The Canopy of Grace and Love…

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Isaiah 66:1-2 (KJV)

1 Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Believers are always under the canopy of God’s grace and love.

Nothing we do can change that. At the same time, our behavior and heart condition does determine whether we receive the fullness of His blessings. Today’s passage teaches us how to experience the Father’s favor.

First, He desires that we have a contrite heart and a humble spirit (Ps. 51:17).

For that to be the case, all aspects of our lives must be surrendered to Jesus. Yet some dreams, desires, and people are difficult to release into His hands.

Anything we do not give over to His authority is evidence of pride, the exact opposite of what our Father wants in His children. Remember that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Lack of submission proves that we think our way is better than His plan.

Second, God tells us to tremble at His Word (Isa. 66:2).

Scripture—the unfolding revelation of Jesus Himself—is living and powerful to teach and transform us. Consider how we treat this treasure. Do we devote time each day to know what the Bible says and how to apply its principles? Do we hunger for more of the Word in our lives so we can know its Author better? One measure of our reverence is obedience: to honor the Lord, we must obey Him.

We all desire God’s favor.

Are you living in a manner that positions you to receive His full blessings? Prayerfully consider whether you have submitted all areas of your life—from finances and health to relationships and work habits—to Jesus Christ.

Recognize His authority in all things, and revere His Word.

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Wisdom For Every Choice…

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Hebrews 5:11-14 (KJV)

11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

In a world filled with endless sources of information and opinions, believers need to develop a discerning spirit.

Otherwise, how will we know what is true? Much of what we see and hear is based on a worldly perspective that is influenced by Satan, the Father of Lies. Deception is found even in the religious realm: cults mix lies with enough truth to make some people consider them legitimate Christian institutions.

The only way believers can guard against deception is to ground themselves in God’s Word.

The more time you spend filling your mind with the Lord’s thoughts, the more discerning you will be. However, just knowing biblical truth isn’t enough. You must put what you learn into practice so that it becomes more than head knowledge.

The goal is to let God’s Word become such an integral part of your thinking that it guides all your decisions.

Even if the situation you’re facing isn’t specifically addressed in the Bible, scriptural principles provide the needed wisdom for every choice. In addition, the Holy Spirit was given to each believer as a Helper, whose job is to guide you into all the truth (John 14:26; 16:13). However, your responsibility is to put God’s Word into your mind so that He can bring it to your remembrance. If you neglect the Word, you’ll lack discernment.

What are you allowing into your mind? Is Scripture high in your priorities? Unless you’re careful, worldly thinking will overpower spiritual discernment.

It’s difficult to keep God’s perspective in the forefront if you spend two or three hours in front of the television and only ten minutes in the Bible.

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The Promise of Provision…

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Psalm 84:11-12 (KJV)

11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

If the Lord has promised to provide and is able, why doesn’t He always meet our needs when we ask?

Since He’s completely faithful to His Word, the problem is obviously with us, not Him. In today’s passage, His  has a condition–it’s given to “those who walk uprightly” (v. 11). So if God isn’t providing for our needs as we think He should, He may have a different plan for us. But we should also examine our lives for possible hindrances.

Sin. One reason our prayers may not be answered is because we’ve allowed sin in our lives and are not walking uprightly. If the Lord ignored disobedience and granted our requests, He’d be affirming a sinful lifestyle.

Laziness. Another possible explanation for unmet needs is that we haven’t done our part. Although God is the ultimate source of all we have, He’s given us the responsibility to workin order to provide basic necessities (2 Thess. 3:10-11). If you’re an able-bodied person who’s unwilling to work and wants something for nothing, the Lord is not going to reinforce your laziness.

Desires. Perhaps God hasn’t provided as you expected because your “needs” are really desires. If He knows that what you want won’t fulfill His plans for your life, He will withhold it in order to provide something better.

To avoid disappointment with God, understand that His actions and character always align.

He won’t reward rebellion or laziness, and His answers to prayer fit with His goal of conforming us to Christ’s image.

If He’s withholding something you deem essential, He’s working something even better for you.

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The Good Old Days…

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Psalm 119:71 (KJV)

71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

Have you ever found yourself wishing for the good old days?

Most of us have.

The truth is, however, if we had a chance to travel back to another time, we would find the same problems and trials that confront us now also existed back then.

Trials come no matter who you are or what you do.

Suffering molds, prepares, and perfects us in a variety of ways. Pressure from without increases pressure from within. We feel it as the darkness lingers, the pain increases, and the disappointment goes on and on.

In the spiritual realm, however, we do not have to yield to the mounting pressure.

We can defuse it by placing it on the altar of God and allowing Him to handle our hurts.

Suffering beyond our control proves to us that we are not omnipotent. Suddenly we become acutely aware of an authority higher than ourselves, Someone whose insight and wisdom outranks our own. We need a Savior—

Someone greater than our biggest fears, Someone able to meet all of our needs.

Only through His grace can we learn the truth concerning suffering.

God uses it to help us experience His immense love.

Maybe you are facing a time of suffering, and you think the emotional pain is more than you can bear. Or perhaps you are dealing with a series of disappointments. Instead of becoming fearful—a frequent ploy of Satan to pull you away from the will of God—ask the Lord to show you what He is up to in your life.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“God knows that soldiers are to be made only in battle, they are not to be groom in peaceful times. We may grow the stuff of which soldiers are made; but warriors are really educated by the smell of powder, in the midst of whizzing bullets and roaring cannonades…

Is He not developing in you the qualities of the soldier by throwing you into the heat of battle, and should you not use every application to come off conqueror?”

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Two Powerful Human Tendencies…

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 Romans 12:5-7 (KJV)

5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

In God’s eyes, anyone who sins is rebellious.

And Romans 3:23 tells us we all are guilty. Now, it makes sense that an unbeliever would choose to act apart from biblical teaching.

But what about those of us who have committed our life to follow Christ–what would cause us to stray from our heavenly Father’s will?

There are two powerful human tendencies that lead to disobedience: doubt and pride. Both can be dangerously misleading.

  1. Doubt is a mental struggle over whether or not to believe God’s promises. From our limited perspective, we cannot understand how God works. Sometimes His way does not feel like the right path, so in order to obey, we must step out in faith. Then it can feel as though we are jumping off a cliff and trusting God’s invisible rope to hold us. If we listen to our doubt, we will surely transgress.
  2. Pride is the sin that caused Satan to fall from heaven, and it is a deceptive obstacle for believers as well. Pride has to do with thinking that our way is best, putting more faith in our ability than God’s promises, and desiring praise. Anything we do out of pride is rebellion against the Lord.

Whatever the cause, sin leads to death.

God’s way is the only road resulting in fulfillment, peace, and life.

The Enemy wants to lure us with doubt and pride: both feel right and are easily justifiable from our human perspective. But believers should follow Joshua’s wisdom instead:

“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

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Abusing God’s Patience…

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Romans 2:4-5 (KJV)

4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

Have you ever ignored the press of conviction upon your heart?

Maybe you rationalized your wrongdoing with the thought that if God were really upset, He’d put a stop to things by disciplining you. Psalm 50:21 reminds us that the silence of heaven does not mean approval.

Remaining in sin is an abuse of the Lord’s patience.

When God seems slow to react, we might hope He’s overlooking our transgressions–we’d like to continue in sin because the momentary pleasure is more appealing than obedience. But thankfully, the Father knows our weaknesses, our innate carnality, and the state of our spiritual growth, and He therefore measures His response. Motivated by love and a desire to gently restore His children to righteousness,

God refrains from doling out immediate punishment.

Instead, He waits for the Holy Spirit’s proddings to impact the believer’s heart. The weight of conviction is actually an invitation to turn from wrongdoing and return to godliness.

However, we’re a stubborn people.

There are times when we persist in sin because the sentence against an evil deed isn’t executed quickly (Eccl. 8:11). In this dangerous situation, it’s possible to immerse ourselves in sin and harden our hearts against the Lord. Then the Holy Spirit’s call to repentance falls on spiritual ears rapidly going deaf.

As we learn and understand more about God and His ways, we are increasingly responsible to live righteously. The Lord is not slow; He’s patient. Do not abuse His patience with callous disregard for His statutes.

Repent and be holy in the sight of the Lord.

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A Commitment to Obey…

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Psalm 1:1-6 (KJV)

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

 The Bible declares the Lord’s great power and majesty while also revealing His deep mercy and love.

He is worthy of wholehearted, passionate submission, but He doesn’t often get it. Are you among the few who offer themselves to Him without reservation?

 Complete obedience is a choice to follow God regardless of the consequences.

This means that we obey the Lord even if our friends choose a different path or when suffering or embarrassment is guaranteed. Seeing His will done is more important than our own comfort or personal ambition. We commit the consequences to God and cling to His promises: He will never leave us (Heb. 13:5), and He makes good out of every situation (Rom. 8:28).

 Notice the word ‘commitment’ in the title of today’s devotion.

I’m not writing about obedience that is born of the moment (as in, I choose to follow God in this instance) but about submission as a way of life. Setting restrictions on compliance is so tempting–we want to be able to change our mind when obeying upsets our lifestyle, the final result is unclear, or we’re just plain scared. But let me ask you this one sobering question: If Jesus is the Lord of your life, what right do you have to limit how and when you’ll do His will?

Believers have no right to set their own limits; their one criterion for making decisions should be, What does God want me to do?

The answer at times may cause suffering, but obedience is always right.

 And following God in all things is the surest path to favor and spiritual growth.

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The Same Types of Choices…

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1 Samuel 15:23 (KJV)

23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

God’s plan for each one of us has our best interest in mind.

His way leads to fullness of life.

Yet He did not create us to be robots that blindly and lifelessly live their godly life. No, the Lord grants us the choice of whether or not to obey Him. Our human nature tends to choose a self-centered path that turns away from God’s authority.

But in doing so, we miss His best for us.

Consider the life of King Saul. God chose this man to be king and provided guidelines for him to follow. Though Saul knew the Lord’s instructions, he chose to do things his own way. At times his sin was unquestionably deliberate, such as his attempt to kill David out of jealousy. At other times, however, his rebellion seemed less clear-cut. For example, despite God’s order to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites and their animals, Saul spared the best of the herd, with the justification that they were “to sacrifice to the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:3, 21).

His disobedient choices cost him the throne and eventually led to his destruction.

This man chose the road that satisfied his immediate fleshly desires, but as we know from history, the end result was hardly fulfilling. We can learn from Saul’s mistakes. Partial obedience is actually disobedience. And any disobedience falls in the category of rebellion, which is sin.

Each day, we face the same types of choices.

Though the details are different, both large and small temptations lure us. We can live according to Christ’s will, following His lead and listening for His voice. Or we can refuse.

Choose today to live God’s way–which leads to fullness of life.

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