BLESS THE LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
BLESS THE LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
The LORD performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.
But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children, To those who keep His covenant And remember His precepts to do them.
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
BLESS THE LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word!
BLESS THE LORD, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will.
BLESS THE LORD, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Psalms 103:1-22 NASB1995
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” Colossians 2:8-10 NASB1995
“Temper tantrums, harsh and unkind words, hatred and obscenities have no place in the Christian life. This isn’t about developing some public spotless image, but about deep change in my friendships, family, marriage and dealings with people in the workplace. The new self produces new words and new relationships. Sometimes we’re so eager to get our way that we can compromise honesty and openness. In those moments, though, we’re starting to live outside of Christ and we’re undoing what God has done amongst us.” (from Andy Mason’s Colossians Alive in Christ devotional)
“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—” Colossians 3:8-10 NASB1995
It’s too easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of a charismatic man or woman. In churches and in politics, there are many who have no problem saying whatever they think will advance them the furthest. Acquiring money or followers, they use deceptive to pull us in. They don’t care about telling lies if it gets them what they want. You wants and needs don’t figure in to their plans – but they use our problems as props to get the things they want.
As followers of the Way, Christ followers, lovers of the Truth and the Word, we have to be particular and discerning in who we listen to and what we choose to believe. No one is perfect in this world; I think Paul is quite clear about that. The thing that differentiates you and me from the world is twofold. First, and foremost, as flawed and imperfect as we are, we are forgiven, washed clean, and we are new beings in Christ. Second, as new beings, it is critical that we put on that new self and test everything before blindly following someone because they say the “right” things.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 NASB1995
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NASB1995
Don’t be deceived, friends. Test everything and everyone against the Scriptures. If you checking them causes them to be angry or upset, that’s a good sign that perhaps they aren’t the one you should be listening to. Remember that no one is perfect, and we are not put here to judge people. We are here to pray for them and encourage them, and to tell them about Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Light. In the words of Paul:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-25, 28 NASB1995
“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalms 34:15-18 NASB1995
I’ve done a lot of that in my life. Crying, I mean. Not as a righteousness person, either. Although I grew up in the church, when I left home for college it only took a few months for the enemy to seduce me away from God. Boys (because they certainly weren’t mature enough to be called men), recreational drugs, alcohol, the thrill of being kissed and touched and told how beautiful I was…. I would go home, back to my parents house, for breaks and pretend nothing had changed with me. Reflecting on that time, I’m sure the only one I was fooling was myself. After just 2 years, I left school and married the man of my dreams. It quickly became more of a nightmare than a dream.
A miserable pregnancy, an unfaithful, abusive husband, and I was still pretending to the world and my parents that life was good. The facade was thin, and I think more people saw through it than believed it, but I wasn’t giving up. Pull yourself up, girl! Stand by your husband, submit to your man, and keep up appearances. I couldn’t allow my parents, let alone God, to know how badly I had fallen, so I stayed, the great pretender. As the abuse became more severe, I became more angry and belligerent, especially towards God. How could He allow this to happen? So I turned further away from Him. He didn’t reach down and fix my life, so I rejected Him. But I still pretended to my family.
After eight miserable years, I divorced him and gave up my daughter to a family member. Anything to keep him from having custody. It was like tearing out my heart, but I knew it was the best thing for her. My life didn’t get better. It seemed that I was destined to stay with abusers. The enemy led me to another one. I was mesmerised; in a trancelike state for months, subject to his ….. what? Desires, whims, abuses? I can’t describe what happened, because it was like a dream, or more like a nightmare, that I couldn’t escape from. Ironically, it was my abusive husband who rescued me from that situation.
Was life with him different than before? Not really, but it was better than the nightmare I had been in. For years, I moved from man to man, looking for my Knight in Shining Armor, my Saviour. I lived in a homeless, hopeless state. For a period of time, with my third husband, life improved greatly. Together, we became active in church, putting God in a prominent place in our lives. I’ll tell you now that it’s critical to put God in a prominent place, but unless He is FIRST, it won’t last. It was good, until the enemy got a toe hold into our lives, and pulled my husband away from God and from me.
After that, I spiraled. It wasn’t pretty. Outwardly I looked like I had it together, but inwardly I was angry at God and refused to let Him have my heart. That’s a dark spot. I allowed abusive men back into my life, and several years passed as I pretended to be a Christian but couldn’t allow God to have control. I was going to do it myself. God got my attention. Husband five was my breaking point; my “bottom”. I took him to a Christ-centered 12 step recovery program so that he could get his act together (because there was nothing wrong with me. Ha!).
God has a sense of humor. The husband left, rejecting the program, God, and me. I stayed in the program. Funny thing, my biggest lesson was that I wasn’t so perfect after all!
Life is full of the good, the bad, and plenty of the ugly for all of us. It isn’t easy for anyone, even our children. That’s just a fact. Rich, poor, any shade of color, every continent, every nation. Life is hard. So why bother with living? Because God gave us life through His Son Jesus! Because of Jesus, I can face all the ugly in my life. Because of Him, I can face today. Every. Single. Day. Living with Jesus, and putting Him first means that I am never alone, and it means that when I can’t take the next step, He will hold me and carry me through it.
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12 NASB1995
“…. and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB1995
Our walk with Christ is personal; it is not private or individual, and it is critical for our spiritual health to come together with fellow believers. Are you too lazy to get up and get ready to attend a service? I have been, too many times. We can be conceited or arrogant, and think we don’t need the church. It’s possible to worship when out in nature, and as uplifting as it can be, it can never replace meeting with others of God’s people. Worldliness will also cause us to abandon Christ. When sports or shopping keeps away from church, we are hurting not only ourselves, but others who rely on us to be an example of Christianity. Willful sin cuts us off from the lifeline of the church.
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26 NASB1995
A passion for Christ, Who is the head of the church, is a passion for the church. Just as it was the custom of Jesus to attend services (Luke 4:16), it should be our custom, our desire, to attend church and be with God’s people. Gather together in God’s Presence, His “church”. Christ promises to be with us, when 2 or more gather…. it is a time of renewal; a reference point that helps us define where we are in our lives. Being together helps us to consider and encourage others. When we are active and participating, we help the church to be all that it can be by encouraging others through our attendance, and through praying for each other.
We are preparing for the end of the world as we know it: there is wide spread apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), a move toward a one world government, and the pandemic. We need to gather today in preparation of the ultimate gathering at the Rapture. We aren’t going to live here on earth forever, but know this: everyone will live SOMEWHERE for eternity. Will you live in Glory with Christ, or will you be stuck for eternity in agony with the enemy of Christ? Only you can decide.
“So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”
In the days that Jesus lived, people wore sandals and walked to get where they were going. As you can imagine, that made for dirty feet! Typically, it was a lowly job, and the lowest servant’s job, to wash the feet of anyone who came into the house. Jesus took on that role to make a point. Let me ask you, have you ever had anyone offer to wash your feet? (It would be unusual to visit someone today and have them offer to wash your feet. We wear shoes, so it’s not as if we need the dust washed off.) Years ago, my pastor and his wife illustrated this story by asking a couple of members of the congregation to allow them to wash their feet. I was one of those people. It was an honor, but also very a humbling experience. To have someone I honored and looked up, washing my feet. Servants who lead; leaders who are servants. The very best and most effective leaders are servants.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ 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 13:12, 14-18, 34-35 NASB1995
We fail mightily today at following this commandment. Remember, Jesus gave us the most important commandments.
“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40 NASB1995
I think, if more of those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, would claim and live these verses, our world would undergo a dramatic change. It starts with me. What do you think?
“This is the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:23-24 NASB
I think every part of my body hurts this morning; every muscle, every joint, even my brain. My eyeballs hurt. I am weary. I have to be thankful, though, because it slows me down so that I can see what a beautiful morning God has given us. It’s a very unusual morning for Oklahoma in August. At 7am, the temperature is in the high 60’s, and it is calm. There’s only an occasional breeze that floats by like a whisper. The birds are singing, and other than the birdsong, it is quiet. Since I live in an urban neighborhood, that’s pretty unusual, too!
“Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:30-31 NASB
Move forward. Remember that God is in control. No matter how bad it gets. Frustration, aches and pains, irritations, aggravations will all pass well. Look for the good in everything. I am alive. I’m not unhealthy (well, mostly!!), I have a home and 2 dogs who think I’m the best thing since sliced bread – especially when I share it with them!
Will life get tough? Oh, yes. Will bad things happen? Without a doubt. Will people disappoint you, betray you, let you down? Absolutely.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 NASB
GOD will never disappoint, He will never betray, He will never let you down. When everything looks black, when everyone has let you down, turn to Jesus.
Listen to Casting Crowns’ song East to West. Here’s part:
Endless reminding of my sin
And time and time again
Your truth is drowned out by the storm I’m in
Today I feel like I’m just one mistake away
From you leaving me this way
Jesus, can you show me just how far the east is from the west?
Rising up in me again
In the arms of your mercy I find rest
You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
Turned my darkness into light
I need your peace to get me through
To get me through this night
But by the truth your word reveals
And I’m not holding onto you
But you’re holding onto me
You’re holding onto me
JESUS is the answer. No one else will get through this life with you without hurting you. He is THE Way. THE Truth, and The Light. He is LIFE.
Can I get an Amen?
“I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of Praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. How Blessed is the man who has made the LORD his Trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” Psalms 40:1-4 NASB
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 NASB
Picture two vultures sitting on a branch, hungry, waiting on something to die so they can eat. One turns to the other and says “Patience my ass, I want to kill something.” ….. Yes, it’s crude, but very descriptive of how we often act when God doesn’t deliver WHAT we want, HOW we want, WHEN we want. I don’t like to wait. It’s often painful, and aggravating. We are God’s garden. Ask anyone who grows things, and they will tell you that plants often have to be aggressively pruned in order to get the best fruits and flowers and vegetables. They have to be patient, and wait for that plant to produce and mature. God is patient with us, and He is training us to produce the best. I’M not patient, but I’m very grateful that HE is.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB
This is so true. I married young because I wanted to. Emphasis on “I WANTED.” There were lots of reasons, but I was in LOVE. God wasn’t in that marriage, and it was a disaster. I spent years trying to “fix” my life without God, using human men as a poor, poor substitute. Ladies, pay attention to those who love God and who love you. Listen to their counsel. Pray about any relationship. If you feel ANY hesitation, STOP. Same for you guys. If GOD isn’t first in the relationship, It. Will. Be. A. Disaster. Might takes years, but without the LORD, no relationship will prosper. It’s no fun, seeing friends in relationships when you/I am not ….. but, back to that “patience” thing. Trust the LORD. He knows. He KNOWS.
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven….” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NASB
God knows. He knows what we want, but more importantly He knows what is best for us. Really. We don’t. As difficult as it is, listen to Him, even when it isn’t what we want to hear. God is in control. Don’t be a backseat driver!
Do you know GOD’S Love? It is Essential, it is Effectual, and it is Eternal to Life. Not life, but Life. Without God’s Love, there is no Life. Without it, we are just going through the motions; living through emotions. Love and hate. The emotions we base our lives on, the feelings we base everything on. Emotions aren’t bad. God wouldn’t have created us with them if they were. Emotions, like everything good on earth, have been distorted through sin and the enemy’s manipulation of Creation. Love was twisted into envy, despair, jealousy, malice, prejudice, ill will, covetousness, rivalry, resentment….. hate. We are all guilty, and I am guilty above all else.
It is Essential that we who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ give His Love a priority within ourselves. No matter what we do, if we do it without God’s Love, it means nothing. It is all ashes.
There are 4 Greek Words for love: eros, storge, philia, and agape. Most people know that eros is erotic love, the physical. Storge is familial love. It refers to the natural and instinctual love of a parent towards their children and vice versa. Philia is the love we have between good friends. Agape is the most important, because that is God’s Love. It wasn’t a common word for the Greeks to use, but it is the word for love that the Bible uses and it is the essence of Love, the kind of love that Jesus personifies.
“4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. …… 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 NASB
We would do well to focus on these verses, especially in light of what is going on around us today. I’m talking to myself. When I see rioting and destruction, and hear the hate filled rhetoric that is being spewed across all forms of communication, it’s so easy to fall into judgement. Those things aren’t right, but I still need to love those people. Not agree with them, but love them in spite of their actions. People in positions of influence and authority have a huge burden to do the right thing, and they are failing miserably. I think that’s why it’s so important for you and I to do our best to emulate Jesus today.
Remember, “the greatest of these is love.”
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 NASB
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” Romans 8:18-19 NASB
Not if, but when bad things happen, how do we handle them? “Why me, God! What did I ever do to deserve this horrible thing!” Isn’t a better question, “Why not me, God?” I don’t deserve anything good; I deserve everything bad…. I am a sinner, and the only good thing in me is the Love and forgiveness of my Saviour, Jesus Christ. When we experience the bad, what do we do with it?
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 NASB
Elizabeth Elliot, missionary, faced many dark times while on the mission field, including losing her husband. After one experience, where a friend was killed, she wrote this:
“Now if I had had a faith that was determined God had to give me a particular kind of answer to my particular prayers, that faith would have disintegrated. But my faith had to be founded on the character of God Himself. And so, what looked like a contradiction in terms: God loves me; God lets this awful thing happen to me. What looked like a contradiction in terms, I had to leave in God’s hands and say okay, Lord. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. But I only had two choices. He is either God or He’s not. I am either held in the Everlasting Arms or I’m at the mercy of chance and I have to trust Him or deny Him. Is there any middle ground? I don’t think so.”
What a statement! “He is either God or He’s not.” Will you stand on the side of the ALMIGHTY, alongside Elizabeth Elliot, Daniel, Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego, Paul, Peter, John…… we either stand with Him, or we are against Him. Jesus said “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16 NASB
Where are you? With Him, or against Him?