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Give Life

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence” (Prov. 10:11). Do the things you say, the things you communicate, act as a source of life to people? If not, then we may need to check our hearts. The Bible makes clear that what comes out from our mouth (or in writing too) proceeds from our heart. Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).

The psalmist requests: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). He recognized the connection between what he meditated upon in his heart and the words the proceeded from his mouth. He desired that both will find favor in the eyes of God.

In modern English we metaphorically use the word “heart” to refer to our emotions and feelings; within the world of the Bible, the “heart” represents the “mind” and our cognitive reason. So, for both Jesus and the psalmist, our words reflect what we think about, and from those thoughts come words acceptable or dishonoring to God.

In each of these instances—Proverbs, Jesus, and Psalms—the words referred to pertain to what we say to others, how we speak to people. Our words to others betray the condition of our heart, what we meditate on, and whether or not we truly please God.

Our age of social media has invited everyone to digitally express themselves. Everyone now has a platform to comment about the events of the day and to “give people a piece of their mind.” What do your words say about your heart? Too often people will justify words that dishonor God by appealing to their attempts to defend God. “A source of life is the mouth of the righteous.” Do our words identify us as righteous? Do our words offer a source of life to those around us?

We live at a time when words have been weaponized, even by those claiming to follow God. The Bible is clear: your words tell the tale of your heart. Those who are righteous, their words give life. Give life with your words today.

PRAYER

Father, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable before You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

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Longing for God

In Psalm 42, the psalmist describes his yearning for God: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (v. 1). He imagines a deer thirsty from the heat seeking out the refreshing water of the stream, and he says that he thirsts after God in the same manner. What brought about this yearning in his heart?

We realize upon reading the psalm that the psalmist is not in a great place in his life; in fact, he is being led off into captivity. He comments that his tears have been his sustenance night and day. Those around him look at his circumstances and question, “Where is your God?” (v. 3). In the midst of his present circumstances, he recalls those times of great joy and celebration as he joined the festive crowds traveling to Jerusalem and the Temple (v. 4). His memory of these festive times stands in stark contrast to his current situation where he finds himself in an uproar and downcast. Yet, in the midst of his circumstances he encourages himself to hope in God convinced that he will see the Lord’s salvation (v. 5).

He then proceeds to describe how he feels washed over by his circumstances (v. 7). He feels forgotten by God and oppressed by his enemies (v. 9). Towards the end of the psalm, those around him still mockingly question him, “Where if your God?” (v. 10). His circumstances have not changed.

The striking feature of the psalmist in this psalm is that regardless of his circumstances he never loses sight of who God is—the One who commands His covenant loyalty towards the psalmist, the living God (v. 2), the God of my life (v. 8)—and because he knows who God is, he never despairs that God will eventually right his circumstances (v. 11). In other words, his circumstances never dictate his reality or perception of God. He recognizes that God answers those who cry out to Him. He responds to those who long for him as the thirsty deer does the streams of water.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your circumstances? Have you ever felt forgotten by God? Does life and even those around you scream, “Where is your God?” Don’t allow your circumstances to dictate what you know about God. The God of the Bible is the living God. His ear is not deaf to our cries, nor is his arm short to save us. Do we have the confidence to say like the psalmist, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (v. 11)?

PRAYER

Father, my soul thirsts for You as a thirsty deer longs for water. Regardless of my circumstances, You are my rock and my salvation. Amen.

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Learning to Obey

“While Jesus was here on earth, He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the One who could rescue Him from death. And God heard His prayers because of His deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered. In this way, God qualified Him as a perfect High Priest, and He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9). Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered.

Every parent understands that discipline and punishment assist in helping children learn to obey. So too, hardships are great instructors in life. No one enjoys it; no one seeks it out but suffering and discipline help us grow. If Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered, what should we expect as children of God?

We often approach God and our faith from a very egocentric view point: what can God do for me? Because our comfort is often our priority, we assume that it is His.

God is primarily interested in our obedience, not our comfort. He wants that through us, as we obey Him, we bring His love and mercy to those around us. If Jesus learned obedience and was perfected through what He suffered, we should anticipate that God will use trials and hardships in our lives in a similar manner.

When we confront trials and hardships in our lives, do we seek to use those opportunities to submit to the Lord and learn obedience to Him? Or, do we seek to have them removed from our lives; do we complain? We can only learn if we’re paying attention and if our perspective allows us to do so. No one enjoys hardships, trials, or suffering, but if we understand that through these circumstances God teaches us obedience and perfects us, then that allows us to submit to whatever we are going through having His goal as our end.

God will lead us into circumstances to test us to see if we will obey. He guides us for our growth for His glory. Do we allow Him to do that in our lives? Or do we complain and seek our own comfort and happiness?

PRAYER

Father make me like Your Son, who learned obedience through what He suffered; teach me to obey, and as life circumstances and hardships come my way, may my perspective be always to learn obedience to You through what I go through for Your glory. Amen.

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The Sign of Love

“If you love Me, keep My commands” (John 14:15). When we speak about love, we often refer to an emotional feeling, something that moves our emotions. Love for another, ourselves, and even God often boils down to that which we feel. If my feelings are high, then my love is stronger.

In the Bible, love is an action. Jesus tells His disciples that the sign of their love for Him is how they keep (obey) His commandments. The same remains true today; our obedience demonstrates our love of the Lord, not our emotions.

Jesus’ statement to His disciples parallels Moses’ instructions to the Israelites: “Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always” (Deut. 11:1; emphasis added). In the Old Testament, one showed his or her devotion to the God of Israel by obeying His commandments, doing what pleased Him. Action. Obedience.

The Bible is consistent in its message that we exhibit our love for God through our obedience to His commandments. Jesus asked His disciples, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). So, we not only display our love and devotion to Jesus by obeying Him, but we actually verify whether or not we truly identify Him as Lord, by our obedience.

We demonstrate our love for God, not by announcing it to others, or what we say on social media, or how excited we get singing in church; no, we demonstrate our love for God in our obedience, and specifically by how we love others (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 7:12; 22:35-40; John 15:12).

Do we see our love of God demonstrated in our pursuit of obeying Him?

We live in a world filled with a lot of talking, but do we daily seek to allow our actions to show the depth of our love and devotion to God? Do we identify ourselves as Jesus’ disciples by our keeping of His commandments? Jesus identified obedience as the evidence of our discipleship. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

PRAYER

Father, today I submit myself to Your will and commands. In everything I say and do, may I demonstrate the depth of my love and devotion to You. Amen.

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Learn to Rest, Not to Quit

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Have you ever thought of giving up on something in your life?

Maybe it was spiritually, a project at school, or a relationship that you cherish because you were exhausted? I know I have. Many times I found myself wondering how long this period in my life was going to last? Am I going to be in this situation for long? Why isn’t anything moving at all? I find myself not being able to get up and try something new, to do something I have never done before. I can’t find the inner and spiritual power to do that. 

Some time ago, my father sent me a quote, nothing spiritual or bible related, but a phrase that made me turn my life around. Have you ever thought how a phrase your Dad found on “Facebook” could be life-changing? I mean, social media, in my perspective, is a system of “liking” or “commenting” on posts of the friends you skip meeting with and find millions of excuses not to engage with.

This phrase was, “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit…” Did these words just blow your mind? They certainly did for me.

No matter how many times I read this phrase, it never loses its meaning. It goes all the way through my spine to the top of my head. God teaches us from the very beginning of creation to rest. The Lord rested on the seventh day. Can you imagine it for a moment? God Almighty, the one who never sleeps, rested.

So why are we skipping that part? Why are we chasing success that eventually brings us to a breaking point? One of the things I have learned after living in Israel for over 20 years is that we don’t know how to stop. Everyone at work or school is always so stressed. We are running after a fake clock that dictates our lives. In all this craziness, I find myself losing precious time. 

I want God to dictate my time, a time I rather spend chasing His will and hearing His voice.  Why are we not so quick in quitting on our jobs, but super quick to quit on God? Sometimes all it takes is to rest. Rest on God’s word, rest in His spirit and promises.  

Don’t quit on the Lord, He knows the plans that He has for you. Didn’t we all have that scripture prayed over our lives at least once? I know I want to rest and not quit in my walk with Jesus. 

Learn to rest my brothers and sisters, in peace, love, tenderness, and sweetness of our Father. For me, quitting isn’t an option anymore.    

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Don’t Worry

After telling His disciples that they cannot serve both God and money, He instructed them, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. … So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt. 6:25-34).

In our world, predicated upon anxiety and worry (think about the news), Jesus’ words seem ridiculous. Don’t worry? Don’t be anxious? It’s a statement seemingly disconnected from our reality. If I don’t take care of myself and provide for my family, who will? That’s the question that comes to us.

And in this, we confront the fact that our spirituality is different than Jesus’. Jesus’ words about worry did not depend upon the power of positive thinking or self-motivation. They rested in something outside of Himself: God. Not a God detached from human need, but rather, intimately concerned and connected with it. Why should we not be anxious about what we will eat or wear? Because our heavenly Father knows what we need, and He provides for our needs.

Jesus is not saying that God is a cosmic Santa Claus, who gives us what we want. No, He takes care of our daily needs, but He also expects something from us. Actually, two things: seek His kingdom and righteousness. Jesus’ listeners understood that we seek God’s kingdom, His rule and reign, by obedience to His commandments. “His righteousness” refers to our care for others around us by giving charity to them. In other words, our responsibility is to daily seek to obey God within our lives and care for those around us. God’s responsibility is to care for our daily needs. Therefore, don’t worry about what you will eat or wear because if you take care of others and obey God, He will take care of you. He is a good Father.

Worry happens when we focus on the future and lose sight of our responsibility seeking to take control of God’s. Don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. God’s got you. Relax.

PRAYER

Father, as we seek to obey You today in all we do and care for those around us, provide the things we have need of today. Be glorified in our lives. Amen.

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Rivers of Living Water

Have you ever been in a dry, desert or wilderness and seen what happens when there is water from a spring or river? The land closest to the water transforms into a garden oasis. The brown dryness of the desert may surround, but the land around the flowing, life-giving water is lush with vegetation. The water transforms the nature of the landscape.

On a certain occasion, Jesus said to a crowd gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles, “Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow form within them” (John 7:38). Jesus described what will proceed from one connected to Him: rivers of living water. The image He chose had a pointed significance for His audience who understood the impact of living water upon dry lands.

As followers of Jesus, what does the world around us look like? Does life-giving water flow out of our hearts and lives bringing vegetation and signs of life into the dry, parched land around us? Or don’t we see any difference? Does our presence in our world make any difference?

Jesus’ words indicate that the evidence of whether or not we believe in Him is, in part, whether or not rivers of living water flow from us. If we do truly believe in Him, which means we obey Him, then the natural result is rivers of living water flowing from us. You cannot have a desert where living water flows, and the land around it not be transformed.

It is common today for Christians to blame the forces of secularism, the media, politicians, and Hollywood for the decline of religion and morality in the world. This would not be the opinion of Jesus. Jesus’ statement in John suggests that the reason for the dryness, bareness in our world today is because of us.

Water brings life. This is true in the natural world; it’s true in the spiritual world. Jesus said that rivers of living water will flow from those who believe in Him. Our faith in Him evidences itself in the world around us, in the lives we touch. So how is the river flowing from you impacting your world?

PRAYER

Father, help me through my obedient action to demonstrate my faith in Jesus. May life-giving waters flow from me into my world for Your glory. Amen.

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The God Who Delivers

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by enemies? Like you’re the underdog in the circumstances you find yourself in? The psalmist did: “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’” (Psalm 3:1-2).

Sometimes the circumstances, whether through no fault of our own, or even through our own fault, appear daunting and overwhelming. The thought comes, God cannot save me from this. But as the psalmist reflects on feeling outnumbered by his enemies, he voices, “But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (v. 3).

The biblical writers repeatedly describe God as one who answers those who cry to Him: “I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain” (v. 4). God is near to those who cry out to Him. He is not impotent, nor is He far off. Nor is He intimidated by overwhelming odds.

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed within your life, I’m sure that during those moments sleep has left you. Through dark nights, you lay awake tossing and turning as you wrestle with your circumstances, possibly overcome with fear. The psalmist recognized that God sustained him; therefore, he says, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (v. 5; emphasis added). He continues, “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side” (v. 6).

He does not ignore his circumstances or problems. They are still there, even when he wakes. Yet, the realization that God sustains him allows him to sleep, and he finds himself fearless in facing those set against him. He understands that he is not alone, and the God who is on his side will deliver him: “From the Lord comes deliverance” (v. 8).

The expression of the psalmist is not “the power of positive thinking;” his circumstances are real and dire. He recognizes, however, that God is on his side, and He will deliver him. When overwhelming circumstances confront us, do we allow worry and fear to consume us? Or, do we realize that God is with us, and He will deliver us?

PRAYER

Father, today we call to You. Deliver us from those things that threaten to overwhelm us for Your glory. Amen.

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A Tree of Life

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

Have you ever heard the sayings: you are what you think, and beware of the company you keep? The psalmist highlights that the blessed person is the one who watches the company he or she keeps and meditates upon God’s instruction all day. Those who we surround ourselves with effect and impact our thoughts and behaviors. Be careful, the psalmist warns. While we must guard ourselves from the negative influence of some, we must actively choose to meditate and delight in God’s instruction.

The one who does this, the psalmist compares to a “tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (v. 3). In the dry, hot climate of the Middle East, plants without sufficient water supply, exposed to the heat of the sun, wither and die. Those with ample water can sustain their life and will produce fruit. The psalmist uses the image of a well-watered tree to suggest that the one who acts as he outlines in verses 1 and 2 will thrive regardless of the weather conditions.

He further describes this tree as producing fruit. The Bible often uses the image a tree or plant producing fruit as a symbol of the actions of a person. The psalmist expects that a person’s meditation and delighting in the law of the Lord will not simply remain a cognitive or emotional reality. Rather, these meditations should lead us to act and behave in a manner consistent with God’s instruction.

He concludes his image of the fruitful tree saying, “whatever they do prospers” (1:3). We are responsible for our spiritual growth and maturity. We have to guard ourselves from potential corrupting influences around us. And, we have to make the instruction of the Lord something we delight to meditate on all day, every day. Such meditation should lead us to bearing good fruit.

Do people look at our lives and see a fruitful tree, or do our lives look like “chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4)? Our intentionality to our spiritual growth will determine what they see. What do you delight in?

PRAYER

Lord, today may I guard myself from influences that can corrupt me from following You, and as I meditate upon Your law and instruction, may my life bear fruit to Your glory. Amen.

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Meeting God in Darkness

“And the people stood at a distance while Moses approached the deep darkness where God was” (Exod. 20:21). We usually associate God with light. He drives out darkness. Yet, Moses entered the dark cloud where he met God. The greatest revelation of God Moses received came in the midst of thick darkness. God was there even in the darkness. Do we expect to find God in the darkness? Often, we look for Him to show up and deliver us from our darkest moments, but do we seek to find Him in it? It’s interesting that Exodus describes God as being in the dark cloud, and Moses entered, and there he met God. There is a profoundness about this verse. When we find ourselves or others in a period of darkness—whether a period of difficulty, uncertainty, or despair—our typical response is to prescribe two Bible verses, rest, and you’ll feel better in the morning. This is more than that: God resides even in the darkness, and we can find Him there. The psalmist asked, “Where can I go from Your Spirit, and where can I flee from Your presence? If I rise to the heavens, You are there, and if I make my bed in Sheol, there You are” (139:7-8). Do we expect to find God in our depths? Not as a means of escape, but do we allow ourselves to find Him in our darkest moments as an opportunity for revelation? Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, speaks about two spiritual concepts: consolation and desolation. He states: “I call consolation every increase of hope, faith, and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.” Desolation, of course, is everything contrary to consolation. Neither consolation or desolation refers to our external circumstances; they both pertain to inner attitudes where our focus is God. Ignatius recognized that we could find ourselves in a period of darkness but still experience the inner comfort and support of being close toGod. “Moses approached the deep darkness where God was.” When we realize that God resides also in the darkness, then we can find ourselves expecting to meet Him there, looking to Him for consolation, and even gaining a new revelation of Him. And this is an incredible realization—God is there even in our darkest moments.

Father, even in the midst of my darkest moments, help me to experience Your presence and to trust You to provide the consolation, my soul, longs for. Amen

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