged and down for the count because a godly king “sought his God wholeheartedly.”  And we, too, will be victorious and defeat our enemy when we refuse his lies and accusations in the midst of the fight and turn to the Champion of our Faith, the Lord Jesus Christ who will take him down. 

Moving Forward: I won’t even begin to listen to the lies of the enemy today, much less believe him.  I seek God with my whole heart because the battle is His, and He always wins – He’s the Champion!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 125-127

Psalms 120-121 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He watches over us day and night and protects us from harm

Traveling around Europe, whether by car or train, we can’t help but notice the huge castle fortresses that were built centuries ago usually at the highest point of the city. They were built to hover over the city as a protector from enemies who could advance from any side.  Sentries stood guard day and night so that the city would never be hit by a surprise attack and the residents could work and sleep with the knowledge that they were protected.  Wouldn’t that be a great solace?  Well, we have our security systems, alarms and law enforcement today that help keep us safe, but sometimes we forget about our Sentry who is so highly skilled that He even sees the invisible forces that come against us.  Move over ADT!

@ Psalm 121
“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” (1-2)  It certainly does help to look up when we need help, but as the psalmist decided, we need to look a little higher than the mountains.  Our help comes from the Lord who made the mountains, the oceans and who made us, but He didn’t just create us and leave us to flounder here on earth.  No, He protects us as well.

“He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.  Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you!” (3-5) Just like the sentry guarding the city, the Lord watches over us 24/7, but from His vantage point, He sees both the visible and the invisible and is never taken by surprise.

Not only does He watch over us, but He stands with us, “The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.  The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.  The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.”(5-7) He stands with us like a shadow covering us from the intense heat of life and the darkness that comes. (Psalm 91:1) The word keeps speaks to His ability to preserve us as we walk through the harm that is all around us.

Sometimes when we’re going through an especially difficult moment we are tempted to think that God has closed His eyes or stepped away from His Sentry post, but nothing could be further from the truth.  God is faithful.  “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (8) And as we all know, forever is a very long time. 

Moving Forward:  So very thankful today for the protection of the Lord.  He watches over all my comings and goings and stands with me through the challenges. 

Tomorrow @Proverbs 31

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