The Lord is our strength and our shield.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Psalm 28:7, ESV).

      The Lord is our strength and our shield and in Him we exult and find joy. Not just momentary happiness because joy is more than happiness! Happiness comes from joy and joy can be the result of happiness but joy is deeper. Joy holds when the emotion of happiness fades away in the change of the moment or circumstance. Those that trust in the “Joy of the Lord,” love the Lord above all else and they trust Him in every way and in every situation, circumstance and difficulty.They are not focused on the situation, circumstance or the difficulty because their eyes are focused on their Savior and they are trusting in Him for their joy!

      For the “Joy of the Lord” to be our strength and our shield we simply live in the joy of the Lord. The joy in the Lord is both a Holy Spirit guided, faith infused perspective and confidence in our Lord as Savior and a deep delight and fulfillment in what He did, does and will always do for us. This anchoring trusting faith of the true disciple thus finds joy exclusively in the Lord regardless of any situation, place, difficulty or circumstance they might encounter in their life.

A Prayer to the Lord

LORD, You are my strength. Thank you for anointing me and building a fortress around me to protect and shield my life. Thank you for saving me and blessing me as your inheritance. Be my Shepherd in all things and carry me forever. Oh Lord, You are our joy! Amen. (Adapted from Psalm 28:7-9)

Just tired out …


National Gallery of Art, NGO Image, Public Domain

“The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:8B-10, ESV).

     We have all been fatigued, discouraged and just plain tired. We become tired and having expended effort and energy into something, we may just want give it up.  After a period of time, our interest and dedication in things has waned  or maybe it has just disappeared completely. It can leave quickly or it can slowly just fade away as we devote less and less attention to what we were once interested in because we are just tired of it.

      We can become tired of things as diverse as tangible projects and creations and we can become tired of community causes and interests as well. In all of this, there may or may not be any direct repercussions to people in most of our moving on from specific projects or causes.

      Something quite different happens when we get tired in our efforts and involvement in the lives of others around us. Whether we are coming along side someone who is discouraged offering them support or encouraging another person in finding new pathways through a difficult situation or problem, our efforts are needed. There are people involved and they are relying on us to help them on their way. Their lives are important. There is nothing easy about being in the place where people are involved and we want to give up and quit. We have given much in most of these cases but more grace, love and commitment are needed in the lives of those needing our help. Yet, we feel like quitting because we are just tired of it all.

      So then, where do we go when we are in this tired place? God wants us to remember, something greater is at work. He is working through us. He has plans in what we are doing. He needs us to give grace, love and commitment to others so His workmanship can continue in their lives.

      Beyond all of this, is the simple reality … God through his work in and through us will bring about a great harvest of goodness from all that we do out of our love for Him. Furthermore, when we cry out in our weaknesses, He supplies more grace through His Spirit to complete any service to Him and to those around us. He comes to help and encourage us to continue. There will always be blessing in all that we do for God in the lives of others and we will always find blessing in the new life created in us along the way. God will always do something in our lives beyond our expectations, if we continue to serve Him beyond any and all moments when we are tired of doing good.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more that we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NLT).

Suggested Reading … Galatians 6

A Branch on the Vine


      At the center of all that is living is the One who created and gives all there is to life. It is a gift of grace from our Creator to be given a life to live. It is a gift of grace to be given a new life as follower of Christ; forgiven and free from our sin as we are redeemed and sanctified as we live out our days. Most of all, it is an indescribable gift of grace to be given life eternal. All of life from beginning unto eternity comes from the “Giver of Life” and we should live out our lives in gratitude and thanks.

      Christ desires that we live out our lives drawing from Him as the source of all substance and life. He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:1-11). We live as the body of Christ, alive in the life He gives us in His saving and sanctifying us. It is His love that we are drawing our life from and it is His love that flows through us into the lives of others. This is the most important part of our living as the branches of the vine. This happens as we love others and the world around us. It is what He desires most of all and it is what He states will be the defining mark of His Body, the Church. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

      We cannot fake this love, nor can we try by our best intentions to love this way. Our loving has to come from our dying to our selfish ways and making everything we do in our fellowship about following and loving our Lord. This means in our personal life and in our life together as a part of the “Body of Christ,” which is His church around the world. If we love Christ above all else, it will change our lives and our world.

      As Christ changes our lives, we should be excited to give witness to the power that has changed us. This translates into the sharing of the Christ that is our Lord with our friends and family and the world around us. Our witnessing to what He has done in our lives will then be natural and flow out of the work of the Holy Spirit in making us new. This happens as we die to ourselves and let Christ flow into us as His branches. May we remember His great love for us in forgiving all of our sins and may we let His love flow in and out of us as we love those around us with His love. May we be true branches on the true Vine of all life.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

Beware of any intent to hurt and harm!


Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “Anger” National Gallery of Art, Public Domain – NGA Image

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:43-45, NLT)

Revenge may seem sweet for a moment but the harm is immense and demons of destruction released are not content with measured amounts of justice. The chaos and damage can engulf the taker of revenge and the receiver of revenge. Even the strong can be crushed and bitterness and misery can come like a flood in haunting and unrelenting ways. The revenge which seems so sweet at the moment can extract unforeseen costs and leave a desolate landscape and legacy of torment and pain which can last for a long time. In the lives of individuals and in the scope of nations; revenge seldom leaves a pretty picture.

Yet, something incredibly miraculous happens when we venture around the corner of intending upon inflicting revenge on someone and turn to walk on the street of praying for our enemies. Slowly the desire to damage someone is remade by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit into love. It is a hard walk to the corner as we let go of human nature but the view after the turn, unto the street of grace brings us face to face with God as He release His blessing into our life. It is the truth, Jesus desired we find, as our hearts are purified. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, ESV). As the forgiveness of Christ liberates us from the prison of sin; forgiving others with the forgiveness of Christ frees us to experience His grace midst great joy.

Forgiving another is also the only way; others can connect the gift of the forgiveness of Christ available to them with the living Christ residing in you. Around the corner of revenge is the street of grace and it is a wonderful pathway to God’s greatest blessings. Turn the corner away from revenge and experience the freedom you will find as you walk on the street of forgiveness and grace. You may be surprised, but then again God is full of surprises because He does more than we can dream or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

From the Ancient Church …
“If you are remembering evil against someone, then pray for him; and as you remove through prayer the pain of the remembrance of the evil he has done, you will stop the advance of the passion. And when you have attained brotherly love and love for mankind, you will completely cast this passion out of your soul. Then when someone else does evil to you, be affectionate and humble toward him, and treat him kindly, and you will deliver him from this passion.”

St. Maximus the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 3.90 (580-662 C.E)

Suggested Reading … Matthew 5

Be wary of the condemnation which comes from your own sinful heart.

“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20, ESV).

There is not a single living person that has lived a perfect life. In fact in all of history, there has been only one perfect life and this life was lived out by our Savior, Jesus Christ. This fact forms the basis of both the truth of human sinfulness and the grace of God which Christians believe saves and sanctifies all of us as imperfect people.

Yet even as forgiven Christians, we live out our lives struggling at times with guilt and shame from our past and our less than perfect life. In reality, we may have acquired the wisdom to realize the danger of listening to our human hearts that would lead us into sin through wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and excess. We may have seen how sin creeps into our living at different moments. We most likely know from our life experiences, the deceitfulness of our hearts in the minimizing of the reality of sin and its consequences (Jeremiah 17:9).

Thus in our humble appraising of our own weaknesses we can find the keys and strength to counter the allure of sin; yet there remains another side to the deceitfulness of the human heart. This deceitfulness lingers around our past sin because it drags us into the sea of guilt and shame like an ocean sleeper wave with a dangerous undertow.

We stand in the surf at times and yet can be oblivious to the momentary lapses of remembrances that come in the form of an overpowering tugging from the residue of past sins. Sometimes this pull is so strong that we end up in water full of confusion, regret and shame. Our best efforts may never heal the hurt we have caused, reduce the consequences or redeem even the smallest aspects of those sins but we must never forget the power found in the grace of Christ to forgive and heal us from all sin.

We must remember the reality of God’s amazing grace to cover all sin, including all of our sin. We must speak the truth of Christ’s sufficiency in forgiving all sin and taking away all condemnation into our human heart. No matter what we feel at any moment, the truth of Christ’s redeeming and sanctifying love must be rock upon which we stand until the teeming waters of doubt subside. Thus we stand upon the rock of faith, remembering “there is no condemnation in Christ” and this is the unwavering truth in our lives regardless of what we feel because of God’s mighty work in declaring and securing as His children.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do …” (Romans 8:1-3, ESV).


The Heavens Declare


The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world (Psalm 19:1-4, ESV).

The light screeches across the evening sky in brilliant colors sparkling with shimmering dust as if it contained gold and chrome. The contrast between dark heavens and illuminated flashes is strikingly moving. We stand and strain our necks to make sure we take in the total experience of this spectacle that we look forward to each year as our nation celebrates its birthday. We gather to watch and in many place there is an admission charge to watch the fireworks displays. Some like the falling colors after the explosion, some like the streaking tail of the rocket type ordinance, some like the piercing sounds, some like the booming retort, some like just being with friends on a summer evening and some just simply hate fireworks. Especially really small children have problems with the loud noises and unpredictable nature of the whole event. I like the cluster type fireworks with their extra bonus like explosions and crackling sparkles.

All of this color, sound, and glittering feast for the eyes can be celebratory and wonderful but it nothing in comparison to the show that God puts on each and every day through His creation. There are sunsets with mixtures and hues of color beyond any painter’s or photographer’s ability to capture. Every night the heavens overflow with stars dazzling endlessly in their capacity to shine and in the sheer vast quantity that cannot even be named or numbered. The list of amazing spectacular beautiful and sensual experiences unfolding in each and every day and night which are free to behold are quite endless. The experiences which become brief of monumental focus points on an the endless spectrum of seasons and life on the earth we live on are noteworthy and bring us incredible joy. Yet in the array of all of this sensory delight, there is a greater realization which should stagger us beyond what we see, smell or touch.

What is greater and what is of more significance, remains as an amazing fact; God created, ordered and designed all that we behold around us on the earth and in the heavens above us. All of this simple and spectacular reflects His care, provision and beauty. It should cause us to exclaim as Job did as he repented of his pride and gave the glory to God, “I know nothing about things too wonderful for me” (Job 42:3). The expressions vocalized in our “ooohs” and “aaahs” when we attend various celebrations with man-made colorful and explosive sights are miniscule in comparison what we should feel about the wonder of God and the created world that proclaims His glory. Let us be awed and let us give Him praise. For it is He who “causes the dawn to appear in the east,” “visits the storehouse of the snow,” “lays out the path of the lightning,” “gives birth to the dew,” and is able to “count all the clouds” (Job 38). His dazzling show is endless and the spectacle is truly beyond description. Let us join with the endless praise bursting forth from the heavens and give our praise and thanks unto the Lord.

Suggested Reading … Psalm 19

Originally posted around July 4th, 2014 – Re-posted 9-08-2014 under new title, due to a tag applied to original post which resulted in hundreds of spam comments.

In all things …

Ordinary 5

“You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:7-8, NIV).

     Isn’t it amazing how little regard and recognition we sometimes give to the God who created us, redeems us, knows us, sustains us, protects us and saves us? Even though hundreds of promises are given to us in His Word, of His watchful, long-suffering, patient and wonderful love being fixed upon us as His children; we tend to forget this reality.

    If you do not see any reason to praise God in the ordinary, you’ll most likely not see Him in the extraordinary. If you are not thankful in the commonness of each day, you will probably not be thankful when God does mighty things for you. If you do not trust God in the affliction, you will not know Him in the blessing. If you do not honor God in the mundane, you will not seek Him in your need. If you do not desire God in your days, your life will not reflect Him when it ends. If God is not in your legacy at your passing, you will have missed your true purpose in living.

     We not only fail at times to remember His attentive presence but we also fail in being appreciative and thankful. We at times fail to praise Him in all we have been given out of His tremendous bounty. He is ever faithful to provide as we seek Him for all our basic and momentary needs while at the same time delighting to bring us the gifts of peace and presence in mighty ways when He sees our needs as our Heavenly Father.
We need to be thankful and we need to give our God praise and honor, for He is always present in our lives with His love, care and grace. He is present in the ordinary and He is present in mighty ways, we just need to see it and be thankful to Him in all ways, in all things and in all your days.

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” (Psalm 34:1-2, NIV)