God is our Deliverer
“Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains… Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. He sent forth His Word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.” Psalm 107:10, 13, 14, 20
I have always had a fascination with prisons. Even as a child, I remember driving through the countryside and would come upon a tall watchtower and immediately I would become alert to the barbed wire fences around the perimeter. Several years ago, I had a strong conviction to lead a weekly women’s bible study at our county jail. I was blessed to meet hundreds of ladies – all with a different background and criminal past.
There’s something about being in prison that produces despair, gloom, and loneliness- which is why I loved being able to share the light and hope of God’s Word.
One thing I’ve found is that you don’t have to be behind prison walls to be a prisoner. You may be walking through a prison of your own. Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy your life. (John 10:10)
What is your darkness?
What are the lies Satan is speaking to you?
How are you suffering?
How do you need to be healed?
No matter what prison of darkness you’re in the midst of and no matter how deep your gloom, God loves you. God gave you His Word to heal you. God sacrificed the blood of Jesus to rescue you from the grave. The Christian life doesn’t make sense without eternity. Even in the midst of your sadness, there is celebration because we know how God’s grand story will end.
“Not about Me”
”And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.” 1 Kings 18:36 ESV
As a parent I have bestowed some valuable wisdom on my children over the years. “If all your friends jumped off a bridge…,” “I don’t care what Johnny’s parents let him do…,” “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all” and so many others.
One of my favorites is “the world doesn’t revolve around you.” I know I didn’t like hearing that one when I was young. I wanted the world to revolve around my preferences, my schedule, and my happiness – all around me. Fortunately the world doesn’t revolve around me, my children, or even you. The world revolves around God. Elijah understood this. Elijah was facing 450 false prophets of Baal when he declared to God that “you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant.” Take time to read 1 Kings 18:20-40 and see how God showed himself in a mighty way and proved Elijah’s claim to be true.
When you know God, and know that he is the one true God, you are free to serve Him with confidence. You know that the world doesn’t revolve around you. It revolves around Him.
Father, thank you that you are at the center of this world. Forgive me when I am self-centered and teach me to serve like Jesus, who took on the form of a servant and was obedient to death on the cross. Convict me when I act as if life revolves around me. Make me aware of opportunities to serve you and others.
“Here or There”
“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it” – Ecclesiastes 3.14a
A couple of weeks ago, Jason Smith shared a devotional with our staff. He talked about contentment and our common misconceptions with the virtue.
He held his hand about head level and then extended it upward as long as it would go. He told us that most people think they’ll be content when they make a move from some lower position to a higher position – it could be a financial move, a job advancement, an improvement of some sort, etc. Basically, most of us believe that we’ll be content when we move from “here” to “there.”
Solomon was not the greatest king in Israel, but he was the king during the greatest era of Israel’s history (2 Chronicles 9.22-23). Tradition and scholarship hold that Solomon was also closely associated with the writing of Ecclesiastes, if not it’s actual author. I will often encourage college students to read Ecclesiastes 2 in order to keep their priorities straight. How could someone who had it all can call it “a vanity and a chasing after the wind” (Ecc 1.2, 14, 2.11)?
Is it possible that all of our extended hands and overhead “there’s” will be equally as unsatisfying as what we currently have right now?
We’re now well removed from the disappointments of un-received Christmas gifts, but we’re also far enough from the holiday to realize that what we got didn’t make a lasting difference on our overall life satisfaction. Rather than strive for “there,” why don’t we spend some time today seeking contentment in our “here?” Try making a gratitude list – you might be surprised at how energizing it can be to be content! The things that fill my list are rooted in eternity, pulling pieces of the eternal Kingdom into my everyday.
“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” Luke 24:32
Today’s verse is from a familiar story in Luke 24 where we find two disciples walking to Emmaus and discussing together the recent events of Jesus’ death – just two days prior. They were discouraged because they had hoped that Jesus was the one who would redeem Israel, and they did not understand all that had happened. Jesus came along the road and started discussing it with them, though they did not recognize him. Starting with the writings of Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what Scripture had said all along about how Jesus had to die and be raised again to redeem Israel. What an amazing explanation that must have been!
As they sat down to dinner, their eyes were opened to the fact that it was Jesus they were speaking with all along the road. Jesus then vanished from their sight, and they said to each other, “didn’t our hearts burn as he explained Scripture (my paraphrase)?” I like to think of this “heart burn experience” as the same awake and alive feeling that we experience when we understand God deeper as we read his Word. Whether it is a fresh insight that we’ve not noticed before or a reminder of how great our God is, our heart burns within us, passionate about Him.
This isn’t a passion they mull over and keep to themselves. It moves them to action. They go back to the disciples and share it (vs 33-35). How about you? What has God been impressing on you through his word and how are you sharing it?
Read: Get into a comfortable position on your knees with this passage below before you. As you posture yourself in submission, ask God to help your heart match the posture of your body. Pray and tell God you want to engage with his Word in a submissive and surrendering spirit. Keeping the position, read the passage twice.
Psalm 96:7-10 The Message
Bravo, God, Bravo!
Everyone join in the great shout: Encore!
In awe before the beauty, in awe before the might.
Bring gifts and celebrate,
Bow before the beauty of God,
Then to your knees—everyone worship!
Get out the message—God Rules!
He put the world on a firm foundation;
He treats everyone fair and square.
Think & Pray: How often does your life reflect the posture of submission and surrender in which you just read that passage? Do you associate that posture with one of celebration? Richard Foster says in his book The Celebration of Discipline, “Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a wine-bibber and a glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things” (p. 196).
Pray and ask God to ignite within you a spirit of celebration that would cause others around you to wonder about the God of beauty and might we worship. Ask God also to help you set your mind on higher things today as you willfully pursue the discipline of celebration in a posture of surrender and submission.
Live: Find a worship song to listen to and spend several minutes praising our awesome God! If you need help finding a song – Google “Chris Tomlin – Jesus Loves Me” and watch one of the videos that pops up and practice the discipline of celebration today.
God is My Fortress
O my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. Psalm 59:17
Read Psalm 59
This passage has two parts. The first portion (vs 1-9) is primarily a prayer. The second half (vs 10-17) is a vow of praise. Many of the prayers in the Psalms are praises of anticipation for the expected answered prayer. Imagine the writer, David, crying out for God to deliver him from enemy attacks. David is being persecuted by King Saul and has done nothing wrong. Have you ever been attacked or accused of something that you didn’t do? How did you respond? Do you try to defend yourself by taking matters into your own hands or remember that God is all powerful and He will fight for you?
A fortress is defined as a heavily protected and impenetrable building. We must learn to rely on God to be our fortress for protection. When your life is messy, God should be your first response in calming your storm. David showed ridiculous acts of faith and trust in his Fortress. When David fought the mighty giant (1 Samuel 17), he was demonstrating his belief that God would defend him.
God will defend you as you trust Him. It takes a lot of faith to praise God in the midst of persecution before God answers our cries for help. Do you have the faith to praise God in advance by anticipating your answered prayers? Can you truly say that God is your strength and your fortress? Or do you rely on yourself? Ask God to increase your faith to trust Him to be your Protection. God loves you more than you can imagine and He wants to protect you.
2 Timothy 2:8-9
“Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendent of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained.”
Whenever I’ve read this passage in 2 Timothy, I’ve always thought about it in a bigger scale; like God’s word cannot be stopped in the sense of how long it’s lasted in history and how it’s survived all of the different rises and falls of different kingdoms, etc. But, rereading this scripture, it seems to me that it was written much more personal than that. Paul seems to be telling Timothy that no matter the chains that he’s feeling or the situation that he’s in the middle of; God’s word can always penetrate our hearts and cause us to be free from the chains.
There is nothing in Paul’s life, or Timothy’s life, or your life that has a tighter hold on you than the force of God’s holy word and the grace that can unchain any chain and free any slave. Dig into God’s word today to free yourself from the chains of your life. No matter what situation you’re in the middle of, God promises to be enough for you. His word cannot be chained; in history, or in your life.